Whiling away the hours in airports
When I look for ways to add excitement to my travel, flight delays and missed connections rarely top my list. When things go wrong, aside from jumping up and down and getting angry at the clerk standing behind the counter, we usually just have to suck it up. Might as well enjoy yourself while waiting...
That's not to say you can't get results from airline-initiated problems - but we covered smart ranting in another post.
Not too long ago a missed connection left me prisoner in Chicago airport for 7 hours. Long enough to dismantle my plans for the evening but not long enough to explore the Navy Pier.
Luckily, I plan for delays the same way I plan for lost luggage. It's all about strategy.
Flight delay survival guide
Everyone's idea of comfort is different so know yours and how to hunt it down when you're trapped with thousands of strangers. Find your personality fit below and then find your salvation the next time your airline decides to play fast and loose with your schedule.
If you want to escape the chaotic busy-ness of the airport and just be alone, find a private flight club or lounge to stretch out. Thankfully, these clubs are no longer reserved for the frequent flyers loyal to one airline. I'm loyal to the cheapest fare, but even I can get access for $25-50. The pass is good for 24 hours, which can be a blessing for overnight round-trips that land you in the same airport the next day.
Some flight clubs offer special access to American Express card holders, the military and other special groups. If you've got time to kill, throw on your sunglasses and get yourself to an airport lounge.
If sitting still on a plane taxes your patience, sitting in an airport for 6 hours is a direct route to a mental institution. Most airports are spread out enough for a long walk, especially hubs like Chicago, Atlanta and Fort Worth. Plan ahead by comfortable pants, a loose shirt and running shoes. If you're not checking luggage, pack your stuff in a backpack or something with wheels.
Be warned that many travelers in airports text and walk. If you're power-walking, keep alert to avoid collision.
Fast food addicts and airports go together like spandex and buffets. Seriously. Most airports are a smorgasbord of everything that's designed to raise your cholesterol, clog your arteries and, well, you get the picture. If you're a pub-food lover and want an adult beverage with that heart attack on a plate, you'll have plenty of choices here as well.
We don't recommend gorging at the airport for obvious reasons but also because of how hard flying is on your body. A full day spent flying and hanging out in an airport is comparable to a day stressing in a hospital waiting room. Yu're going to feel pretty beat up by the end of it.
Do your body a favor and put something good into it while you wait for your flight - let the indulging begin when you land.
- Most fast food restaurants offer a healthy option, like salad instead of a burrito. Drink a bottle of water before eating and you'll feel fuller.
- Speaking of water, flying dehydrates the body. Steer clear of coffee, soda and alcoholic beverages until you arrive at your destination.
- Treat yourself - in moderation. Stressful travel days increase your need for comfort food. Recognize what you're craving and indulge when needed to avoid a melt-down.
If people watching is for sissies and you can't wait to dive into a conversation with your fellow strandees, this is your chance to have fun. Park yourself in a high traffic area - preferably in the last seat available. If you spot an area with kids or older people, consider this your bonus round.
I like to meet people as much as the next person and I've been known to network during flights, but sometimes when chatty Barbara sits down beside me, I cringe. To avoid being rude, I put on my headphones when I'm in that kind of mood (before she sits down) and leave the music off. It's my friendly sign to the world that I want to be alone...but am too cheap to hunt down a flight club.
Where you do you fit into the flight delay puzzle?
I don't fit neatly into one category so I plan for all.
- I travel in jeans and sandals so I can walk the airport when I need to. But I'm dressed up enough that I wouldn't be embarrassed if I bumped into a client.
- I've hung out in flight clubs but they only serve snacks, not a full meal.
- When I'm stuck in an airport for more than a couple of hours, I check out all the food choices (while walking) and balance a healthy salad followed up by satisfying a craving - popcorn is my kryptonite.
- Being Barbara Walters on flight landed me a client in a brand-new-to-me industry. Sometimes it pays (literally) to chat up folks around you.
Where you do land on the strandee list of personalities? Or are you like me and hop between them as the mood suits? Whatever your tendency, knowing yourself is key to surviving epic flight delays.