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5 Things I’ve Learned from Getting Stuck at Airports

I’ve gotten stuck waiting at a LOT of airports, so naturally I’ve picked up a few things that have made it a little easier for me when faced with traveling inconveniences.

1) Travel delays are less of an ‘if’ and more of a ‘when’, so try to plan accordingly.

These days, it feels like a delay at some airport is almost inevitable, if even for a short amount of time. Unfortunately, sometimes even the slightest delay can throw everything off schedule. I know it’s not always possible, but for big events (usually weddings), it’s a good idea to give yourself a couple days leeway before the occasion to account for any hiccups.

For example, I was traveling from the U.S. to Manila for a cousin’s wedding. All of my connecting flights went smoothly, until the very last one at the Narita Airpot. I was supposed to board at six, which turned to seven, eight and nine and when we finally boarded the plane, they herded us back off because by the time we would arrive in the early a.m., there would be no crew to welcome us. Oh, and the next available flight? Not until 1 p.m. the next day.  I lost nearly an entire day, making me extremely glad the wedding was later in the week.

2) Travel as light as you can…

Good advice for when:
a) Your gate suddenly changes after your last flight delay made you late, and you have to haul your butt across three airport concourses to make it to you connection in time.
b) You’re traveling solo and need to drag your bags everywhere with you. There’s nothing like trying to cram yourself into an airport bathroom with a bunch of luggage.
c) Your connecting flight, for whatever reason, doesn’t transfer your bags with you and you have to go through the whole rigmarole of baggage claim and check-in AGAIN.

3) … But, bring back-up essentials in your carry-on.

This has come through for me AT LEAST twice. I mentioned my sweet stay at the Narita Airport up above – after spending more than 12 hours at the same airport gate, I’m SO glad I had clothes to change into and toiletries to refresh myself. The second time, having learned from Narita, I was flying to Manila again with maybe two or three days worth of extra clothing in my backpack. It served me well after my having to switch flights – I arrived fine, but my baggage took three days to find me, having flown on my ORIGINAL connecting flight.

Things to Keep Handy:
– Extra clothing (especially undies)
– Toothbrush/toothpaste (just remember to keep that tube small enough size for TSA approval)
– Face wipes (good for make-up removal/other face gunk and generally TSA-approved)
– Small stick of deodorant
– Portable phone charger/power bank (in case you’re faced with full or broken outlets)

4) Learn about the airport beforehand, especially if you have multiple connections.

It’s just a great idea to know the layout of the airport(s) you’re traveling to you’re not surprised by what you’ll find when you arrive. If you have the time, then you’ll know where you want to eat, shop and relax. If you don’t have time, then you can move around with ease and book it to your next destination. It also helps to know some other miscellaneous details like if the airport has wi-fi (and is it free?), what currency the airport will accept if you’re traveling to another country (Narita actually accepted USD, which was pretty convenient) and if they have places to stay inside the airport should you need a rest (Narita actually had hotel rooms available – but when I was delayed we were asked to remain by the gate – booooooo).

5) Don’t panic.

If delays happen, if you get stuck in an airport like I did, try your very best not to freak out, take a deep breath and then figure out your next steps.

When I ended up chillin’ like a villain in Narita I:
a) Used the wi-fi to use my messaging apps to see of my family members was online so I could get in contact with them and let them know what’s up and not to worry.
b) Didn’t get mad or berate the staff for a weather delay they couldn’t control, but stuck around, listened to what updates they had and did what they asked of us.
c) Made the best of it. I got to try consommé-flavored Pringles (which I didn’t even know existed) and learned how to make a curry MRE (which actually tasted pretty dang good), I talked to an extremely nice missionary couple that ended up watching out for me while I got some nap time in (still using my carry-on as pillow so I would know if anybody was trying to mess with it) and explored the Narita Airport while purchasing enough green tea Kit-Kats to keep me happy.

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Mmmmm. Soup.

Really, my hope for every flight and for you is that you don’t get stuck with your buns warming an uncomfortable airport gate seat for hours. However, if you do, remember my advice and perhaps it’ll make things a bit more bearable.

Bisous,
Katie

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12 Comments

  1. It’s nice. Thank you for sharing. ☺

  2. Jas

    Hahaha consommé-flavored Pringles 😉 I always get so fascinated by the snack stores at Narita Airport so I totally wouldn’t mind getting delayed there. #1 is really a great tip. Looking back I realize so many of my flights have been delayed so it really is a question of “when” rather than “if” and what you do to cope. Awesome advice!

  3. Great tips! I hope your experience at airports improves! At least you were able to get some good snacks during your layover. #5 is for me lol, I would probably panic if something went wrong.

  4. Kerry Maloney

    Packing extra undies is the greatest travel tip I always forget! Hehe, thanks for the reminder. Also those pringels look awesome! I’m obsessed with trying all the crazy flavors when traveling.

  5. Candy & Crystal

    Getting stuck is something I dread, but it happens from time to time….All your tips are exactly what I do! 🙂

  6. I was stuck for 9 unexpected hours one time. I found a massage chair at a nail salon and spent a few hours there watching tv on my phone and getting a pedicure.

  7. These are great tips for traveling by air. I always try to pack a change of clothes and toiletries for international flights and give myself an extra travel day before events. My sister recently missed a connection out of Chicago to her final destination where she was standing up in a wedding. The next flight wasn’t until the next day, so the airline put her up at a hotel for the night and luckily handed her a toothbrush and toothpaste. But, she wasn’t allowed to get her luggage, so she didn’t have any fresh clothes, her normal toiletries, or even her hair brush. Not an ideal situation. Definitely made me think about packing those essentials in my carry-on for domestic flights with connections! Good thing she flew a couple days prior the wedding since she was the maid of honor!

  8. Great tips here, especially having extra stuff in your carry on and travel light, though I don’t always heed this advice. Oops!

  9. I was doing a ton of traveling in Europe a few months ago, and somehow by the grace of God I didn’t get any delays or cancellations. They are the worst! But thanks for posting this, makes it a little less worse 🙂

  10. Usually if I get stuck at airports, I try and find the best food! Treating myself to an indulgent meal almost makes it a nice mishap instead of a disaster. I don’t know if I would have tried those Pringles though! Such a weird flavor!

  11. Lindsey

    I’ve never been stuck (knock on wood) but it’s definitely something I am always worried about happening. I always try to travel with a carryon just in case something does happen I always have all my things with me. But these are great tips!

  12. I feel all of these so hard! I spent a *lot* of time in airports on my year-long solo RTW trip.
    I would definitely add dry shampoo to the list of carry-on essentials. Being able to freshen up on a long flight or long layover goes a long way. And Batiste makes adorable travel-size cans.
    The website sleepinginairports.net is incredible for long layover tips. They have crazy in-depth guides to practically every airport in the world.

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