What To Do During A Layover: 12 Tips For Surviving Long Layovers

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Written by Patrick Gensel on

Patrick Gensel is a world-roaming, visual storyteller with a special place in his heart for action sports and the natural world. No matter where Patrick is, you can always find him sharing his stories on his website and Twitter

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There’s nothing worse than getting unexpectedly stuck at the airport on a long layover. Eagle Creek’s travel experts walk you through what you can pack in your carry on to make the best of a long layer.

Ah, the dreaded long layover, that break between flights that seems to last forever. We can probably all agree layovers are one of the more excruciating parts of air travel, so preparation is a no brainer for those who have dealt with long layovers before. Whether you get booted off your flight at the last minute, your flight gets delayed, or you booked it that way to save some money—layovers happen to the best of us. But having the right supplies on hand can help make the situation a little better. In this case, it’s the little things that count—literally, you can fit everything you need in a daypack!

From choosing the right gear to easily surviving a layover with twelve smart tips, we’ll touch on a little bit of everything you need to help pass the time—an extra phone battery, charger, and adapter can mean the difference between entertainment and hopeless boredom. Plus, find out everything you need to be comfortable if worse comes to worse, and you need to take a snooze at the airport. The video below also dives into great tips on how to keep yourself safe, clean, and fed no matter how long your unexpected airport stay. The only thing worse than being stuck at the airport on a long layover is also being cold and hungry, or suddenly finding your bag missing.

Even though you’re stuck in an airport, you don’t have to let those hours of travel purgatory go to waste. Next time you find yourself aching for a way to pass the time before your next flight, here’s exactly what you should do so that before you know it, it’ll be boarding time.

1. Catch Up on Sleep

This one may be a no brainer, but it really is a great option for passing time very quickly while recharging your body. Sure, airports aren’t the most comfortable nap settings, but you can make it happen, especially with the help of a travel blanket and pillow. Just keep in mind that if you’re traveling solo, it’s up to you to make sure your possessions stay safe during your long layover, and that you wake up in time. To avoid a travel nightmare, keep a hand or foot on your bags (or use one as a pillow), use a luggage lock and cable (or carabiner clip will do in a pinch) to secure your luggage to a fixed object, and set a couple alarms. If you want extra security, find a kind-looking stranger on your flight to wake you up if you miss the boarding call. Sweet dreams!

2. Play a Game

Before you leave for your trip, pick up a few travel-size games for your carry on. These days, everything from Connect Four® to Scrabble® comes in a miniature size. Can’t spare space for even those? Download a couple new games on your phone, or get creative and invent some on the spot. Whether you’re counting how many pink roller bags go by or competing in a sort of travel “I Spy” or dusting off your 20 Questions skills, playing games is a sure-fire way to keep your mind occupied while you wait those long hours for your flight to depart.

3. Research Your Destination

Make great use of your extended layover by doing some more research on your destination. Confirm restaurant reservations, scour the Internet for excursion ideas, and find pro tips from locals and seasoned travelers. Even if you think you’ve researched thoroughly, you may be surprised at how much new information turns up after another look. Is the long layover on your journey home? Just research for your next trip instead!

A woman reads peacefully in a beautiful destination

4. Read or Write

Who says you can only write in your travel journal when you’re at your destination? Use the extra time to add more entries or catch up on your book and magazine reading. In our fast-paced modern lives, these are activities that often get neglected in favor of more high-tech entertainment, but once you get started you’ll remember just how relaxing and engaging they can be. Didn’t bring a travel journal on your trip? Your long layover is the perfect time to download a digital travel journal app and record your journey while it’s all fresh in your mind.

5. Meet New People

The airport is full of people just like you who love to travel and are willing to share their stories. Strike up a conversation with the person next to you at the gate or the terminal bar. There are so many different stories to be heard at the airport, you may actually find yourself disappointed when it’s time to board the plane.

6. Get Some Work Done

So many people these days can do their jobs from anywhere. Are you one of them? Use your layover to take care of any and all of the work hanging over your head. Just don’t forget to set your out of office reminder before you board your flight so you can enjoy your trip interruption free.

7. Exercise

Some airports offer fitness centers and yoga studios on the premises. If you won’t be passing through one of those, try doing a yoga routine, or bring some resistance bands and carry-on friendly fitness gear in your carry-on for low-key strength exercises. Not only will you kill time, but you’ll also burn enough energy to tire yourself out for the next flight, and burn some calories so you can really indulge in local treats on your vacation. Sure, you might get a few funny looks from people walking by, but you probably won’t see them again anyway—just brush it off.

8. Take a Short Trip Out of the Airport

If your layover is considerably long (longer than a few hours—anything shorter is too much of a time risk) and you’re feeling brave, head out of the airport for a while and see what you can discover. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to pass through security again when you return, so make sure to leave plenty of time for that.

9. Relax in a Meditation Room

Airports have started incorporating yoga and meditation rooms, allowing you a space to relax, rest, and recharge to stay healthy while traveling. Even if you don’t meditate and you're just trying to figure out what to do during a long layover, meditation rooms offer travelers a quiet, calm escape from the busy hustle and bustle of airport travel and are an ideal space for reflection, meditation, and prayer.

Working from an airport lounge

10. Enjoy an Airport Lounge

For the longest time, airport lounges have been considered the epitome of wealth and safeguarded by first-class passengers only. Airport lounges typically offer comfortable seating and lounging areas, complimentary food, drinks, and high-speed WiFi. The more premium airport lounges even offer shower facilities, nap rooms, la carte dining options, and spa services for those long layovers. These lounges give travelers a more comfortable environment to relax in before a flight, and now they are available to everyone!

An airport lounge pass is a membership or ticket granting access to select airport lounges. Standalone lounge memberships and programs offer a wide range of access to airport lounges across different airlines. You can purchase an airport lounge pass and enjoy the free drinks, snacks, and WiFi perks.

Credit cards, especially those with travel-centric perks, often grant lounge passes or memberships as part of their cardholder benefits, allowing savvy travelers to secure free access through elite status within loyalty programs or by booking premium cabin seats using airline miles.

11. Go Shopping

Being stuck in an airport and trying to figure out what to do during a layover gives you the opportunity to think about if there’s anything you’ve forgotten to pack. While the ultimate travel packing list will help prevent those last-minute shopping expenses, you might still want to browse.

Airports around the world have transformed into shopping havens, offering travelers a wide range of retail experiences. From shops selling snacks, books, and travel essentials to duty-free boutiques and high-end fashion stores, you can certainly pass the time shopping during a layover.

12. Binge-Watch TV

Wondering how to survive a long layover? Try binge-watching TV. An increasing number of major airports offer free Wi-Fi services throughout their terminals. Bringing a laptop or iPad gives you the freedom to read your favorite blogs, get some work done, or finally treat yourself to binge-watching that TV or movie series you haven’t had the time for.

Worried about the bulkiness of bringing your laptop on the plane? Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Laptop Sleeve and Explore Transit Bag are sleek and built for traveling with electronics. Pack both your laptop and iPad with ease; having them could be essential for surviving a long layover.


Equipped with multiple pockets and features to help organization, we chose the modern Converge Backpack for demonstration. Between this daypack, our packing cubes, packing organizers, and travel accessories, layover prep is truly made easy.

BONUS: Take your layover kit to the next level with the right backpack and gear. Every backpack and waist pack in Eagle Creek is equipped with multiple pockets and features to help organization. Between your carry-on backpack, our packing organizers, and travel accessories, layover prep is truly made easy.

No matter what the circumstances, make the best of your long layover and don’t let it ruin your trip. Just remember, when the time comes, it’s all part of the journey into the unknown.


Can you leave the airport during a layover?

If you have a long or overnight layover, you can potentially leave the airport to explore the city you’re in. However, this all depends on how long your layover is. If your layover is shorter than a few hours, you shouldn’t risk leaving the airport. But bringing an Eagle Creek carry-on or duffle bag and knowing how to choose the right luggage that aligns with TSA carry-on rules can mean all the difference when it comes to a speedy and painless re-entry into the airport.

Do you have to go through security again during a layover?

Every country and airline has different rules regarding security during layovers, so it’s best to do some research beforehand. You usually won’t have to go through security again for domestic flights, but for international flights, you may, depending on the airport. Make security check-ins easy and quick by knowing what to pack in your personal item.

Do you need to pick up your luggage during a layover?

If you’re on a domestic flight with a layover, your bags will most likely automatically pass through to the next flight without you having to collect them. This is also usually true for international flights, but mainly when flying with the same airline. When you check in for your first flight, ask the check-in person if your bags will be checked for the entire trip. If they are, you don’t need to worry about baggage reclaim and can pass directly to your next gate, safely knowing your luggage will be making the journey.

Can you stay at a hotel during an overnight layover?

Some airlines will provide hotel accommodations if a layover is extended due to unforeseen circumstances. Hotel accommodations will not be provided if you just have a long layover built into your flight schedule. However, this is not a universal practice, and airline policies vary significantly. Always check with your airline directly or on their website for up-to-date information on what to do during an overnight layover.

Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

8 Must-Have Items to Pack in Your Personal Item

TSA Carry On Rules: What Can You Bring on a Plane?

How to Get Through Security Faster

Buying Guide: Choosing Luggage, Travel Packs, and Carry-ons