Travel Guide | All Colleges

Student Travel: How to Deal When You’re Stuck in an Airport

From sleeping to eating and even a little yoga, there’s quite a bit to do.

I hate flying.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated the stuffiness of the air, the claustrophobic nature of the seating and the turbulence sometimes encountered– both literal and in scheduling matters. Like everyone, I’ve had trips where one leg of the trip is affected because of a previous delay I encountered, and recently I actually spent the night in the airport.  I can safely say now that one of the only things I hate more than flying is NOT flying and sleeping in an airport.

So here are some tips I picked up on how to pass the time, how to get on another flight home, and how to prepare yourself in case you are found in this sticky situation!

Flight-Delayed student travel image


While it’s great to look cute while traveling, at the end of the day, it’s important to have a warm and functional outfit on just in case you are stuck there longer than expected. Be sure to pack a pair of socks in your carry on and wear layers to prepare for a very cold gate-wait to a warmer trip once you get on the plane.

You might also think it’s a good idea to pack your laptop away especially on a short flight you might not use it on, but having it can be a great help in your search for alternate flights home, and if you have a DVD or two it can also help pass the time.

Lastly, try to have a travel size moisturizer with you so if you are awake all night, you won’t feel so terrible. If you wear contact lenses, you might want to consider bringing your glasses along in your carry on in case you need to change in the middle of the night.

So your flight was cancelled, now what?

If it seems like a cancellation is in your future and your flight has faced delay after delay, go to the ticket counter and get a guaranteed seat on the next available flight before it’s actually cancelled. There is no harm in getting a seat on the next flight especially if yours does take off and you might not use it after all. As the boy scouts would say, always be prepared.

You can also call the airline and get some information about the earliest flights that will be leaving in the morning. If you choose to, you can be put on a standby list and once the earliest flight comes, go wait at that gate and see if you make the cut. If not, you will be rolled over until you do get on a flight.

Do your best to get some meal vouchers for your wait or hotel vouchers if it seems that is a good choice for you, but understand if the flight is cancelled due to weather, the airline might argue they don’t owe you anything.  Next up, grab a coffee or something to keep you going. It’s no secret that airport gate seats aren’t the most comfortable and depending on the timing, it might just pay to stay awake!

Passing the time…

So how do you spend your time now that you have covered you options regarding a flight?  Take the time you have at the airport and turn it into productive or at the very least a relaxing time.

•  Some airports have free Wifi, and others will charge as low as $5 for a daily pass. I found this beneficial to be able to pass the time on Pinterest and Facebook instead of just staring at the clock and, well, waiting.  So you can download some fun or catch up on emails while you wait.

•  Find a secluded corner and take a moment to meditate or perform a little yoga.  While you don’t have to start striking a pose, a quiet time for reflection, aided by the use of ear plugs to block out the intrusive bustle of the airport, may leave you more refreshed than a nap.  You can find Yoga Rooms at San Francisco and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airports.

•  Get a little exercise.  Some airports like Dallas-Fort Worth, Cleveland and St. Louis even have walking tracks in them.

•  Get out!  Grab a cab and hit a tourist site in the city.  Maybe hit two if you have the time.  This works well if you’re stuck in a layover airport.  At least when you finally get on your plane to your original destination, you will have added some adventure to your travel delay.  A bonus!

•  Eat.  Airports are really stepping up to the plate (pun totally intended) with healthy dining choices for all budgets.  Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta offers a delicious mix of Southern and Asian cuisine at “One Flew South” or try Boston’s iconic Legal Seafood if you’re stuck in Boson Airport.  Enjoy a relaxing meal and try to forget for a while that you’re at an airport.


If possible, find a buddy who was on your cancelled flight. In my opinion, it’s always nicer to pass the time with another person to commiserate.  It’s also a little safer!  You can watch each other’s bags while you run to the bathroom and generally keep an eye on each other.

Many of the shops and eateries will be closing for the night at some point.  Make sure you have a bottle of water and some snacks to get you through to the morning.  Try to find a comfortable place to stretch out, don some earplugs and eye-covers to block out the world and do you best to catch some zzzzzz’s.

sleeping in the airport student travel image

Don’t forget to set the alarm on your smart phone to wake you in plenty of time to get to your next flight.  For more tips on sleeping in airports click here.

Remember, throughout the day actively try to get on an earlier flight. You never know how things will open up!  I hope you never end up in this position, but if you do, that some of these tips might help ease your journey!

Good luck!!


Jordan Schuman

University of Miami | 3 stories

Jordan Schuman is a rising junior at the University of Miami. She is a broadcast journalism major with minors in psychology and elementary education. She is an assistant Station Manager of UMTV as well as a morning anchor of NewsBreak. Originally from New York, she enjoys Celine Dion, chick flicks and country music. In another life, she might’ve been a cat so she could spend her days napping in the sun, or maybe a Disney Princess. You can follow her adventures on instagram at jschu or twitter: jschu_.

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