Family Holiday A to Z: Layovers
Welcome to my A to Z series on surviving, enjoying and making the most of family holidays. As you read this I am on my own 24 day odyssey to the USA with my husband and three little bears – so I am truly living what I am preaching right now! Each post in this series is designed to cover a specific aspect of family travel and provide 5 tips for making your next family holiday more special, fun and memorable. I would love to hear your stories and suggestions too, so feel free to hit me with them in the comments. I look forward to conversing with you on my return!
The very mention of layovers or stopovers can strike terror into the heart of any travelling parent. Trying to kill time at an airport in-between flights can be bad enough on your own, let alone trying to amuse yourself AND manage the growing boredom of multiple children for hours on end. It really is the stuff of nightmares.
Obviously most families will try to plan flights to minimise excessive layovers but sometimes, they cannot be avoided. We had the prospect of a 9 hour layover in Los Angeles on our way back to Australia which we were not looking forward to at all.
In the end we managed to change our plans but we still have the prospect of spending at least 5 hours at Orlando international airport while we wait for our LA connection. A little better than the 9 hours we could have faced but still a daunting length of time, nonetheless.
The prospect of a lengthy layover or stopover can be daunting but, luckily, there are some things you can do to help the waiting pass more smoothly and without stress or incident.
5 tips for managing layovers on family holidays
1. Plan ahead
The best thing you can do is plan ahead. Once you know the layover is in play and can’t be avoided, do some research on the airport and the terminal in which you will likely be spending the majority of your time. What facilities are provided? What dining options are there? Can you access airport wifi? Knowing the lay of the land in advance can help your better prepare the kids and plan for how best to spend those layover hours.
2. Remember the gadgets
An earlier post in this series went through the best gadgets to take with you on a family holiday. These gadgets will come in handy to while away the hours of your layover. Get the kids to take video of themselves exploring the airport. Bring out the noise cancelling headphones and encourage them to watch movies or listen to music. Play some app games on your smart phone or tablet device. Catch up on news and current events via airport wifi. Post the latest on your travels to social media. Used wisely, gadgets can be a lifesaver in a long layover situation.
3. Time to journal
A layover presents a great opportunity for you, and your kids, to get up to date on your journals. If you want to take advantage of this opportunity make sure you find a quiet spot, get comfy and just write. In my earlier post on journalling your holiday, I discussed the many ways a journal can be kept, varying from the traditional paper journal through to online blogging right through to bite sized social media updates. A layover can give you rare time to stop, think and muse on your experiences and can be the perfect opportunity to put your thoughts into words.
4. Take the time to explore the airport
I’m a self-confessed airport enthusiast – I love people watching and I love the vibe of being amongst fellow travellers, all buoyed by the simmering excitement of imminent travel. I also enjoy watching the planes take off and land so I rarely find boredom at an airport. If you or your kids are not quite so easily amused, take the time to explore your surroundings. Take a walk, browse the shops, have a meal, do some duty-free purchasing and enjoy a slower pace for a few hours. Exploring the airport provides a good break from writing in your journal or playing on devices. A little exercise could be just the thing to make your layover a little more bearable.
5. Play some games
In an earlier post I explored some of the games you could play as a family to bring fun back into your holiday. There is no reason you couldn’t employ the same tactics at the airport to keep everyone entertained while you wait for your flight. You could play a variety of games based on looking at everything around you – people, luggage, planes, etc. Guess how many planes will land in a specific period of time. Be the first of your family to spot 10 purple suitcases. Be the winner if you can find the most people wearing red. Playing an impromptu game really could help pass the time and bring a smile to everyone’s face.
Bonus tip – 6. Have a rest
With the prospect of another flight ahead of you, maybe a layover is a good time to just sit and relax. Take the opportunity to stretch out and get comfy. If you can, try to have a snooze. If you can’t sleep in airports, read or sit quietly instead. A layover can provide you with a rare opportunity to rest during a family holiday. This can be a real benefit to everyone, particularly if you have just come away from a busy week of sightseeing and constant activity. You don’t always have to DO something – maybe quiet time is just what you all need to face the next leg of your journey.
Do you have any suggestions for surviving a lengthy layover for your next family holiday?