The inspiration for this post comes from a roughly 17 hour travel day I had this last week that began in a powerless Madison airport and continued through the icy, windy runways at Boston Logan. It was miserable, but would have been far worse without some of the knowledge I’ve pieced together from nearly a decade of constant flying for work and pleasure.
Consider the Lounge or Sky Club
If you’re facing a two hour plus delay, this is the first thing I’d recommend. Most airports of significant size, including just about anywhere you’re going to connect through, will have lounges either sponsored through airlines (like Delta’s Sky Club) or companies (like Priority Pass).
Many of these will sell you day passes for varying prices, and at first paying $30-50 might sound like a lot, but when faced with the prospect of throwing punches and/or bribing equally desperate travelers for a spot on the floor near an outlet, is it really all that much?
Lounges generally guarantee a few crucial things for riding out a long delay – access to stable Wi-Fi, a space to set your things (and yourself) down, access to non-swarmed restrooms, and some sort of ‘free’ food and drink. Depending on the lounge and the length of your delay, the latter might pay for itself considering the more expensive airport food.
I spent roughly seven exhausted hours in Sky Clubs on Monday, and every one of those hours would’ve been like wading through Hell’s own swamp had I needed to scramble for outlets or a glass of ice water with the teeming masses of other delayed passengers.
Bring Mixed Media
In our phone- and laptop- driven age, things like paper books might seem quaint, but there’s a reason these pop-up stores exist in all the airports. After melting my eyes staring at screens for a few hours, switching over to a magazine or a paperback novel that’s easy to pack away makes for a nice break.
Don’t discount e-readers either – the e-ink display plays nice with your eyes, and when you’re sitting in a dark airport because someone blew the transformer, it’s nice to have something with a backlight that you can read.
Free outlets, too, are diamonds in the airport strip mine. They’re hard to find and quickly gobbled up, especially when catastrophes happen and airports fill up with glassy-eyed zombie travelers. Gadgets with long battery life, or that don’t need any at all, are great options to see you through an endless day.
Don’t Skimp on Basic Nutrition
Long travel days already feel like waking nightmares, and the longer they go, the more your body’s going to realize something’s wrong and start to panic. If you respond to that panic by sending one bloody mary after another into your stomach, what started as a long day is going to turn into a disastrous one.
Consider the potential length of your layover before diving into the crap pile of appetizers and booze – you won’t want to be stuck in an airport when the consequences of that decision arrives.
Instead, if the lounge you’re in doesn’t have decently decent options, consider taking a brief journey to find something not fried into oblivion and that, maybe, has a vitamin somewhere in its nutrition contents. Most lounges, if you bought a pass, will let you come and go for the duration of your airport purgatory, so don’t worry about taking a dash for a bite of something salubrious.
Beware the Checked Bag
The last tip I’ve got for today – you’ll often here announcements from desperate gate agents calling for passengers to check their carry-ons to save overhead bin space. You can make your own choice on this, but if it’s looking like flights might change or if you’re going to miss your connection, checking your bag early is inviting a late night staring at an empty baggage carousel.
Airlines will often shuffle you around to get you to your destination, or even another airport near it, to help avoid long delays. If you’ve checked your bag and you have to tweak your flights, you’re making a big dice roll if you assume it’s going to wind up where you’re going at the same time you get there. I’ve dodged delays by walking off a flight and, randomly, walking right onto a soon-departing flight across the hall that took me to LaGuardia instead of my initial, heavily delayed destination. I made it to my hotel for dinner, rather than the projected past-midnight arrival I was destined for. That wouldn’t have been possible, or would have some sort of bag-man shuffle to get my luggage to me if I’d checked it.
Sometimes you won’t have a choice, but if you do, keeping your bags with you as you enter the flying maelstrom will help you bob and weave along with those winds, and let you land with your outfits intact, even if your sanity’s long gone.