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Top Ways to Make the Best of a Flight Delay

Two words suddenly hit our senses like a brick wall: “flight delayed.” You can feel your heart sink as you see the flight board with a new time on your flight. You stand there staring, saying to yourself “Now what?”

Dejectedly you set down your bags in an attempt to calm your frustrations. You look around and see all the other passengers looking exasperated.

Before you join the masses and get pulled into their malaise, know that there are numerous ways to actually make great use of this extra time. You even prepared for it ahead of time!

Here are the items to pack into your Flight Delay Preparedness Kit before you leave home:

  1. Books or eBook reader: One or two paperback books (depending on how fast you read). With an eBook reader, stock up on several books, with at least one book that you know your mind can get totally caught up in.
  2. Dried fruit or trail mix: Sitting anxiously in an airport causes you to want to crunch or munch something. Preferably pack a healthy snack; no need to pack on pounds while you wait.
  3. Puzzles: Sudoku, crossword puzzles or other varieties are always a plus. (I like bringing the USA Today paper from my hotel to do their puzzles.) There are many apps for your smart phones for these games as well.
  4. Journal: Keep track of your life and the great places you’re visiting. A special pen makes the writing more fun.
  5. Money: Cash or change for any vending machine need you might encounter. Keeping hydrated with water is good.
  6. MP3 Player (or music on your smart phone): An absolute must for those who wish to keep the noise of the airport away.
  7. Stationery or postcards: Great for quick notes to friends and family, or for recording the highlights of your trip. If you will be sending via snail mail, remember to bring stamps.
  8. Laptop: A great choice to keep yourself busy during the wait. (Airports are getting better about supplying power outlets to keep a full charge.)
  9. Do a read through Harriet Baskas’ Stuck at the Airport site to see what’s happening at the airports you’ll be flying through. (Especially review her USA Today Airport Guides.)

This sounds like quite a list, though fortunately it’s mostly small items that won’t weigh down your bag. Even laptops are getting smaller and lighter.

Now that you are sitting at the gate, waiting to hear when your flight will depart, what do you do? Here are ideas to get you started in making the wait a far less stressful event:

  • Catch up on your correspondence: Write a few cards or letters, answer emails, and take care of a few phone calls. Most of us have a tendency to allow these things to build up for ‘when we have time.’ Well, now you have time! Take advantage of the opportunity to get in touch with friends and family and get a couple of things checked off on your to-do list.
  • Write in your journal: Start a new journal or continue updating a current one. (I’ve got several I bought at airport book stores.) Write about your current experience, what you did during your trip, or keep track of life’s lessons or childhood memories. This could make a great gift for your future generations.
  • Read: Escaping into a wonderful exotic book can be a treat. Pick something you wouldn’t normally read, maybe one of those trashy novels or whodunit mysteries.
  • Explore: The larger the airport, the more stores there are! Enjoy window shopping, pick up a gift or two, take an energizing walk (ask if the airport has lockers to store your bag for a while), or check out the art the airport might have on display. Or just sit and people watch. Create unique story lines for the people you see, give them exotic lives and personalities and send them off on fantastic travels!
  • Enjoy spa time: Indulge yourself in a facial, manicure, pedicure or massage at an airport spa. Spas are going into more airports all the time. A relaxing massage, even for just 15 minutes, can take all your cares away and you’ll be so grateful for the flight delay!
  • Eat and Drink: Instead of a fast food meal on the run, enjoy being waited on at a nicer airport restaurant. If there’s a wine bar available in the airport, explore new vinos, order an appetizer and savor the experience.
  • Find a quieter section of the terminal and listen to your music while keeping busy with Sudoku and other mind-occupying puzzles. Just going to a less-occupied gate area across the hall is calming, and you can still keep track of the goings-on at your gate.
  • Get online: If free Wi-Fi is available in the airport, then do some surfing, catch up on emails or connect with your social network. You’ll at least get some sympathy from your Facebook friends on your flight delay! If the wait for your flight is long, it may even be worthwhile to pay for Wi-Fi. Otherwise, use your laptop to watch a movie you’ve saved for just this occasion, play a game or use the time to write or get a bit of work done (get that expense reporting all caught up!).
  • Get a day pass for an airline lounge. You’ll feel like you’ve escaped to another world as you enter an airline lounge and sense a feeling of calm being away from the hectic airport hallways and jam-packed gate areas. Many lounges now offer a day pass and this can be so worth the cost when your delay is counted in hours. Agents in the lounge will typically announce when a delayed flight is boarding so you can get back to your gate in time. See Airport Lounges-One of the Great Perks of Travel for more details.

I have had countless delays in my years of traveling. Some were just a few minutes, many a few hours and a handful of overnight delays. When I’m prepared with various things to keep me busy and productive, the delays are much more tolerable. If I had an uncharged laptop and little in my tote to do, I’d be throwing up my hands in frustration with the rest of the passengers!

So be prepared, as flight delays are a commonplace occurrence, and experience much more pleasurable travels.

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