What to do if you are stranded at the airport

It’s almost a rule of international travel – the further you go and the more legs on your journey, the greater the chances you will be stranded for hours in an airport at some point. Airplanes need unexpected maintenance, storms blow in, and airport workers sometimes go on strike. When it happens, there you are in an airport with the surprise prospect of hours to kill.

Instead of killing those hours, think of them as a potential gift. Airport time doesn’t need to be miserable, especially if you think about it creatively, take advantage of the available amenities, and try some of these “idle in the airport” ideas.

Plan ahead with the right things in your carry-on

None of us expects a major delay, but when it happens, having the right things in your carry-on is a major bonus. These five things make you a clever traveler who is ready for anything:

  • A toothbrush and toothpaste
  • A comfy sweatshirt, sweater or hoodie you can use for warmth or as a pillow
  • Charging devices
  • At least a two-day supply of any medications you need
  • A small notebook and pen

Ask your airline if they can help

You’re a customer, so why not ask? The answer may be “no,” but you never know unless you try. In the interest of customer service and retaining you as a future buyer, the airline may offer you a voucher for a meal or even a hotel. Just remember to ask nicely. The bad weather or mechanical failure isn’t the airline employee’s fault, and there’s nothing they can do about it anyway. The nice passenger is the one most likely to receive a perk from an exhausted airline employee who is tired of being yelled at.

Consider buying a lounge pass

Major airports often will have pay-for-entry lounges to which one can purchase a day pass. While the price tag can be as much as $50, it can be worth it depending on the length of your flight delay. In fact, the price of the day pass may be lower than the amount you’d spend buying airport snacks and eating at airport restaurants and bars. Once inside the lounge, you’ll find unlimited snacks and beverages at no charge, free Wi-Fi, comfortable seating, electrical outlets and places to stretch out and sleep.

Explore the airport

Major airports have worked hard in recent years to find new ways to feed, entertain and educate weary travelers, so take advantage. You can play nine holes of golf at Hong Kong International Airport, listen to live music at Munich International Airport, or visit the butterfly garden at Changi International Airport in Singapore. Wander and you may discover art exhibits, small museums highlighting local history, and shops with unique items. If all else fails, look out the window. You’ll see colorful planes from unfamiliar airlines and you can watch the incredible ballet that is modern aviation at work.

Walk, ponder and be inspired

How often in this busy life does one have unstructured time to just stroll and think? Besides never? Go for a walk. The exercise will be energizing, and the best ideas come at times when one has no particular purpose. If there’s a tram, take it and see where it goes. Walk with vigor. Enjoy the time you have. Here’s where that notebook in your carry-on plays its role. By the time your flight is ready to leave, you may have captured ideas for a new wish list or a creative solution to a thorny problem.

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