Making the Most of Your Long Layover at the Airport

Most people don’t really love airports. Even with all of their increasingly better amenities, we still see them as a pit stop, a place between destinations where we’d like the time to pass as quickly as possible. We all tend to try to minimize our time at airports so that we can just pause for a moment and then be on our way once again, closing in on that final destination. However, layovers are a fact of life for travelers, and if we make them too short, it can backfire pretty roughly. Think situations like not having enough time to use the bathroom or grab a bite to eat, having to speed through the terminal to make your flight, or even missing your connection if your last flight had even a short, half-hour delay.


long flight layover tips

In another airport waiting on a flight!


This is why, as a wheelchair user, I always make sure that my layovers are long enough. Things I need to do during a layover always include going to the bathroom, since those of us in wheelchairs can’t really go during the flight. It also usually takes us more time to get on and off planes, and depending on circumstances, it can take us longer to get from one gate to another or one terminal to another. For me, a “long enough” layover is at least 3-4 hours, and this is what I recommend for other wheelchair users as well. This gives me time to do all that I need to do, as well as a bit of time to spare for unforeseen circumstances, like delays. After you have done all of the necessary stuff like using the bathroom and finding your gate, you may have quite a bit of time to spare. Better safe than sorry, right? Here are some things to do during your long layover to make the time pass quickly:




I found this place, Smashburger, in the Salt Lake City airport. Best fries EVER! long flight layover tips

I found this place, Smashburger, in the Salt Lake City airport. Best fries EVER!


Perhaps the most obvious answer here is to take a nap, but if you’re tired, that’s what the plane ride is for! Take advantage of your time on the ground to go to the bathroom at least once, as well as nourish yourself well. As we’re all aware, airplane food has a notorious reputation for being not-so-extraordinary. If you’re still worried about time and feel like you should hurry along, grab a pre-packaged sandwich or a salad. But the nice thing about longer layovers is that you have the opportunity to eat better!

Explore the airport a little bit and look at the different options you have for restaurants. Wine bars, fast-food type places, and chain restaurants are all common, as well as some unique places that you will be glad to discover! Whether it’s sushi or pizza, coffee shop cuisine or bar food, you’re likely to find somewhere to satisfy your mid-journey cravings. With a long layover, you can take an hour or even longer for a sit down meal. Enjoy the plethora of options available on the menu, order a special drink, sip on a latte, or enjoy a decadent dessert that you definitely won’t find on the plane. Just relax with good food and read, people watch, or converse with your fellow travelers.




long flight layover tips

This cute Viking duck was in the Reykjavik, Iceland airport!


Hello, duty free store! Airports are a great place to buy a whole variety of items. It’s a lot easier to buy souvenirs here than to spend time searching for shops wherever it is you’re headed. Whether you’re looking for a new book or magazine to read, a comfy pillow for the flight, a sweatshirt because you’re chilly or a brand new cologne (Because why not? There’s always a huge selection and free samples!), airport shops will be there for you. And if you buy items from the duty free store, you’re likely getting yourself a great bargain.





Whether you’re on a business trip or a vacation, some of us like to make the absolute most out of our time. Since many airports today have free Wi-Fi as well as outlets and charging stations, you can use your free time during the layover to get some work done! I like to work on my laptop, and sometimes even combine eating with working to truly have an efficient layover.




You could play around with Photo Booth on your laptop!

You could play around with Photo Booth on your laptop!


If you don’t have any work (or are looking to procrastinate), you can always surf the web, scroll through Facebook or Instagram, text your family and friends about how your journey is going… or, of course, play games! It’s easy and usually free to download game apps to your smartphone. My favorite is Heads Up, but there are plenty out there for all types of people. Math lovers can exercise their minds with the puzzle game 2048, and for those of us who like a racing thrill or finger dexterity challenges, there are plenty of both available to download.


EXPLORE long flight layover tips



If you’re in a large airport and you have a lot of time, you might simply want to explore! Search for a map of each terminal and look for any shops or restaurants you might want to hit while here. A lot of airports also have neat art installations, and more and more are making it a point to curate interesting exhibits – often with work from local artists or displays centered on a regional theme. Some collections are so impressive that it’s like you’re visiting a museum during your layover, and it’s a wonderful way to learn more about the local area without even leaving the airport!


Flight delayed? You may be entitled to claim flight delay compensation



Of course, sometimes we find ourselves stuck in airports for hours through no fault of our own. I’m talking about flight delays. It’s certainly happened to me more than once, where the flight has been delayed for hours or even cancelled.

Historically it seems that we’ve just had to put up with such eventualities, and if we’re lucky, you might get offered some free food or a travel voucher from the airline involved.

However, as far as airlines governed by EU (European Union) law are now concerned, you can actually claim flight delay compensation if you arrive late at your final destination by more than 3 hours.

To qualify to make a claim, you must be able to answer “yes” to all of the following questions:

· You’ve flown in the past six years.

· You took off from within the EU (European Union) or arrived in the EU aboard an EU based airline.

· You were delayed by more than 3 hours or your flight was cancelled altogether

· The delay was not caused by ‘extraordinary circumstances’

The ‘extraordinary circumstances’ mentioned in the last point are basically reasons for the cause of the delay that the airline couldn’t be held responsible for e.g. extreme weather or a strike.

If you think you may have a claim, there’s is a really helpful website which will help you to claim up to £500 if you were delayed –

The compensation applies to both adults and children, so all family members can claim. We recommend FairPlane UK as they are not only experts in making these types of claims, they’re also a registered law firm. As you can imagine, airlines are often not that forthcoming when it comes to paying compensation, so you want someone in your corner who knows what they’re doing! With FairPlane there is absolutely no legal or financial risk to you and no upfront costs. If your claim is unsuccessful, you won’t have to pay a penny. Why not give it a go.


Like I said before, long layovers of at least 3-4 hours are often essential for those of us in wheelchairs. However, layovers don’t have to be boring. By eating, shopping, working, playing, and exploring, you can make layovers pass by quickly and even become an exciting and pleasurable part of your trip!


What’s your favorite way to spend a layover?

P.S: Want to learn more about flying as a wheelchair user?? Check out my new eBook AIR TRAVEL FOR WHEELCHAIR USERS! 🙂


  • Emma says:

    I agree that 3-4 hours are best for layovers and are often essential between long connecting flights. We made the mistake of only having one hour between our connecting flight from New York to London to Edinburgh last year. Our flight was late landing in London so we missed our connecting flight by minutes. I ended up spending 5 painful hours sitting in an airport wheelchair waiting on the next available flight to then almost be boarded onto the wrong flight (to Geneva instead of Edinburgh). We were at the plane door when we realised they had taken us as well as another two wheelchair users down to the wrong plane. It was not a good experience. I could have coped better with the situation but I was in so much pain from not having my pressure-relieving cushion. I learnt my lesson…always have at least 3 hrs between flights 🙂

    • Cory Lee says:

      Omg that sounds like a nightmare, Emma! I can’t believe they nearly put you on the wrong flight!! That’s the first I’ve ever heard of that. Lol! You live and you learn though! 🙂

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