An unspecific timeline of a long layover

Even though the tagline of this blog was “adventures of the traveling duck” at some point, I wouldn’t consider the duck and myself frequent travelers. We’re too lazy and chronically broke for that. Despite that embarrassing lack of travel experiences for the self-proclaimed travel enthusiasts we are, there is one specific category of travel experiences that the duck and I could easily do without: spending too much time at Heathrow Airport. Some time ago, I learned that we would get to add another seven hours to the tally, this time bound to a comparatively tiny terminal 2, an experience the duck and I had been lucky to have avoided up until that point. Can you imagine the stress I felt beforehand, considering that falling asleep to then miss my flight or have my stuff stolen is one of my biggest travel fears? Thinking about all the things that could go wrong wasn’t fun. But the duck and I made it through and even ended up somewhat enjoying it –
airport memory duckwith the help of some purchased pals once the voluntary ones had left to catch their flight. This picture shows the duck among our seven-hour layover exploits, remembering this unexpectedly entertaining (and surprisingly expensive) airport session. Here’s how we got there:

A list of ideas for your very own seven-hour layover

My initial plan was to boast about how we gloriously made it through our latest Heathrow stint unscathed. But the duck reminded me that we have a responsibility on this blog (to share valuable tips for a happy and fulfilled life. I don’t know where that notion came from – has the duck read a single post on here?!). Because the duck is always right, here is a universal list of ideas for making your seven-hour airport stay more entertaining:

  • Search out the ticket counter line and immediately give up hopes of getting booked onto an earlier flight.
  • Spend some time worrying about possibly needing to pay overweight fees if the check-in staff is not sufficiently sympathetic or distracted (lay out a plan for changing the latter if you feel the need).
  • See how fast you can drink the bottle of orange juice you found in your backpack.
  • Try to figure out if you’re glad or concerned that security didn’t inquire about the suspiciously wrapped leftover memory brownies in your carry-on luggage.
  • Make your first round through the airport with your human travel pals – bonus points if you can point out the most ridiculous pair of shoes you can find.
  • Remind yourself that you wanted to refrain from buying new books for now as you spend your WHSmith stop falling in love with many, many books
  • Try connecting your phone to the airport WiFi you were told is good enough for streaming movies. As you fail, realize that this claim was just an attempt to appease you when you voiced your concern about such a long layover.
  • Decide that you want to join your travel pals for sushi, then be turned away because the register is down.
  • Eat some of the below-mediocre leftovers you packed in anticipation of your airport stay.
  • Try the sushi place again and, if lucky, order some food for yourself and your feathered travel companion, plus some extra soy sauce for your T-shirt.airport sushi
  • Find the nearest restroom and attempt to clean your shirt without taking it off using water, soap, and the hand dryer, which is conveniently placed above the sinks to help you get some stretches in.
  • Accompany your travel pals to their gate and look at them enviously because they will likely be in their beds before you get to board your plane.
  • Use your second stroll around the terminal for a way too public phone chat (a thing you usually despise, but this time you’re desperate) and realize that you could take souvenir commissions – you should have walked about 8,000 steps by now.
  • Give the WiFi another try, and use the patchy connection to look up some phone numbers.
  • If you’re still somewhat unsure about Covid test and quarantine regulations at your destination, this is the perfect time to call a hotline and inquire.
  • Have some more leftover snacks, including the banana a prescient pal convinced you to take with you a few days prior.
  • If the WiFi is stable enough, do your daily (ineffective) language study session.
  • Decide that this very situation calls for souvenirs!
  • Check out all the peasant shops (=shops carrying items you can afford) in the terminal and make a mental checklist of souvenirs (surprise and/or commissioned) you could get for a special friend or two.
  • Revisit the restrooms to find out if they have since moved the hand driers. They probably won’t have.
  • Check the time to see that your departure gate will be announced in less than an hour, then panic because you’re stuck between three possible souvenirs for one of your giftees.
  • Don’t forget to be startled when you’re asked for your flight number upon buying the commissioned souvenir at a slightly upscale shop (it seems you’ve been a petite price proponent for too long) – souvenir for person 1:✔, one more to go.
  • Give in to temptation and buy your first set of novels that you spontaneously pick just because they sound interesting. Then realize that one of them is on your to-read list – souvenirs for self:✔.
  • While you walk around some more, conclude that you will buy the least useless of the three surprise souvenirs you were considering.
  • Speed-walk to the biggest WHSmith and buy that souvenir. Add on two more books for good measure (one of them has been friend-recommended to you, after all) – souvenir for person 2:✔, more souvenirs for self the duck:✔.airport shot
  • Head for your gate, pick a seat near the window and excitedly take a picture of your souvenir bag.
  • Realize that, in the seven hours of walking around the terminal, you completely forgot to take photos to go with this list.
  • Take a photo a few steps from your gate because you’re worried about missing the glorious moment of finally being allowed to board.
  • Spend some time wondering why you feel like you could have used an extra hour – have you gone crazy?! (the answer is very likely “yes;” this is a common side-effect of long layovers).
  • Board the plane while hiding the soy sauce stain under your souvenir bag to not alarm the airport fashion police when you’re so close to your goal.
  • Find your seat, give the duck a pat on the back, and fall asleep as soon as the plane has taken off.

Even though spending a lot of time in a relatively confined space can seem daunting, there are always things you can do to keep yourself entertained. This time the duck and I were lucky that our excitement outdid the tiredness we felt from the lack of sleep the night before (we’re terrible at packing and have surprising bursts of FOMO). If you are as worried about long layovers as we tend to be, the duck and I do recommend avoiding them whenever you are in charge of the booking. Sometimes long layovers come together with a smaller fare (of course, I’ve had a few voluntary ones for that exact reason). In those cases, I suggest taking some time to figure out which one is stronger for this particular connection: your worries about long layovers or your excitement about saving some money. If you decide to sacrifice some peace of mind for a cheaper flight, please feel free to take the duck and my little adventure as a reminder that long layovers can be curiously entertaining.

Do you have any long layover experiences or tips you’d like to share? The duck and I would love to hear them!

2 thoughts on “An unspecific timeline of a long layover

  1. Nope, Not Pam says:

    Layovers are the pits. The worst we have was 19 hours. We were going to leave the airport but my husband is fanatical about not missing the flight. He sat in the airport lounge, I wandered round and round and round and round. I eventually fell asleep. I think you and duck have it Sussex. Wish duck sweet dreams from me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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