9 Ways To Make Airport Delays Bearable

Stuck in the airport? This is your chance to make a friend, do a good deed, or learn something new.

9 Ways To Make Airport Delays Bearable
[Image: Flickr user N i c o l a]

Sooner or later it happens to all of us: you get stuck in an airport you don’t wish to be in for an uncertain amount of time. If it’s overnight, you know to head into town and make the most of it. But what if you’re stuck for just a few hours–enough to be annoying, but not really worth ensconcing yourself somewhere?


I asked dozens of people this question, and came up with a few ideas beyond the obvious solution of answering your emails. Here’s how to turn your airport woes into useful time or maybe even actual fun:

1. Make friends.

The wonderful thing about airport bars is that no one is there with their usual posse, and no one will judge you for drinking before noon. This is humanity at its most unguarded. So pull up a seat, order a beer, and practice the art of making conversation with strangers in a lower stress situation than you’ll encounter elsewhere. Start with the weather that has you stuck and go from there.

2. Find the art exhibit.

Lots of airports have something interesting on display, and while most people breeze past, someone put serious thought into these things. Philadelphia’s airport, for instance, currently boasts an exhibit of historic communication technology: old typewriters, rotary phones, etc.

3. Get a massage.

Going to a spa in normal life is a major time and logistical commitment: You have to make an appointment, drive there, disrobe, and so forth. Airport spas offer quick but no less de-stressing versions of spa services. And if you’re in Newark and don’t want to be, you probably have a reasonable quantity of stress to deal with. Shoulder rubs are more fun than cleaning out your inbox.

4. Hit the bookstore.

But skip the good-for-you tomes. Give yourself permission to buy a total page turner, or even a few gossip magazines that you would never read otherwise. If you ever wanted to learn how Jessica Simpson really lost the baby weight, now’s your chance!

5. Get on the phone.

If you’re not on a plane–otherwise known as a conference call free zone–then time just opened up in your schedule. You can try getting colleagues in far-flung locales on the line but, better yet, call a friend you love dearly but just can’t seem to connect with. Who knows? If the delays and cancelations are widespread enough, she may be stuck in an airport too.


6. Practice random acts of airport kindness.

Buy snacks for that stranded group of international students. Head back to the book store to see if there are any sticker books you can buy to help entertain the kids of that poor parent now facing a 4-hour layover with a 2-year-old and an infant.

7. Get fit.

If you’ve packed light, go for a stroll. Walking a terminal end-to-end can be enough distance to get your Fitbit into its happy zone. Challenge yourself to walk faster than someone on the moving walkway (while you’re in the non-moving corridor) to elevate your heart rate.

8. Zone out.

Many airports have chapels, and few people use them. If the blaring televisions elsewhere are getting on your nerves, go in, do some deep breathing, and relax. Formal religious practices are not required.

How do you pass the time in airports?


About the author

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time (Portfolio, June 9, 2015), What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, 2013), and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010). She blogs at