Even at the best of times, an airport layover feels like purgatory. It’s often part of the plan, a necessary evil, but it needn’t be time wasted. Instead of fretting about what to do if your phone battery dies or you run out of movies on your laptop, make an effort to unlock a whole new world of transitory fun times. Here’s how.

Short stop

1. Exercise. Time well spent and a famous cure for ‘layover lethargy’. San Francisco Airport offers a free space for yoga, including mats, and there’s the well-known G-Force Health Club at Dubai International. No gym nearby? Improvise: a circuit of hydration curls, suitcase tag, and ‘invisible seat’ will reportedly do you wonders.

2.Pampering. Flying is dehydrating and often you’ll come off a long-haul flight to find you look eerily like a prune. A quick pampering can fix that right up. New York’s JFK airport is famous for its XpresSpa, serving up 90-minute spa sessions including deep-moisturising facials. Closer to home, OM Spa in Hong Kong’s airport offers everything from tamarind body scrubs to hot stone massages.

3.Shop. When in doubt, credit card out, as we experienced layover artists say. Heathrow Airport in London is the third busiest airport in the world; more foot traffic means more customers and they’ve acted accordingly. There’s everything from high street couture to quirky vintage shops. Make fashion meet flying. There are bargains to suit virtually all styles and tastes.

4.Get a cuddle from puppies. Can you think of anything more adorable than being greeted by a puppy after you’ve just spent 45 hours on a plane? Los Angeles’ LAX is home to the world’s first “PUP” (Pets Unstressing Passengers) program. Dogs wearing vests that read “pet me” are taken around by guides to cuddle up to weary, stressed travellers. Take advantage of the program next time you’re on the west coast.

5.Duty Free. The consumer capital of the world – Dubai – claims to have the best airport for savings. Dubai Duty Free is a 24-hour tax-free mall with over 30 superstores offering brands at discounted rates. And of course, most major airports have duty free offerings.

6.Airport pub crawl. Sometimes the best way to deal with a layover is to drown your sorrows. You’ll be surprised how time flies when you’re sinking brews. Don’t have too much, but enough to take the edge off. It’ll work wonders.

7.Curate that Facebook album you often never get around to. You have those five thousand pictures of you standing in front of famous things? Use your airport down time to create the ultimate Facebook holiday album. Let’s be honest: When else are you going to do it?

8.Hit a hole-in-one. Imagine being able to fire off nine holes while you wait to board your connecting flight. Hong Kong airport has a fully functioning golf course. Meanwhile in Seoul they’ve got a putting range to help sharpen your short game.


Long stop

9.Day trip. If you’re looking down the barrel of a super long-layover then it’s best to plan ahead and organise a day trip. Getting out of the airport and into the city will help make the entire process bearable, while also adding another fun chapter to your journey. So where to go? Well, London is just 15 minutes by train from Heathrow while Venice Beach is a half hour from LAX. Google Maps’ ‘what’s near me’ function is an invaluable friend. Pick a few stops of interest and Google will map it out into a personal guided tour.

10.Culture fix. There is nothing more impressive than using your layover to up your cultural cache. Visit a museum, take in an art exhibition – expand your mind while killing time. Amsterdam’s airport is home to Rijksmuseum Schiphol, which houses paintings by Dutch masters.

At Heathrow you’ll find the T5 gallery, a commercial space exhibiting work from famous faces and up-and-comers; Denver International Airport has put such an emphasis on its exhibitions that it offers free walking tours for people who aren’t even travelling.

11.Hit up a hotel. You might actually consider yourself lucky if your layover takes place at night. Book a hotel close by, pop open the mini-bar and recline. Most airports will have accommodation they can recommend. A decent sleep in an actual bed will make the layover seem like nothing but a dream.

12.Handy cabin nap. Heathrow airport is home to the cabin hotel, Yotel. If you need a cheaper alternative to a hotel this is the place. The standard cabins are a modest 7sqm but have all the luxuries you need including a bed, bathroom, TV and Wi-Fi.

When you’ve been traveling for hours, the last thing you want to do is doddle around the airport but a short or long layover could be a good time to catch up on things you wouldn’t normally do in your day to day. Just make the best out of it. If you have any ideas to add to this list, share them with us below.

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