What to Do When You Have to Stay in an Airport for 24 Hours

woman traveling

Spending 24 hours in an airport is obviously not an ideal vacation. But sometimes, flights are cheaper when there is a long layover, so we take that chance and twiddle our thumbs for 24 hours. Fortunately, gone are the days when airports are boring terminals. Forget about what your parents told you about having to do nothing while they wait for their flight to Amsterdam during their younger years. You’ve got plenty of things to do at the airport now. In fact, 24 hours may not be enough for you.

Transfer to the International Terminal

It depends on the airport where you have to spend those 24 hours in, although most flights will make sure to get you stuck in Changi, Hong Kong, Narita, or Schipol so there will be plenty to do for you. What many travelers don’t understand about airports is that there are usually two major terminals—domestic and international. Make it a point to get a transfer to the international terminal (provided that you don’t forget where you’re supposed to board your flight).

Why the international terminal, you ask? There are a lot more things to do in the international terminal. Since it caters to international tourists, most stores and restaurants are open for 24 hours. Plus, you have the chance of meeting and mingling with other tourists who are stuck in the airport like you.

Eat Your Heart Out

Do you know that you can enjoy the culture of a country at its airport? Don’t go to the usual Starbucks. Instead, look for the hole-in-the-wall restaurants that offer the traditional cuisine of the country where you are in. The airport food in Changi is actually quite nice. They serve good Singaporean laksa that locals will approve. They also have a fusion of Western and Singaporean cuisine if you are into those kinds of food.

But don’t just eat what you would have otherwise eaten outside the airport. Go for other international cuisines, too. You will be surprised that some of these restaurants serve better food than the restaurants you can find outside. There’s a common misconception that airport food is expensive. It’s not. It is comparative to the prices of food outside.

Hunker Down

Airports are generally safe, so don’t worry about your bags. The trick is to use your personal bag as your pillow or embrace it while you sleep. You can also tie a ribbon on your arm so when someone tries to pull your bag, you’ll get a jolt. While it’s obviously better to pay for the airport hotel, you don’t have to waste that money. Some airports like Singapore have lounge chairs that are more comfortable than an ordinary business hotel’s bed.

Do Something Productive

reading a book

You can finish a book, watch a series, or play a game on your phone. You will not notice how time seems to go fast when you are doing something. If you didn’t bring a book with you, there are plenty of airport bookstores. Grab a magazine or book there. You’ll spend at least a couple of hours before you notice that you’re either bored or hungry. The point is to while away the hours until your plane gets there.

Call a Friend

You can use this extra time to reconnect with old friends or catch up with your parents or siblings. Basically, look for anyone who has nothing better to do than talk with you for the next couple of hours. Of course, be upfront with them that you’re stuck in an airport. There’s no use trying to fool other people. They will appreciate the honesty and you might even laugh at the silliness of your plan. But the right friend will actually make you forget that you’ve been stuck in the same chair for hours.

Treat Yourself

When was the last time you bought something for yourself? Airports have duty-free shops where the goods are exempt from the payment of certain local or national taxes. This means you might be able to cop that expensive handbag you’ve been meaning to buy at a lower price. You can even treat yourself to a five-star meal. Some airports make it a point to have five-star restaurants and bars for A-list travelers.

It is possible to spend 24 hours in the airport and not get bored. Just look at Changi International Airport. With those options for dining, shopping, and entertainment, do you think you will have to think about what to do for a day? The truth is that 24 hours may not be enough for you. It’s all a matter of perspective and of course, choosing the airport where you will need to get stuck for 24 hours.