May 9 2012 by Mike Mason
For most of us, airport layovers can be almost unbearable. Spending several hours in a packed and uncomfortable airport lounge flipping through a magazine or fiddling with a smart phone just isn't the most enjoyable part of business travel. The good news is it only takes a little bit of prior planning to turn that dreaded layover into a fun and entertaining way to start your business trip.
The first step to planning a successful layover activity is figuring out approximately how much time you will have on the ground between flights. Obviously, flights aren't always on time and the exact time you have may be more or less than you planned, but at least you'll have a general idea of what activities will work for you.
Once you've figured out how much time you have to work with, you can start researching activities. The most important information you need when researching a layover activity is exactly how much time the planned activity will take. Don't forget to include time for transportation to and from the activity and going through airport security. Knowing this information allows you to make plans that fit within your allotted time and adjust your plans on the fly if your flights are delayed.
If you have a shorter layover, you may want to take a look at the airports website for activities you can do without even leaving the airport. Many airports have shops to explore or restaurants to enjoy while some larger airports have gyms, theaters, live music, and even museums. For example, if you're traveling through Nashville International Airport you could take in some "local flavor" with live musical performances or if you find yourself in the San Francisco International Airport and want a little relaxation time you can enjoy the Yoga Room in terminal 2. For a great resource on gyms in or near airports check out www.airportgyms.com.
For longer layovers, research the surrounding area for beaches, site-seeing tours, museums, and other tourist attractions depending on your interests. Don't forget to check with the airline to confirm your ticket allows you to leave the airport. Make sure you also research the transportation options to and from these activities. Many airports have shuttles and public transportation options that may be a cheaper alternative to a cab ride. Keep in mind these options may take more time and require knowledge of routes, transfers, etc.
A great location for an extended layover in the US is Chicago's O'Hare International, where you could take a lakeside stroll on North Avenue Beach, enjoy an incredible view from atop the John Hancock Center, or catch a Cubs game at historic Wrigley Field. Another is London's Heathrow Airport where you could catch one of many sightseeing tours you can catch right from the airport.
The final step is to make sure you pack the proper attire in your carry-on for the activity you've planned. You wouldn't want to arrive at the airport for your layover with a great activity planned and realize the attire you need is in your checked luggage. If you don't want to have to lug your carry-on luggage around during your activity, research the layover airport to see if it provides any services that allow you to deposit your luggage during the layover. For overnight layovers, make sure to book a night a nearby Best Western.
Follow these simple preparation steps and you will be well on your way to transforming your boring layovers into one of the best parts of your business travel. Who knows? You may even find yourself scheduling longer layovers.