How to Pass Time at an Airport

Being stuck at an airport, especially big ones, can be an unpleasant experience for you in many ways. You can hardly move because of the enormous crowds, temperatures have rocketed, and your arms are aching because of the amount of luggage you have been carrying around. All this and then you discover that your flight is going to be delayed for a long time. Thankfully, there are ways to pass the time.


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    Think ahead. Before you depart for the airport, prepare for the possibility of a delay and make sure to pack some things to keep you busy and comfortable should the inevitable happen. For example, a tablet computer, a book, a portable music player, a handheld games console, or maybe a puzzle book. A watch is also a must. Children can become extremely impatient waiting around, keep them amused and entertained with a coloring book, or possibly a story book and don't forget their favourite toy!
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    Be sure to pack a toothbrush, toothpaste and a facecloth. Being able to freshen up when trapped in a crowded airport can really make a difference and lift your mood. Be certain to carry your cell phone charger, it's always important to keep your phone charged up and ready to go. You may want to have a separate small backpack or purse to keep things that you can easily take out in the airport.
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    Help others. In many cases, other people stuck in the airport are going to be facing more difficult challenges than you are. Offer to hold a baby, or play a game with a child of a bewildered mum. Get some food for a frail woman who might have trouble walking down the long corridor. Offer to let someone use your cellphone or your laptop to make contact with worried relatives or friends. Helping others will allow you to stop obsessing over your own miserable situation and will make the time go a little bit faster.
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    Look out the window. You can just stare out the large airport windows and watch planes taxi and take off. You can even bring a camera and take pictures.
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    Go for a walk. There will be lots to see in the airport, so why not go have a wander round? A nice long walk can pass as much time as you need. You may spot some interesting sights on the way as well. For example, in some airports you can find out about aircraft from the past, such as the world famous Concorde.
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    Read. There are thousands of magazines and books for sale at most airports. This is a good time to open your mind and learn something new.
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    Work a crossword or sudoku puzzle. Most airport shops will carry puzzle books. Anything from word search to sudoku can keep you pleasantly amused for quite a while, as well as exercising your mind.
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    Listen to music or watch a video. Your portable media player can be a life saver. Play a game, listen to music, or watch a video. The only requirement is a fresh charging and plenty of data.
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    Getting hungry and thirsty? Airports can be a decent place to find something to eat, and drink. There will be a wide variety of dishes available, from a traditional meal to a quick takeaway. You are also likely to find some more exotic foods available, so why not be daring and give them a try? Or, if you enjoy the atmosphere of a pub, you can sit down and relax with a meal and drink. For the people who need a drink, there will be plenty of places to find one. If you'd like to get a morning energy buzz at any time of day, see if they airport has a food location that serves coffee, such as Dunkin Donuts. Vending machines and dedicated bars are the best place to buy. However, prepared to spend quite a bit more than you normally would for any given dish.
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    Shop around. Most airports have at least one shop, but some major, international ones have multiple gift shops. Shopping inside an airport can also make you more relaxed for your flight. You can buy small little gifts for family and friends, or buy something for yourself.
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    Go online. Internet is usually available in all airports, although it can come at a heavy price, although some airports, such as the Boston Logan International Airport will offer it for free. So, if you have some money, the Internet can make the time fly by. Why not check your emails, or play some games? You could even contribute to wikiHow! If you have children, allow them to play some games as well, as this will keep them entertained for a little while longer, and keep them relaxed before the flight.[1]
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    Treat yourself. Some international airports now offer massages, manicures, pedicures, and other treats. For a decent price you will be able to feel fresh and relaxed for your flight. Another treat is to try to buy yourself a place in an airport lounge, where you can spend your time doing things you enjoy, such as playing snooker, having a drink at a bar, or going for a dip in a jacuzzi. Although it can be pricey, if you can afford it, it will make your day.
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    Talk to others. Talking is also another great time killer. Thousands of people use an airport every day, so you are definitely going to find someone to start a conversation with. If you are nervous about this, simply asking, "Where are you flying to?" will start a great conversation. Sometimes you can meet great people at airports. It is always handy to have friends in another part of the country, or even the world.
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    Go through the travel plan. Going through the travel plan with the rest of your party will not only pass time, but reassure everyone that everything is going smoothly, and that you are all going to have a great time. This can also start conversations with other people, who may join in your conversation.
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    Get it on paper. If you are in the airport because you have just completed a vacation, and maybe you met interesting people or took a tour of some interesting facilities or visited a beautiful beach. You probably learned a lot and have many details fresh in your mind. Why not use the opportunity to make some detailed notes about your experiences? You will never remember them as clearly as you do right now. If you are with some of your traveling companions, this airport downtime will present you with a nice opportunity to talk with them about the details of the trip as you are writing. When you get home you can add your notes to a journal, or a scrapbook, or perhaps blog about them. But more importantly, using your airport time to write will help you decompress or debrief about your trip.
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    Occupy your fingers. Take along a small knitting, crocheting, or other needlework project. Have a photocopy of the pattern, or use a pattern that is easily memorized. Most airlines allow knitting needles and crochet hooks on their planes. Teach your child to knit, crochet, embroider, or make other simple yarn projects.
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    Play a card game. Take a deck of cards to the airport and play poker or other card games with your fellow friends or passengers (Always works).
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    Bring a handheld games console, making sure the batteries are charged.


  • Thinking ahead really does help with the entire process. As the saying goes, "a smart traveler is a happy traveler". You are going to save yourself and the rest of your party a lot of frustration, boredom, and unpleasantness if you think ahead.
  • Bringing your own food can be a bonus. You can bring as much as you want, and you will not have to pay for it. If you have a large party this will be particularly useful, and you will find that you save a lot of money. That money could be used to spend on items once you reach your destination. However, keep in mind that FAA/CATSA/other air travel security agencies regulations may keep you from bringing liquids through the security checkpoint. Once you're through security you can bring liquids onto the plane.
  • It may be a good idea to avoid sit-down restaurants if the time of your delay is short or of an uncertain length. Grab something quick (most airport terminals have some sort of fast food place) and eat by your gate. Many airports serve fresh food that can still be eaten on-the-go.
  • Try to avoid sleeping in the airport, no matter how tired you are! You will feel great when you fall asleep on the plane!
  • Learn travel yoga - subtle stretching exercises that can calm you and refresh your muscles (after spending inflight time as an airborne pretzel)


  • Keep an eye on the time and listen to the announcements. Sometimes a delayed flight will be moved to a new departure gate, and if you don't know this, you may be at the wrong place when your flight finally takes off.
  • If you go shopping, do not become weighed down with a large amount of shopping bags. You are going to find it difficult to move if the airport is crowded, and you are going to make your life, and that of your fellow passengers, more difficult and uncomfortable.
  • Keep in mind if you are helping a mother with a small child (this rule mainly applies to men) you may come off as creepy or like a stalker and she may not want you to help in the situation or she just wouldn't want strangers handling her baby. However, a mother might really want/need help. So use your judgment towards the situation and choose your words carefully.
  • Keep an eye on your belongings, it is not uncommon for your belongings to be stolen in airports. Keep your wits about you.
  • Keep in mind that some (mostly small) airports (e.g. London Southend and Southampton) close for the night. So, even if they let you in to wait for your early-morning flight, you may end up sitting in an uncomfortable chair for hours. In most cases, airport staff will just throw you (and your companions) out regardless. Better to look for a hotel close by in that case (especially in Autumn and Winter, when temperatures can drop down to freezing levels in the night and early hours of the morning). Larger airports (e.g. London Heathrow) are often open 24 hours and allow passengers to sleep in the terminal.
  • In this era of post 9-11 caution and over-sensitivity despite the lack of direct threats, using words such as "bomb", "terrorist","gun" etc, even jokingly, can get you into trouble or even arrested. Don't take chances, avoid talking or joking about any security measures or how to circumvent them. Temper your personality; People don't need to know the real you, just the you that needs to get through the airport.
  • Some people do not want to chat. Be friendly and polite, and you will not cause an embarrassing scene in front of hundreds/thousands of other passengers.
  • Do not leave any bags or packages unattended, as they may be mistaken for a terrorist bomb, which will cause panic, and you will be in huge trouble. The suspicious package or bag will also be removed and opened.

Things You'll Need

  • Money
  • Watch/cell phone (with clock on it) (optional)
  • Book (optional)
  • MP3/media player (optional)
  • Food (optional)
  • Ticket into an airport lounge (optional)
  • Computer/laptop (optional)
  • Magazine/newspaper (optional)
  • Gum (optional)
  • Sweater/jacket
  • Camera (optional)
  • Homework (optional)
  • Handheld games console (optional)
  • Phone/Games console charger/batteries (optional)

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