Your Airport Survival Guide

Approximately a 5 minute read

Traveling is many things: it is excitement, adventure, for some traveling is work, for others it means being closer to loved ones. Whatever the reason you travel, one thing is certain: You will spend a great deal of time in airports.

Unless you are one of the lucky few with access to first-class travel lounges and elite accommodations, most likely you and the hundreds of other airport guests will be fighting for coveted seating space and precious charging stations.

Airports give architects a chance to show off…

Here are some of my suggestions for passing the time while waiting inside an airport, in lieu of spending hours sitting on the floor waiting for a long flight.

Window shopping

We’ve all seen the plethora of “duty free” shops in airport terminals, boasting everything from newspapers and snacks to high end perfumes, liquors and handbags. I’m not made of money; as a perpetual student, I am usually traveling on a shoestring budget. While I avoid going into stores that don’t appeal to me or would hurt my wallet just by breathing in the smell of sweetly recycled air, I have found that certain ones will offer complimentary tastings of their featured alcohol. In this way I have enjoyed complimentary drinks such as a Moscow Mule or Gin and Tonic. Usually these complimentary tastings are during set times, so if your layover happens to be during one of these windows, enjoy a drink and a chat with the friendly sales rep.

Complimentary drink at LAX.jpg
Thanks, Star of Bombay…

Window shopping is also a fun way to move around, see what the current fashions and trends are in your current city or country, or pick up a last minute gift.

Window shopping is crucial for airport survival (Heathrow)
Something for that person you forgot about until right before boarding 😉

Airport Art or Exhibits

An airport would not be the first place that one would think about seeing an art exhibit, but the truth is that many airports house interesting exhibits sometimes showcasing local history or artists.  The San Francisco Airport is actually an airport and a museum with permanent and traveling exhibits that is open to both travelers in transit and museum patrons.

OHare Art Exhibit
Mini gallery in Chicago

Recently I found mini exhibits in LAX, Heathrow and Chicago. LAX featured a hanging artistic sculpture located in the Tom Bradley International Terminal and Heathrow I found small exhibits featuring archaeological artifacts and information about England’s rich cultural past.


For me, sitting down for 3 hours is the last thing I want to do before my 16 hour flight. I tend to get restless during long trips, so walking laps near my gate is one way that I like to pass the hours for my flight (and get some steps in!)

Chicago Hall of Flags
Quiz yourself on flags as you make some laps

Obviously you don’t want to go exploring on the other side of the airport if your time is limited. However, walking long or short laps nears your gate is a great alternative to sitting down at the gate waiting for your boarding group to be called. While traveling with a partner, the two of you can take turns walking laps while the other stays at the gate paying attention to arrivals and departures (bonus: you can take a break from lugging your carry-on around while your partner watches your belongings). If traveling alone, make sure to listen to all intercom announcements, check arrival and departure boards for updates and frequently lap back to your gate to make sure everything is proceeding as planned.

It is during my many walks in airports across the world that I have discovered little known secrets such as the drink tastings and art exhibits. I have stumbled across hidden yoga rooms, quiet areas and indoor play areas.


Related to the above section, is exercise. Perhaps there is not enough time to explore the surrounding terminals, or there are too many suitcases and bags to worry about, it doesn’t mean that you have to sit down and accept your fate as “gate-bound.”

Airport Yoga
An airport yoga room is preferable, but you can stretch out in the waiting area too.

Allow yourself time to prepare for your seemingly infinite flight: stretch, do light yoga, do some sit ups or other stationary exercises. Your body will thank you for it. If you’re first thought is “Oh no! People will look at me and think I’m weird,” then I have some counter arguments:

  1. They probably are so tired, jet-lagged and hyped on sugar or caffeine they probably aren’t
  2. Everyone is in equal parts of disarray, waiting their connections while sleeping on the nearest horizontal surface
  3. With almost certainty, you will never see any of your fellow airport compatriots ever again.

So, go ahead and take advantage of a layover to get some movement, get a snack, and learn something new.

Does anyone have any other tips or ideas to share? I am always looking to expand to my “airport waiting” arsenal.

Currently a grad student in San Diego, Angela drinks too much coffee and usually doesn’t get enough sleep. Traveling and wanderlust are in her blood and she is always counting down the days until her next adventure. Follow her on instagram (@itsjustanji) to see where she is off to next!


Angela Cerda


8 Responses

  1. Window shopping is one of my favorites. Also, trying out the food and drinks. I have gone to some airports where they don’t have much but food and drinks are always there. Walking as well after.

  2. I like shopping or going somewhere to eat – wine bars are a good bet! I’ve also seen some airports where you can get a massage, nails done, eyebrows waxed etc while waiting 😉

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