15 ways to survive airport delays

No matter how much we pray to the aviation gods, airport delays are inevitable. They’re horrible, but with a bit of initiative and know-how, you can turn this bad situation into a good one. Here are our tips for how to survive airport delays.

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I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t had to face a delayed or cancelled flight… in fact, if I were to meet someone who hadn’t, I’d be so jealous I’d have to walk away. Or rub their head for luck!

All the excitement and expectation you build up getting to the point where you’re about to fly off somewhere amazing – or even the promise of being back home in your own bed – comes crashing down the moment you see those dreaded words on the departures screen.


Or even worse:


You know you’re in for an annoying, potentially uncomfortable and inexorably boring wait. But there are ways to make the most of this time. We’ve experienced a lot of airport delays and have had to find ever more creative ways to occupy our minds.

Mrs R has a tendency to get very bored very quickly. It’s not good to be near her when this happens. She gets fidgety, grumpy and – worst of all – hangry.

Here are our top 15 tips for surviving the crushing boredom of airport delays:

15 ways to survive airport delays

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1. Pack a charger

Probably the most important thing to include in your hand luggage anyway, your phone, tablet and laptop chargers will give you endless power for your new best friend.

If none of the rest of these ideas work out, at least you’ll be able to do stuff on your device.

Top tip: Don’t forget to pack a universal power converter as well!

2. Airport lounge – but this one’s different

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Lounge access is usually only reserved for the chosen few with business class or above tickets and (really) frequent flyers for specific airlines – and economy passengers who are willing to pay of course.

Plaza Premium Lounge is the only airport lounge in the world that is not connected to any airline. This means anyone can use the facilities available. In fact, these lounges are often before you go through to the departures area so even people who aren’t flying can go in. Perfect if you’re saying goodbye to family or friends.

Rates are lower than most airline lounges and – best of all – along with all the other amenities found in airline lounges, you can use the shower services here or even rent a cabin for a few hours’ proper sleep.

Top tip: They’re found all over the world in many different countries, so make sure you check your airport guide or the Premium Plaza Lounge website to see if there’s one where you’re going.

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3. Get outside

Find out how long you’re going to be stuck in the airport. If it’s more than 5 hours, get out of the airport and make the most of your present location.

You might need a visa to get into the country, but you’ll be able to find out – and usually pay – at the customs desk.

Top tip: Ask before you leave the transfers lounge if there’s a shuttle into town or any tours you can take from the airport. We did this on a very long layover in Brunei. The river cruise you can do from the airport there is awesome.

4.Find the best place to eat and re-caffeinate

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Food in airports is notoriously overpriced and under par, so finding the best place to go will make a big difference if you’re stuck in departures for a while.

Ask bored shop staff for best place for food and coffee. Alternatively, look out for where the flight crew and pilots all go. If anyone will know where the best coffee is, it’s them!

Top tip: If in doubt, stick with local fare rather than international options.

5. Keep yourself entertained

Load up your computer or mobile devices with podcasts, films and TV shows before you leave home. This has been a real lifesaver for me; a certain airline cancelled my connecting flight home but never told me. I managed to negotiate a lounge pass, but that only made my boredom more comfortable.

The films I had on my laptop kept my mind busy for the several hours of unplanned waiting I had to go through.

Top tips: Having your own entertainment is a bonus when you’re flying too. You won’t have to worry about tech issues with your seat’s screen or budget airlines having no free films if you’ve brought your own.

Check out Jackrabbit FM for some awesome podcasts.


6.Have a spa treatment

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Many of the busier airports have spa facilities these days – especially in South East Asia. Often you can get a massage or even use the shower facilities there for very little.

For example, in Kuala Lumpur’s new international terminal 2 – KLIA2 – there’s a spa lounge in the departures area (conveniently behind The Bar) called Wellness Spa.

For the price of an amazing back and shoulder massage (about AUD$30) you get the run of the place. This includes a hot and cold snack bar, beer and wine, shower facilities and a reasonably comfy TV lounge.

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7. Ask at the helpdesk for activities in the airport

Explain your delay to the staff at the helpdesk, then ask them if they have facilities or ideas for things to do while you wait. Some airports have outdoor spaces, sports and game stations to keep you busy.

The new Qatar Airlines airport even has squash courts if you’re feeling super active.

Top tip: If the staff suggest going outside for a daytrip into the city, ask them about luggage storage. There’s nothing worse than lugging a load of bags around while you sightsee.

8. Play the guessing game

Mrs Romance and I developed this game when we were incredibly bored waiting for a connecting flight in Hong Kong. It’s pretty dumb, but can be very funny. Basically I think of a random word and Mrs R has to guess it. I can give her clues, but they have to be vague and semi-misleading.

I don’t know if it’s just her wild imagination, but her wrong answers are always brilliant. The more obscure your word is, the longer the game will last and the weirder the guesses will be.

9. Shopping (airport shopping doesn’t really count)

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It’s an obvious one, but I had to include it. Airport shopping is a great way to spend/waste time. I love perusing the weird novelty souvenirs in the gift shops. The knickknacks on sale are supposed to be emblematic of the culture you’ve just visited, but are usually just funny.

Mrs R loves trying on sunglasses. We have a competition to try and find the most ridiculous looking sunnies!

Top tip: You can actually find some pretty good deals in airport shops. Keep your eye open for monthly specials and bundle deals especially in the duty free shops.

10. Trolley race

Not our finest hour, but definitely one of the most entertaining. We found a quiet spot in an airport we were stuck in once and had a bit of a race on luggage trolleys. Just sit on the base and shuffle yourself along with your feet. You don’t get much speed up, but that’s probably a good thing.

We also pushed each other round on one for a bit, which was fun too.

Top tip: Find a quiet area to do this away from people with plenty of room. Please employ common sense and stay safe if you do this. And don’t get caught on camera!

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11. Puzzle books – a last resort

If you’re in an airport where there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go, there’ll almost always be a newsagent. Buy a couple of puzzle books. If you’re travelling with someone, doing these puzzles becomes a bit more fun.

It really is a last resort though. I think we were deliriously tired when we did this, so our memories of this being an effective solution might be a bit warped.

Top tip: Choose puzzle books with a range of activities in them. General knowledge quizzes and word searches are good options.

12. Read and write

It’s another obvious one, but a book (or your Kindle) will keep your mind focused and away from thinking about your delayed flight. If you’re stuck for things to write about, make some notes about your trip – either plans or memories depending on the stage of your journey.

Top tip: Mrs Romance keeps a travel journal when we go away. They’re not only handy for when we come to write up parts of our trip, but they’re also lovely reminders of what we’ve done and where we’ve been.

13. Edit your photos

Use your time to start editing photos from your trip. Cut out the crappy shots, organise the rest into folders, process and edit the best ones.

Top tip: Put together a photo book of your trip. Companies like Blurb have some beautiful options that turn digital memories from your trip into coffee table books.

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14. Do a treasure hunt

Work together and make a list of things you need to find around the airport. They could be things beginning with a certain letter of the alphabet or a colour or shape. Or it could be a specific sign or type of clothing.

Use your phones to take photos of the ‘treasures’ and meet back in 10 minutes. The person with the most things on the list wins. If you have photos of the same things, no one gets a point.

Top tip: If you’re a photography buff, make it into an artistic challenge. The person with the best photos from the list wins. Don’t try to take photos of security or passport control. They don’t like that!

15. Get drunk!

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Yes, another obvious last resort, but nothing will make the time go quicker! There are downsides of course. You might miss your flight when it finally boards, they might not let you on if you’re in too much of a state and your jetlag will hurt more when you get to your destination. So obviously drink as responsibly as you can.

On the other hand if you’ve got nothing else to do, that bar is going to look very welcoming!

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If you’ve enjoyed this post, you’ll love these:

37 tips for flying in style

How to save money when travelling

What’s it really like to fly AirAsia?

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What do you do to make time pass more speedily at the airport? Do you know anyone who’s never had a flight delayed or cancelled? Tell us in the comments!

Images by Mrs Romance.

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