Passing the Time at the Airport

Many of my trips involve travel by airplane, and sometimes I have connecting flights.  This leads to quite a bit of time spent in airport terminals.  I know I should just go the gate and find a place to sit.  But here’s what actually happens.

The first thing I do is locate the gate for my flight.  I do this more than once because sometimes the gate location changes.  I’ll continually check the departure information to make sure it’s still the same.

When I get to my gate I find that there isn’t anywhere to sit!  People have really settled in, with their coats or laptops covering two or more seats.  And many times the only seats available are in the bright sunlight, making it difficult to see anything.  I believe I got sunburned once sitting in one of those seats.

Another obstacle to sitting at the actual gate is that there’s usually at least one person who’s asleep (and snoring), laying across several seats.  Once I see any of these things at the boarding area, I go to my “how to pass the time” list.

One thing I like to do is visit the stores.  I don’t normally buy souvenirs from places where I’m only at the airport, but there are jewelry shops, gadget stores, and food courts I can visit (and look for chocolate).

Sometimes I multitask by watching other travelers while I’m walking through the terminal.  If I’m on a people mover, I even feel as though I got some exercise.  This is important because I’ve already eaten the chocolate I just bought.  But eventually it’s time to go back to my gate, where I either stand or lean against a wall and read emails on my smartphone.  I’ll be sitting on the plane soon enough!

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68 thoughts on “Passing the Time at the Airport

  1. Hi,
    It can get boring while waiting, I also like to wonder around the different shops, just “window shopping”, but it does annoy me a bit when someone has taken up seats with their items and I see elderly people having to stand or a Mum with a baby.

    • I’ve noticed that too. People get their seats and they won’t move for any reason. Maybe there should be reserved seats for those who really need them. Thanks for that great observation!

  2. All the better for us Meg that you don’t just go to the gate and wait! We get to enjoy the view with you. Thanks for that.
    Rhonda

  3. I’ve not flown since 911. And due to TSA, I refuse to fly anymore … my rebellious nature won’t let me. But if I were to fly, I think I’d spend my time watching the ‘terrorist citizens’ being molested for being customers. It’s sad, too, because I used to love to fly. Oh well, I hope you get to enjoy your flights.

    • I respect your decision not to fly. I’m sure you’ve found other means of transportation for trips. And when you travel by car (for example), you don’t have to worry about missing your connection!

      • I went to Texas (from Virginia) in 2010. I drove for two reasons. One is because as long as TSA exists, I will refuse to fly, but the other is because it gave me an opportunity to actually see some of our beautiful country. The trip to Texas was a little rushed, since I had a deadline to meet, but coming home was delightful. The Tennessee mountains were especially spectacular. My only regret is that I didn’t have a driver, so I had to keep one eye on the road.

        • I enjoy car travel, too. You can see so much when you drive – rivers, mountains, and towns. And it’s definitely better to be a passenger so you can really enjoy the view… :)

  4. I like the idea of wandering around taking photos, I don’t think I’ve ever done that in an airport, oddly enough. There should be more interesting things to do in airports, because when you have several hours to spend there it can get really boring. I like finding the chapel/quiet room for a bit of reflection and a break from all the hoo-haa in the terminal building, but it’d be nice if there were more distractions, perhaps drop-in yoga classes or museums to look round. I’m sure a lot more could be offered.

    • This is a good list of suggestions-thanks! A yoga class would be wonderful when there’s a longer layover. And I’ve been to a few airports that have artwork and historical items on display, and I really enjoy seeing them!

  5. i agree, it can be boring waiting for your connecting flight-sometimes it works great for mealtime and I hunt for something that looks good but not a big waiting line to actually get in and eat-that process can give you a workout and it’s kind of like a treasure hunt-I like the idea of a museum but I would probably get so into it, I’d miss my flight-that is if the museum is a really good one

    • That’s a good point – sometimes there are long lines for places to eat and you have to allow enough time for that. After that, I use the rest of the time doing “important” things, like finding good chocolate!

  6. I consider it free time for just me (which is rare) so I buy a coffee and people watch, browse the bookstores to see what is popular now, look around the shops, read and write. I check messages etc on my smart phone and sometimes call a friend in the area. I love spending time at airports! I get so much done.

  7. I’m with Darlene. I am usually the happiest one in the airport, enjoying time to relax and read. Usually the lead up to a trip is so hectic, that having time to myself is simply perfect.

    • I think I’m going to look at it like that, too! You and Darlene have convinced me that having free time should be treasured and enjoyed. Of course I still like to walk around and see everything :)

  8. A really good thriller works to help while away the hours when shopping, eating or people watching has run their course! I look at my pre-flight time as my time to decompress and day dream.

  9. I’m not one to sit at the gate…I get antsy. I like to go to the bookshop/newsstands, restaurants/bars and people watch. Flying makes me nervous so a drink usually helps. Great photos.

  10. I’ll be traveling a couple times in the next couple months – once alone and once with my 3 kids…and not my husband…which is a bit worrying! Hopefully the airport time will be non-stressful!

  11. Way back when I was still flying, I’d make it a point to eat soul food at the Atlanta airport (Paschal’s — candied yams, collard greens, sweet iced tea, yum!), walleye in Minneapolis — you get the picture. There’s a guy named Joe Brancatelli who compiled a list of decent airport restaurants. (nothing in it for me, BTW, just passing this link along):
    http://www.portfolio.com/business-travel/2011/12/21/airport-dining-guide-part-one/index10.html
    Good post — loved that flowery yellow house in the French quarter!

    • Thanks for sharing that link! It’s good information since eating at the airport is pretty common now. And thank you – the French Quarter is full of beautiful buildings!

  12. I just love to people watch at airports. I always have a good travel book, which is always a page turner. I’m not a very comfortable traveler, so I rely on a good book to get lost in, but then once I’m at the airport I just check schedules constantly and do fair amount of hovering! It takes forever to get comfortable! I think you have the right idea looking for chocolate! :-) Debra

    • I like your list, Debra! I think that with lots of choices you’ll find one (or more) that actually work. And looking for chocolate is always a good option… :)

  13. There are those who travel simply to arrive at their destination and then those who travel because they love the journey! I believe you’re the latter which is all the much better!

    • Thank you so much for your comment! I really do enjoy every element of travel, and when I get to the airport I feel the adventure is just beginning. Everything that happens becomes part of the travel experience… :)

  14. I’m a believer in joining an airline club…some are even free through a credit card. I can use the computer, usually have a free cocktail and a bite to eat. It helps when you a stuck in an airport for hours. They will try to keep you updated and if a flight is cancelled will try to get you booked on another flight.

  15. If I can’t find a place to recharge my laptop or make a decent call home or to the office, I wander around smartly too. If I can find a seat in a not so crowded airport restaurant and I have time, I’ll grab a glass of vino & a snack while reading my Nook and people-watch.

  16. I think that I and my wife are doing quite same things, but there is one more which we do.

    We are looking at people very carefully and trying to guess from which country they are. Of course we never get the confirmation to our guess, but it is a fun play to us. In some cases cloths and bags reveal many things from people on travel.

    For us Finns, it is easy to recognize our country fellows. What comes to my wife, people think that she is Spanish, Italian, Russian, German, Swedish. Many times in Germany some people ask from her where to find some local place.

    Thank You for this interesting post.

    • I really like what you do! Sometimes it’s hard to tell where someone is from, but it’s still fun to guess. And I’m glad you enjoyed the post, too. Thank you!

  17. I do the same thing! I check out my gate and then browse the shops. If the gate area is too crowded, sometimes I’ll sit in a vacant gate area across from mine. But I have to keep watching, and not get into a great, interesting book, or I might miss my plane! ;) I also love to people watch, and I make up stories about them. (all nice, of course!)

    • I forgot to mention: I love your shots in this post too. The first one is a special one. I, too, love to shoot windows with flower boxes. So charming!

    • I’ve noticed that when I sit in the area across from my gate, I sometimes won’t notice they’re starting to make boarding announcements! So I’ll do something simple like people watch, too. It’s a fun way to pass the time :)

  18. I do much the same, window shopping is always good for passing the time and occasionally I’ll buy a newspaper or magazine to read because they’re light and relatively inexpensive so if I leave them on the plane it isn’t a big deal. Our international airport is pretty quiet as far as international airports go, there are usually spare seats and with plenty of powerpoints I can always do some last minute battery charging.

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