By Emma Mueller
Does anybody take direct flights anymore? For most of us, money’s pretty tight these days, so if making a stop in Cleveland en route from New York to Miami will shave a few hundred bucks off of the ticket price, we’re going to do it. The only problem is, buying that cheaper ticket means having to endure the dreaded layover—hours stuck in a crowded airport with nothing to do. A smooth flight with no waiting or delays is a pretty rare occurrence, so I’ve come up with a list of ideas to help you beat the boredom.
Games and Gadgets
Chances are, you already have a list of carry-on essentials. Mine are my i-pod, a book of crossword puzzles (large print, for when my eyes get tired), a novel and a trashy gossip magazine. And I also usually bring my laptop, with the hope that the airport I’ll be stuck in won’t charge me for wifi. Obviously, its always wise to have something to read—a book, a magazine, a newspaper, a travel guide—whatever. And we humans hate being bored, but we love toys—preferably compact and portable ones—and lucky for us, there’s no shortage of boredom busting gadgets out there. Favorites include blackberries, iphones, portable dvd players, kindles and the Nintendo DS. The less tech savvy can always rely on the old pencil-and-paper favorites like Sudoku, crossword puzzles, word searches, hangman, word scramblers and cryptograms.
Airport Secrets and Surprises
Do your research. The airport you’ll be waiting in may have more to offer than you think. As you’ve probably noticed, most airports are pretty swank these days, with top-notch restaurants, excellent shopping and even spas, making it easy to start a vacation early with a few indulgences. Aside from these options, a lot of airports have fancy added perks to keep you entertained. The Abu Dhabi International Airport, for example, has its own golf course with 18 holes and stunning desert décor. In Singapore, the Changi International Airport offers relaxing nature trails through six different gardens including a butterfly garden, a bamboo garden and an orchid garden. They also have a pool and a fitness center! And if you fall in love with a stranger on your flight to New York, you’re in luck! JFK’s Terminal 4 is a land of chapels, hosting regular Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Catholic services.
Oh, and in case you didn’t know, every year, Skytrax presents the World Airport Awards, with categories like Best Duty Free Shopping (Dubai) and Cleanest Airport Washrooms (Kansai). The big winner this year was Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, taking home the coveted title of World’s Best Airport. Check out The World Airport Awards to learn which airport has the best eats and which has the cleanest terminals. You may be so awed by some of these airports, that you’ll want to visit them even when you aren´t traveling! Err…maybe not.
Creative (and cheap!) Boredom Busters
As mentioned above, there really are plenty of things to do while in the airport. But let’s not tip toe around the truth—airports are so expensive. Yes, there’s good food and plenty of shopping opportunities, but I know I personally can’t usually afford anything classier than the A&W stand, so to keep myself entertained, I’ve had to get creative.
An activity I recommend is a game I like to call The Great Airport Scavenger Hunt. The rules are simple. Grab your travel buddy (if you’re lucky enough to have one) and make a list of 10-15 items one might encounter in an airport. Personal favorites of mine include Louis Vuitton luggage, a man with a red beard, a person wearing a swine flu mask, a Hannah Montana backpack, a pair of Nikes, a shoe shiner and a burger King Whopper—but half the fun is coming up with your own ideas. And you don’t have to actually gather these items, just snap a photo of them with your camera phone (I know you have one) to prove that you saw it. The rule is, you have to meet back at the gate at least 30 minutes before your flight leaves, though you might want to do that anyway.
If the whole scavenger hunt idea seems a little juvenile for you, there are plenty of other budget options. You can always strike up a conversation with a stranger. Airports are full of fascinating people with interesting stories, and all you have to ask is, “Hey, where are you headed?” Depending on how much time you have, you can also look for a grassy patch outside and set up a little picnic while you watch the planes take off overhead. Another thing I like to do is make lists (can you tell?) For instance, I’ve noticed that whenever someone asks me what my favorite movie or book is, I can never remember or decide which I like best, so if I’m stuck at an airport, sometimes I’ll make a list of my top ten favorites. I also like to write down my life goals, because really, when else does one have the time to think about such things? You may be surprised with what you come up with.
Got any other Boredom Busters to add? Feel free to post your comments or ideas below!