Pimp My Layover

Posted by   Annette on    August 24, 2016

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Crappy options? Take heart.

Everybody fusses over the nonstop flight, but y’know what? Layovers are not necessarily the manifestation of unholy darkness.

Breaking up a long-haul flight into more manageable pieces is actually better for your body. A good layover allows you to get stagnant blood recirculating, stretch out and hydrate. If you play your cards right, it can even net you a bonus adventure.

It’s really easy to pick a flight based on price alone. Like: really easy. It’s tempting to let the difference of a handful of dollars can tip your decision-making--and land you in a world of bleary, sleeping-across-the-metal-airport-seat-dividers hurt.

I’m not going to advise you to make it rain, here. Don’t, like, splash out on the five-digit, first-class, climate-controlled individual superpod with a personal butler. That said, hear this: you won’t regret spending a few more dollars, if it means you arrive in comfort and style. And how about arriving in comfort and style that’s disproportionate-in-your-favor to what you spent? Now we’re talking.

1. Shop for the layover you want.

When you’re planning a long journey, look for flights with an overnight layover in a city you’ve never been.* It’s kinda like speed-dating for travel, in that you get a quick taste of a place you might otherwise never see. I’ve had great luck with this method, as it introduced me to Riga and Seoul, among other cities that were question-marks to me before I dipped my toes in for a day or so. Be open-minded about where fate's suggestion lands you--part of the fun is setting out into the unknown and un-previously-lusted-after.

Pro tip: Hipmunk is great for this.

2. Be ready with several hours of content.

Look forward to your long layover time as a golden opportunity to gorge on the content you haven't had several uninterrupted hours to get to yet--but make sure you have access to them offline. Download the movies you've been meaning to watch; Instapaper the 20-page articles you've been meaning to read; sync to your reader the books you've had on your list for ages. It's astonishing how much material you can get through. (We trucked through five episodes of The Expanse at the otherwise-existentially depressing Addis Ababa airport last week, for example, making lemonade of the biggest lemon in the air travel game.)

3. Find a gym nearby.

If your layover is just a few hours long, plan to sneak a workout in there. It’d be great if airport lounges got with the program and started regularly incorporating fitness centers, but while that’s a pipe dream, look to the communities right outside the airport ring road.

On a recent four-hour jaunt at the Vienna airport, for example, I was able to walk right across the street from the terminal into the stunning, brand-new Fit Fabrik Flughafen. After a great yoga practice, a run on the treadmill and a stint in the sauna, I was more than prepared for the rest of the journey.

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That sweet moment you're like THANK GOD I AM IN A NICE GYM.

4. Day rooms are a thing.

...and not just for awkward too-shy-for-mile-high hookups, either. Most airport hotels offer deals for rooms used just during the daytime, usually by jet-lag averse travelers who want a hotel gym, a nap and a shower with their WiFi and waiting. Sniff around if that appeals to you.

5. Class it up.

Especially if you’re a location independent professional in need of the space, internet and strong coffee to blow through a backlog of travel-tardy tasks, you can’t keep living without lounges, dear reader. Seriously. A loungeless layover is like a wingless bald eagle.

I’ve been a Priority Pass member for years now--and they’re worth their weight in gold on long travel days when I don't have premier airline lounge access. Traveling in the upper cabins will get you in to those, and my friend Chris Guillebeau has some great tips to get there. Eventually, you won't let a spend dollar go by without making it work for your travel goals.

The moral of the story? A layover can be just what you need to level up your next adventure...and the next time you’re faced with a big gap between flights, perhaps you’ll see the magic twanging around in there.


*Check the visa requirements, natch.

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