What are some things to do when your flight is delayed? It’s a good question, but first, here’s another one. Do you like to travel? For most people, travel is exciting. A vacation, or perhaps a chance to see family and friends you’ve missed, make new memories, and checked out of your regular life. For others, it’s a part of work. But one thing all plane travel has in common is the timing. You pick a flight based on what the airline has to offer, and you plan around that, assuming, in good faith, that the airline will hold up its end. Sometimes it’s mother nature’s fault, sometimes (oftentimes) it’s the fault of the airline, but flight delays happen. You’re all packed up and nowhere to go, often stuck on a layover far from home and your destination. So what can you do? Well, here’s 25 things to do when your flight is delayed.
Hunt down a signed copy from your favorite author.
If you’re a fan of Neil Gaiman (and…if you’re not you should be), follow him on social media. He’s notorious for finding his books in airport bookshops, signing them, putting them back on the shelf, and posting what airport/shop they’re in on social media. You should also follow him on social media because he is wise and encouraging and kind.
Frankfurt Airport offers wedding packages, the idea being that you get married and immediately leave on your Honeymoon. If that seems like too much work, for the first half of February, the Las Vegas airport is offering a pop up marriage license, as they usually issue twice as many marriage licenses in the month of February as they do any other time of the year. The fee is a mere $77. While you can’t get married at the airport, the wedding chapels start a mere ten minutes away, and some have drive-through options. Plenty of time.
Figure Out Why Your Flight Was Delayed And Make a Plan B, C & D
Yeah, this should probably be pretty high on your list. There’s a million reasons why this can happen, but if you find yourself in a line 250 people long, waiting for your airline’s in airport representative, feel free to stay in line but call the customer service number. They often can help you just as much as the poor, equally tired man or woman at the end of the line. Please make an effort to be kind. No one you will talk to has caused the delay, and you’re all having equally bad days because of it.
Rent A Car And Drive Instead
Look, if your flight was going to be less than two hours over land, and it’s going to be delayed by more than five or six hours, consider just renting a car and driving. You might get there sooner.
Catch A Movie
Airports all over the world – Seoul, Minneapolis, Singapore, New Delhi and Portland – are opening up movie theatres. Movies are awesome. Getting to do an awesome thing instead of sitting in uncomfortable airport chairs is a no brainer.
Take A Walk
Walking is good for you. It improves your mood, keeps you toned, helps digestion, and reduces stress. Sitting down for hours and hours is not good for you. It can cause blood clots, heartburn and constipation. You’re usually sitting on a plane, so when you’re between flights, be it for a delay or a planned layover, get up and walk around.
Take a Nap
Travel is exhausting, and if you’re on a layover, you’re probably missing out on at least some relaxation if not some actual shut eye. Sleep and rest are vital to our mental and physical health. Flight delays are stressful enough, without adding exhaustion on top of that. Executive lounges sometimes have recliners, consider checking into the airport hotel if you’re going to be “delayed” by more than six hours (or asking for a hotel voucher), and some airports even have cots and blankets they bring out for during severe weather delays. Companies likes napcab and sleepbox have small rooms you can rent by the hour for a little shut eye.
You’re tweeting your frustration, fielding calls from your mom/husband/dog, and trying to find a new flight, and even if none of that applies, you’re bored. You’re going to be draining your devices, so take a few minutes and top up at one of the charging stations now available in most major airports. Just remember to be polite, don’t walk away from your device, don’t unplug any one else’s device, and don’t linger after you’re fully charged.
Ask For Stuff
Depending on how long you’re delayed, you may have an option to request a voucher for everything from dinner to another free flight later. Read the fine print (Contract of Carriage portion) and know your rights, but when you finally get to the counter, be polite and patience, but do ask if there’s a free dinner they could throw in.
Take Your Meds
Yes, airports have clocks everywhere, but also seem like this weirdo pocket dimension where it’s never the day or time or city you think it is. Always keep your medications in your carry on or personal bag, and set yourself timers when you travel. If you have to take a specific medication at a specific time, please remember your biological clock doesn’t adjust for timezones. Make sure you pack your medications in their original bottles regardless of how easy it would be to save space, in case your TSA agent is having a bad day. Double check TSA guidelines for all liquid medications, just to cover your bum.
Play With Your Kids
If you have children, you understand that at times, having kids and traveling can be a special, magical kind of purgatory, and sometimes if you have very small kids, pulling the toys and snacks out of your bag and finding a less busy spot to sit and play can make all the difference. If you have older ones, scavenger hunts, riding the airport tram, and relaxing your screen time rules can make everyone less stressed. If two adults are traveling, put one in charge of kids and one in charge of figuring out what’s going on/making a plan. And if it’s late at night, or the airport isn’t busy, just let them run. Seriously. Airports are huge, and if there’s no one around just…run with them. Flight delays are awful.
If you’ve got enough time, go out and about in the city you’re in and see a museum. If you’re on a layover or delay at Ronald Reagan Washington Airport, you can get the Smithsonian museum of Natural history in less than ten minutes by taxi for around $15, and if you’ve got a bit of a time cushion, the subway will only cost you $3 bucks, but take 23 minutes. The Washington Mall is magical, particularly in the fall and spring, and it would be a shame to be so close and miss it. Almost every major city has something amazing close to the airport, so go explore.
Work It Out
If you’re on a business trip, work. Get a leg up on the work on the other end. Tweak your presentation one last time. Pay some bills, catch up on your email, finish your report you’ve been dreading, let your boss know what’s up. You’re going to have less time when you get to your destination, so use your time wisely.
Get a Mani/Pedi
Or a massage, whatever. More and more airports are opening spas, and quite frankly, we’re a fan of this idea. Companies such as Be Relax Spa and XpressSpa have multiple locations in airports across the U.S., and some internationally.
Set An Alarm
In case you do take a nap, get lost in work, or a good book, make sure you have alarm. Different time zones, plans being drastically changed and stress can all lead to losing track of time. Make sure you don’t miss your next flight.
Particularly at arrivals. As Love Actually put it: “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there.” Sometimes just watching the people around you can renew your faith in, well, the people around you.
And we don’t just mean crappy airport food, or McDonalds. We mean dining. Major airports all over the world are opening better food options. For example, Gordon Ramsay has opened a restaurant named “Plane Food,” and even offers a gourmet to go meal you can take on your next flight. JFK has La Vie, a French cafe, and Boston’s Logan Airport has a Legal Sea Foods.
Sure, you can grab a drink at whatever mid-priced fast casual restaurant is in the airport, or you can go to an actual bar, with people who are passionate about their jobs, such a Bubbles Wine Bar in Chicago’s O’hare airport which boasts a jazz vibe, Vintage Washington Wine Bar at Sea-Tac, or Vino Volo Wine Bar which now has 15 locations at airports in the U.S.
Stop And Smell The Roses
Some major international airports like Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv, Schiphol in Amsterdam, O’Hare in Chicago or Incheon in Seoul, you’re lucky enough to be at an airport that has a garden. Take a stroll and enjoy nature.
Make a One Serving Friend
Maybe it’s shared misery with the other poor souls who are delayed, maybe it’s cheering on your favorite sports team with fellow fans at a TV in the terminal, misery loves company. And if you manage to move past the misery and share a few laughs, that’s time spent with a friend, even if it’s a short friendship.
After a six hour flight delay, the Broadway casts of Disney’s Lion King and Aladdin had a sing-off to entertain fellow travelers in 2015. If you aren’t one of the chosen few to be on Disney payroll, don’t worry. Pulling out your acoustic and playing to amuse yourself is still perfectly acceptable. More people should randomly burst into song, honestly. The world would be a better place.
Play a Game
Either online or keep a small game in your personal bag just in case you find yourself with time to kill. A pack of cards (or a card game, such as Exploding Kittens or Uno) don’t take up much space and can come in handy when you’ve got hours to kill, or make one of the aforementioned one serving friends. If you’re a fan of Scrabble, Bananagrams is a cute, easy to carry game about making words from letter tiles, and works for ages 7 and up.
Or do Yoga. If it’s not naptime, you don’t want to work and you’re of the introvert variety and don’t wish to make one serving friends, many airports are now offering spaces to practice Yoga and Meditation. Find your center, reduce your stress, make meaningful use of the time. Heck, if it’s not crowded, find a spot and find you zen, dedicated room or not.
Retail therapy is a very real thing. And honestly, if you’re going to be stuck in St Louis for 12-18 hours, you might as well get a mug for your trouble. But if you’re looking for something more enticing than a Starbucks city mug or a keychain, some airports are basically malls where planes also take off and land. Airports like McCarran International in Vegas, and San Francisco International have high end stores like Burberry, Coach, Pandora and Benefit Cosmetics.
Yes, flight delays suck. As magical as they can be, being stuck in an airport waiting to get where you wanted to already be, stinks. But in reality, there’s nothing you can do to change your situation right now, other than make some phone calls and manage your own stress and attitude. What you can do is use that good attitude to make the time pass better for the other people stuck with you.