Has your flight been delayed because of bad weather or air traffic congestion? Is it cancelled due to mechanical problems? Are you stuck waiting in the airport for what seems like an eternity? Here are five free or low-cost, lighthearted ways to pass the time during airport delays.

Airport Delays – Let’s Play a Game

Photo Credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

Photo Credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

More and more, airport designers have gotten smart. For young children, they may have constructed small playgrounds where kids can run, slide, climb and even take a goofy picture through cut-out characters reminding you just where you’re stuck waiting for a plane with them.

Some airports have installed arcades where you may find old-school video game machines such as Ms. Pac Man and Tetris. Driving games, skeet ball and Donkey Kong are other options I’ve seen.

Here’s a chance to let the kids roam free, but give them only a few dollars worth of quarters so they really have to pick out how they want to spend their money. Pinball machines, which seem to be in good supply, appear to be the best ball for the buck as many of them still only require 50 cents to play. Kids enjoy watching others play games as well, allowing for more even more time to pass. Whatever you do, ban the “claw” games. They’re losers no matter what the venue.


Also for a few dollars, let slightly older kids go to the travel kiosk to buy a book of word searches, word scrambles or Sudoku. Or consider the “Dubbing” game. Find an airport television monitor in which there’s no sound (and ideally, no closed captions). Allow different members of the family to fill in for the voices of the characters on screen. Just wait and see what they come up with. Laugh out loud fun for the whole family.

Call Your Mother

Photo Credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

Photo Credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

After some super-informal surveying of friends, it was discovered that more than one of them use airport delay time to call family or friends they’ve not had a chance to get back to, or that they’ve been avoiding all together.

One friend says she uses the time to call her mother. Or text her. Or, hopefully just leave a message. You see, she really doesn’t want to be on the phone for too long with her mother. And the airport delay provides her the perfect opportunity for a short call.

A long airport delay could allow you to tick a lot of people off your call-back list. If they’re not around, you get to leave a message. If they pick up, go on and chat. And in the event that you’re done with the conversation but they aren’t, you’ve got the perfect out. “So sorry! Gotta go—they’ve just announced they’re boarding my plane—finally!”

Walk the Concourse

You’re going to be stuffed like a canned sardine once onboard, so why not take advantage of the airport space now? Walk the concourses all the way up and back. If there’s a moving sidewalk free, hop on, walk close to the end and then turn around and walk on it in the wrong direction. Instant treadmill!

Your body will thank you later and you can work on getting the kids worn down a bit before they actually get onto the flight. It’s almost like mall walking. Actually, it’s pretty much the same thing—plus luggage.

Read Many Magazines

Maybe you have only limited reading material with you. Maybe you have none. No problem. Head over to the travel kiosk and start leafing through magazines that you’d never in your life pay $6 to buy. With a solid airport delay, you’ll have a chance to actually read the full articles, study the pictures (Who DID wear it best? Whoa-look at that BEFORE and AFTER! That’s a DON’T?) and scoff at the tabloid headlines inside the magazine.

Here’s your chance to find out whether it really would have been worth getting a home subscription to Martha Stewart’s “Living” and you can rest assured you made the right decision. If the kiosk manager asks you if you need any help in picking out something for purchase, you can simply reply, “No thanks. My flight is (you choose: delayed/cancelled/circling overhead because the First Class passengers wanted an extra round of drinks) and I’m here trying to determine which reading material truly suits my personality the best.”

Chill Out with a Massage (Sort of)

Photo Credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

Photo Credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

OK, maybe not a full massage, or a chair massage or even a foot massage. Because at the airport, massages are expensive. Instead, head to the airport spa and proceed to try out all the different portable, mini-travel massage contraptions they’re offering. Some airports, like New York’s JFK for instance, offer multiple spa options.

Take a co-traveler (friend or family) with you so you can test the products on one another’s back/neck/shoulders.

Indulge in the samples of creams and oils for your face/hands/neck/arms/legs. If you’re worried they’re going to give you the hard sell to buy something, ask if they have anything unscented. Bingo-nothing to buy as they never seem to have any of the unscented options in stock.

Regardless, you always want to give yourself a chance to make sure none of the testers gives you any sort of allergic reactions and that requires seeing how your skin reacts once you make it…to your final destination.

What are your secrets for passing time in an airport? Tell us in the comment section below.