How to: Survive a long layover

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The vacation posts continue! If you’re already over it, never you worry — this is the last one.

The title of this post should technically be “How to: Spend 12 hours in an airport (without losing your mind), but that seemed like kind of a long title for a blog post. Anywho.

As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, our return flight included a 12-hour layover in the Moscow airport. I’m not sure what it is about me, international flights, and ridiculously long layovers, but apparently it’s my thing. And when you throw a little Russian into the mix, things only get more interesting.

All I can say is that the flights we booked were about $400 cheaper than everything else we looked at. Yes, we were aware of the long layover when we booked, but at the time we thought we could maybe turn it into a day-trip into Moscow. Fast-forward a few months later when we realized that you need a visa to enter and exit the city, a tedious (and kind of expensive) process we ultimately decided to skip.

What that meant is that we were now faced with an almost half-day stay in the airport. Clearly, something would need to be done.

Fortunately, my bizarre life is your gain! Here are my four tips for surviving a (really) long layover.

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1. Master the art of sleeping in an airport.
Airports are a notoriously difficult place to catch some shut-eye. It doesn’t help that pretty much every single bench has immovable metal arm rests between the seats, making it impossible to stretch out comfortably. We actually saw one family who had brought some sort of fold-up air mattress to counteract this — effective, but possibly overkill. And there was no way I could fit something like that in my carry-on.

Since we had arrived at the airport around 3 a.m., we started by grabbing a bit of breakfast and surveying the lay of the land. In our quick lap around the airport, Diana and I determined the two best techniques for sleeping on an airport bench. The first is the Upright Fetal Position, demonstrated by me above. You need two seats and a pillow. The second is the Origami Technique. We actually stole this idea from a few other passengers. It helps if you have three seats. All you have to do is hinge your body around the first arm rest and slide your feet through the second. It also helps to put your bag between your knees so there’s less pressure on your hip. We both slept for about four hours with these techniques. (Joey genteelly guarded us and then slept at a table later.)

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2. Spend a thousand dollars on snacks.
Obviously I’m kidding. The above receipt is in rubles. But now is definitely the time to treat yourself a bit. Spring for the large bottle of water (international flights are drying, yo), get a few snacks, and try to pretend like this is still part of your vacation.

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3. Eat real food.
Airport sushi might sound a little suspect, but stick with me on this one. Airplane food is never going to be anything to write home about, so you have to take advantage of real restaurants in the airport before you go. Eating something besides prepacked nuts and candy will help you feel like a human being — even if you’ve been in a terminal for over six hours. The Moscow airport has an actual sushi restaurant, so we made use of that before boarding.

4. Wash your face.
It sounds simple, but the face wipes that Diana packed were practically a Godsend. Napping on an off combined with dry airplanes turns my face into an oil slick, and it’s hard to feel comfortable if you feel gross. Pack face wash and a toothbrush and toothpaste and make good use of them both off and on the plane.

At the end of the day, the time we spent in the airport wasn’t that bad. We landed tired, but not feeling like total zombies. Hopefully these tips can help some of you get through any heinous layovers you have in your future.

Anyone else have tips I forgot?

5 thoughts on “How to: Survive a long layover

  1. One of my favorite layovers ever was when my family and I found an amazing restaurant in the Denver airport and killed several long hours enjoying locally-brewed beers and chatting with the waitress. It was a great way to spend time! Not something I’d want to do every flight, and definitely a splurge, but actually a great memory. Gotta do what ya gotta do! 🙂

    • That actually sounds like a great time! Another airport that has a surprisingly good selection of restaurants and things to do is the Detroit airport, which always amazes me.

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