How to: Kill Time in an Airport

It’s a busy travel season, and combined with bad weather, that means you may be spending a more than usual amount of time at the airport. Here are some ideas for killing those long hours between wrestling your clothes back on after security and elbowing your fellow passengers out of the way when your boarding group is called.

1. Find a friend.

There’s never enough time to see everybody you want over the holidays, partly because everybody’s traveling in and out of town. So multitask! Check with your friends to see if anybody else is going to be in the same terminal at the same time, and meet up for a drink. I have two friends who did this the other night–one coming in to town just as the other left. It’s a nice boost of Christmas cheer in one of the less cheery spots on the planet.

2. Buy presents.

There’s at least one person on your list that you forgot about, isn’t there? You’re sitting at the gate checking Facebook, and suddenly your cousin Bill’s status pops up, and you realize that it’s going to be an awkward moment around the tree when you’ve got nothing for him and it’ll probably reignite your mother’s long-festering feud with her sister. Don’t start a family meltdown! Most airports are essentially malls that happen to have planes flying in and out of them, so you can pick him up the latest bestseller or a new pair of earbuds. Or, if you’re coming from overseas, a bottle of brand-name vodka or some gourmet chocolates from duty-free.

3. Drink.

You will pay too much, but you know what? It’s the holidays. You’re either celebrating or dreading something, and either way, a cocktail will help.

4. Stare.

This is actually my favorite thing to do at the airport, because being in transit is like a free pass to not be productive. I know you could technically be working or staying in touch with people or whatnot, but you don’t have to be. You’re in between. Nothing there really counts. So do the stuff you don’t take the time to do at home. Especially staring out the window. People watch. Take a minute to realize how incredibly cool and special flying actually is. Be glad we have science and engineering and etc. Think big thoughts. You’ll be back in the real world soon enough.