I have recently started nurturing and fulfilling my passion to travel. But while I love traveling, I absolutely hate commuting via airplanes. Why? Because I often undergo motion-sickness and claustrophobia; the take offs and landings are the worst!
So, layovers between flights act as life-savers for me.
For most long routes, you cannot help but take connecting flights. This is for various reasons; mostly because flights with layovers are more economical, at other times that is the only option available and sometimes, it’s just good to land for a break before going back in the air, as it is in my case.
I have experienced layovers for as long as 10 hours (this was during a flight from Los Angeles to Karachi). It was at the Hong Kong airport – one of the busiest in the world – in 2011. Since this was my first long layover I didn’t exactly know what to do with my time and how to make the most out of it. Mostly, I just walked around till my legs hurt, tried sleeping but with non-understandable chattering of people in Chinese, mandarin and God knows what other similar languages, I couldn’t sleep for ten minutes.
So in all these years, I have learned a few things during traveling and am sharing them here for you to benefit from them.
- Get out of that airport
If you have a really long layover – like I did – then ask at the information desk if you can get a day-long visa and go out of the airport. But before you leave, make sure that you have enough time to go around the city and can make it back in time to catch your flight. My husband and I had a long layover (around 6 hours) at Jakarta airport while we were traveling from Bali to Dubai and since we had the visa, we decided to leave the airport and check out the capital of Indonesia. However, when we inquired at the information desk, a few locals standing there advised us not to leave as it was peak hour and we might get stuck in the traffic and wouldn’t be able to make it back for the flight.
There are cities that are not very congested and you can go and eat at a nice restaurant or visit a famous site in the daytime. There is a facility where you can leave your luggage, if you plan to go out of the airport. They usually charge you for keeping your luggage. But in case you already have all the boarding passes, you might not have to take care of your luggage since it would be shifted to the next flight by the airport staff.
You will also have to check if you need a visa to leave the airport. This information is available on the internet, so plan before you leave for the flight. For example, if you are traveling from Pakistan on a Pakistani passport, it is most likely that you will have to get a visa before you travel.
- Drink, eat, repeat
Most airlines serve pathetic food and, even if they don’t, you will at least have to take one meal during your stay at the airport. If you are a foodie like me, you might want to just keep eating till the time your take off. Airports such as Dubai International Airport, Hong Kong International Airport, Hamad International Airport Doha, Los Angeles International, Heathrow Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok have almost all famous food chains and other sophisticated restaurants at their disposal. My favorite thing is to search for the food chains that are not in Pakistan such as Starbucks or try out food that is not available in my country, like brick-oven baked pizzas. But then also keep in mind that too much food can make you uneasy while on flight. So eat responsibly.
- Shop on
Usually airports for connecting flights have huge duty-free shops that offer varying brands and products. So if you are coming back home, it is your last chance to buy a new pair of designer sunglasses or a bag, a pretty scarf or a piece of jewelry. Many airports also have souvenir shops too, so you can buy something that would remind you of the travel or if you have forgotten to buy a gift for a friend.
While traveling back from Bali to Pakistan, I found a really nice souvenir shop at the airport. I was just killing time while my husband went to use to the loo. I had few Indonesian Rupiah left and I knew that I won’t be able to exchange them anywhere, so I decided to spend them in that shop. I bought a really nice nail cutter with Balinese art but unfortunately left it in the plane. I still miss it.
- Rent a room; freshen up
If you don’t prefer sleeping in public space, but want to sleep before your next flight nonetheless and would also love a shower, find a room in the airport hotel. These hotels are usually quite affordable and available for short occupancies. There are designated relaxing and showering areas available at different airports but they are usually always full and people who occupy them don’t want to let go of their places till it’s time for their flights – which annoys me to no extend. Anyway, you can rent a room. Such hotels are usually in the same vicinity or near the airport building, so you won’t have to go too far. Some airports also offer sleeping pods now; you can opt for them too.
Similarly, many airports offer paid shower stalls. You can utilize this facility to freshen up a bit and to make yourself ready for the next flight.
People-watching anywhere is a fun thing. Airports are one place where you will find numerous interesting characters; listening to their conversations, maybe getting scandalized by their values, even judging them, can be oh-so-funny. And no one will notice. If someone seems open and welcoming, you can start a conversation with them but be really careful with the information you give away. So get a cup of coffee, set back and enjoy.
This might be a good time for you to catch up on the hundreds of emails that you have received during the flight. But this is advisable only in the case if you are on work-related travel; if you are leisure traveling, it can wait.
- Connect, make last-minute plans
This is the when you should start uploading your photos on every possible social media to make people envy you. You can use the internet that is available for free at most of airports and talk to your friends or family members. Let them know how you are doing. You can utilize this time to check on your hotel bookings, and make reservations for dinner or theatre or a taxi.
- Work out
It is very important to steady the blood flow that is disturbed during the flight and take in all the oxygen that you can. Try and walk and do light exercise during your stay at the airport, it will help in regaining the complete use of your muscle. Also, take lots of fluids since your body dehydrates during flights. This will also help in reducing the tired feeling.
Everyone should invest in traveling as it’s said, ‘the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page’.
While writing this piece, I am craving for the same hubbub, recycled oxygen and multi-cultural culture of the airports. I now have to travel to somewhere. Hubby! Where are you taking me? Let’s make a plan soon.