How to Survive an Airport Layover Without Spending Any Money

posted in: Travelogues | 2

We’ve all been stuck with that long layover—and usually, the reason is that we wanted that cheaper flight, right? But then you probably get to the airport and you’re reminded that airports are actually really expensive. By the time you’ve shelled out $5 for a small bottle of water and $20 for a burger and fries and $25 for a new book, you might just as well have sprung for that more expensive direct flight! Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the case. With a little preparation, you can survive that layover without spending the money you’d rather save for souvenirs. Here are some tips:


Picture Credit

1. Bring your own drinks and snacks.

The first rule of thumb is to not shell out the big bucks on food and beverages. Of course, you can’t bring many liquids through security, but what you can do is bring through an empty water bottle that you refill at drinking fountains or water stations around the airport (even the tap water from the bathrooms is often potable if you’re really in a pinch).

Little bottles of alcohol can be brought through security in your quart-size bag—but note that you’re technically not allowed to open them on the airplane itself. And food products, depending on how liquid they are, are generally okay, so if you know you’ll have a long layover to contend with, throw a couple sandwiches or pretzels or some other snack food into your carryon. This can drastically cut down on how much you have to spend during the layover.

2. Find out if there’s a comfortable place to sleep.

I don’t like to splurge for a hotel room that I’m just going to use for a few hours, but I also know I can’t sleep in a hard plastic chair. Check out Sleeping in Airports though, and you might be able to find comfortable bench seating to spread out across. Pop on an eye-mask, throw in some earplugs, and you can easily snooze your way through the layover. Don’t worry about looking homeless: we’ve all be there before, and if you manage to look well-rested when you arrive at the end of your trip, we’ll all be eyeing you jealously in the immigration cue.

3. People-watch.

Let’s face it: airports are a great place to people-watch. You see people from all walks of life here, from the mom with the screaming kids to the foreign family on their first vacation to the famous people (if you’re lucky) to whomever else. Find an outlet (they’re becoming increasingly more obvious these days, but you can always count on them to be somewhere for the cleaners to plug in their vacuums!), charge up your iPod and sit there vegging out for a few hours. If you’re really gung-ho on people watching or you’re traveling with a group of people, you can even turn it into a great game of Airport Bingo—loser has to upload and tag all the pics from your final destination!

4. Get caught up on your favorite shows.

One of my favorite things to do when I’m stuck in the airport on a long layover is to kick back and stream some Netflix. Of course, I was kind of shocked to find myself facing an error message when I tried to watch a show from my first international layover. See, airports often offer free WiFi for travelers to take advantage of, but many sites such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and more are often only available for streaming in the country they originate from (to cut down on copyright infringement). But once I threw a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on my computer (you can use one on your smartphone or tablet too), my real IP address was hidden, and I was able to stream anything I wanted from anywhere. That quickly solved the issue of what to do with my layovers!

5. Turn it into a mini-vacation.

Okay, so this may not be a free option depending on how expensive it is to get from the airport to the city’s main attractions, but if you have a long enough layover, there’s no reason for you to be stuck at the airport for the entirety of it! You’ll need to you get the appropriate visas , and then leave yourself enough time to get into the city, do some things and make it back to the airport with plenty of time to get back through security, but it’s definitely a way to spice up that nine-hour layover. And if you have time, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take, say, a three-day layover in Bangkok on the way from the UK to Australia, or a three-day layover in London on the way from New York to Paris,


Although airports aren’t always the most fun place in the world, your layover (no matter how long it is) doesn’t need to be the end of the world. Keep yourself occupied, try to have some fun with it and you’re sure to see it flying on by.

Have any other tips for our readers? We’d love to hear your personal layover stories in the Comments section!


Author Info :

Jess is a traveling addict and a self confessed geek. She has a travel blog at, where she writes about her adventures :)

2 Responses

    • Jess

      Glad you liked the article. Layovers aren’t usually fun but you can usually make them a little more bearable at least!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *