Travel is one of the best parts of student life, but with Reading Week sadly behind us, classes are back in session. Hopefully you’ve squeezed in a bit of travel by now, but never fear: the holidays (and with them, long flights and layovers for us international students) are quickly approaching.
This past weekend, I flew back to the United States for my brother’s wedding to spend less than 48 hours with my family before heading back to the airport, banking over 40 hours of planes, trains, and automobiles in four days. Excluding origin and destination airports, I had layovers in three different cities on my way to and from St Andrews. (Yes, I may in fact be crazy for taking this whirlwind trip.) I’ve learned you can never be too savvy when it comes to the ins and outs of travel, so here are my top recommendations for making the most of your airport layovers and creating a great travel experience for yourself along the way.
HYDRATION IS KEY
Studies show that the air pressure and dryness of airplane cabins dehydrate you as you fly, but drinking water right before your flight might mean you need to use the bathroom immediately after take-off. Hydrate right at the start of your layover so that you have ample time to let your body catch up and help you avoid those tiny plane bathrooms for as long as possible. I always take an empty Nalgene through security so I can use refillable water stations throughout my travels.
EXERCISE & EAT WELL
Most layovers are about 2-3 hours, which is plenty of time to catch your connecting flight and grab a little treat and coffee along the way. Even if all you feel like doing is waiting for your next flight, sitting around actually isn’t healthy for your circulation, especially if your flights are on the longer side. After checking that my gate does in fact exist, I like to use exploring the airport as an excuse to stretch my legs. Hunt for the best-priced coffee and snacks (because those numbers add up quickly), call a friend while you walk, and flirt with buying the cute locally branded merchandise. I love grabbing local food at whatever airport I’m in if I don’t have time to pop into the city. For example, whenever I’m in New York, I get bagels or cheesesteaks. Best in the States. Sometimes the refillable water stations are rather elusive, so you’ll get your steps in more easily than you think.
ADVENTURE IS OUT THERE!
If you have more than a few hours on your layover, consider leaving the airport and checking out the city you’re in, especially if it’s one you’ve never been to before! You can get a taste of the city’s culture and vibe without having to plan an extensive stay, and most airports have lockers so you don’t have to lug your carry-on around with you. I only recommend venturing out of the airport if you have over 6 hours to kill. Be sure to allow time for travel to and from the airport and for getting through security and customs, and keep your ID/passport with you.
TIME TO FRESHEN UP!
Brushing your teeth and keeping a simple skincare routine will make you feel like a brand new woman, and it’s easy to throw travel-size toiletries in your carry-on or personal bag. Ten minutes with some face wash, serums, moisturizer, toothpaste, and maybe a face mask is all you need. My current skincare holy grails are the Calming and Revive Serums from Beauty of Joseon. For overnight flights, keep a change of clothes, socks, and undergarments handy. Changing clothes always tricks my brain into the local timezone and helps me feel fresh… or at least tricks me into thinking I slept more than I actually did on my flight.
WHO’S THAT GIRL?
Trust me on this one… Have your It Girl™ moment in an airport lounge, restaurant, or bar. Grab a fun drink, a bite, and a book, and stare mysteriously out the window at the runway in your cute travel ‘fit. It’s so much more glamorous than eating Shake Shack curled up in a seat by your gate. If you have a bit of homework to catch up on as well, layovers are a great time to knock out work so you can enjoy your in-flight entertainment and relax once on the plane. Mapping out your next layover and future travel plans can also help you reduce stress throughout your travels.
Here’s a wrap up of my personal travel essentials that I’m never without in an airport!
- Sweatshirt or jacket
- Supportive sneakers
- Noise-canceling headphones
- My Loop Quiet Earplugs for overnight flights
- Portable phone charger
- Empty water bottle
- Change of clothes
- Pouch of skincare faves, hand towel, & toothbrush
- A book and Netflix/Spotify downloads for entertainment options
Have a blast on your next layover, and safe travels!