Back in the day, getting stuck waiting for a connecting flight at an airport was comparable to standing in line at the DMV — boring, stressful, and to be avoided at all costs. In recent years, however, things have changed for the better. Business travelers now have ample options for making productive use of their downtime.
Here’s how to use those hours between flights to your benefit.
Get work done. Airport downtime affords you an excellent opportunity to tackle all that busywork you’ve been avoiding — sending and answering emails, updating your contact list, and the like.
Executive coach Jason Womack has even created a system to reduce the time you spend writing emails. He’s created keystroke shortcuts for his mobile number (mo), email address (em), signature (sign) and “thank you” (tu). “If I can type two keys instead of 22, and I multiply that over a year, that’s a lot of time saved,” Womack says.
Power up. Your electronic devices are critically important, but they’re no good to you without power. Fortunately, many airport terminals (such as Denver) offer battery-charging stations. Even if you aren’t completely out of juice, it’s a good idea to fully charge your gear for the plane ride — or in case you end up in a place you can’t plug in.
A few more “power tips”: Change the power setting on your laptop to use less juice. Set your laptop on a flat surface and keep its vents unblocked (warm batteries lose power more quickly). When not in use, turn the screens of your smartphone and tablet off, and shut down Wi-Fi, so your devices don’t consume power seeking a connection.
Use the business lounges. Many airlines will let you purchase a one-day pass to their business lounges. Generally, this means you can make use of such facilities as a computer, Wi-Fi hotspot, desk, and printer for a reasonable fee.
At Richmond International Airport in Virginia, the business center provides communications services, including free wireless internet access, and two small conference rooms (which may be rented for meetings).
Get some exercise. Rather than sit and wait at your departure gate, squeeze in a workout. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport offers a free yoga studio that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. At the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel’s fitness center in British Columbia, you can get your blood pumping with any of the five treadmills, three elliptical trainers, four bicycles, two rowing machines, and eight weight machines; full access costs $18.
Where else can you work up a sweat? Entrepreneur.com recommends “10 of the Best Airport Gyms in the World.”
Alleviate stress. Recharge your own batteries at the in-terminal spa facilities that cater to travelers. Massage Bar operates nearly a dozen locations in eight airports nationwide, including a 256-square-foot kiosk in Seattle-Tacoma Airport’s North Satellite terminal. XpresSpa at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston is another convenient place to relax.
Take a nap (short or long). Designated sleeping areas or special sleep chairs are now available in many airport terminals. Where can you take a serious siesta? SleepinginAirports.net lists “Best Airports of 2012,” with its coveted Golden Pillow Award going to Singapore’s Changi Airport, which “seems to have been made for your traveling (and napping) pleasure.”
Hone your networking skills. Feeling extroverted? There are plenty of opportunities to chat up strangers in airport lounges and restaurants. Sometimes your best bet is to strike up a conversation with someone who’s waiting near your gate. If you’re both headed to the same place, your new pal may know something about your destination and be able to offer some insight into the local business community.