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Stuck in an airport? Here are 10 ways to pass your time.

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When Arlington resident Doug Carr is delayed at the airport, he heads to a restaurant, finds a seat facing the terminal, and enjoys the free entertainment. “Airports are centers of creativity. You see a lot of amazing things,” said Carr, 54, senior vice president of the National Business Aviation Association who flew at least 200,000 miles a year for work before the pandemic. “People watching at the airport is always fascinating.”

For travelers experiencing a delay or layover, waiting at an airport can be a test of patience. And with airline bookings up and unemployment down, there could be more delays during the summer, the busiest travel season, as businesses deal with crowds, weather and staff shortages. Passengers stuck in a huge hub have more options to pass the time, like an art museum (San Francisco), a yoga room (Chicago O’Hare) or a virtual driving range (Minneapolis-St. Paul). But those trapped in a medium or small airport may need to get creative to run out of time.

After trying to rebook their flight or negotiate compensation with the airline for the delay or cancellation, travelers can keep busy by following these tips from frequent flyers.

To conduct research. John Leoni, 53, a pilot for FedEx in Memphis, recommends consulting the airport directory to devise a plan. “It’s your whole world,” Leoni said. Consult the list of shops, restaurants and services on your phone or on a board in the terminal. Airport websites and apps will list the opening hours of shops and services; some filter choices depending on whether businesses are inside or outside security checkpoints.

To take a walk. Bobby Esposito, 27, flies two or three times a month as a referee for the US Hockey League. He uses the delays to reach 10,000 steps, sometimes while making calls for his other job as an investment adviser.

“I know I’m going to be sitting on a plane for a few hours, so might as well move before I get stuck in this metal tube of a plane,” said Esposito, of Manville, NJ.

Lisa Williams, 51, a stewardess for a major US airline for 31 years, keeps a pair of lightweight trainers in her bag. She changes heels and strolls through the airport while catching up on podcasts. If you only have dress shoes with you, Carr suggests looking for carpeted areas that will be easier on your feet.

Call someone. The first thing Long Island’s Bill Whiting does during a delay is call his mother. The educator and winemaker has logged nearly 4 million miles in 25 years and logged countless conversations with mum. Whiting, 54, also phones friends, sometimes engaging in a 20-minute chat, sometimes leaving a quick voicemail. “It’s the thought that counts,” he said.

Buy strategically. Hilary Munson, travel director for conferences, is looking for a place to buy a puzzle magazine. “Each of these puzzles can take time and focus,” said Munson, 51. If there’s an electronics store or kiosk, she’ll do some research, like learning more about headphones. “I don’t buy them, but I might as well educate myself,” the Tampa resident said.

Whiting is looking for local products, such as chocolates, magnets and T-shirts, to buy as gifts for future birthdays. Carr finds diversions in pop-ups or tables offering travel gear or local products. “It’s always fun to find out about these opportunities when I’m at the airport,” he said.

Take the train from the airport. If the airport has a train, DC resident Catherine McMahon finds him. Whether the lanes take him to another terminal or long-term parking, McMahon relaxes on the ride. “I’m fascinated by transportation, and you can see other parts of the airport or a plane unloading baggage,” said McMahon, 52, who has traveled to 53 countries as an international development consultant.

McMahon prefers outside trains, like the one in Frankfurt, Germany, but is intrigued by the inside rail line that runs through Concourse A of the McNamara Terminal at Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport. At around a mile long, it is the second longest terminal in the world. The ExpressTram can move nearly 4,300 people per hour in each direction, according to Delta Air Lines, which operates the train.

Visit of the chapel. Escape the hustle and bustle of the terminal at the Airport Chapel, which is generally non-denominational, relaxing and pretty. “It’s a really quiet place to catch your breath,” said Tiffany Thompson, a flight attendant for a major US airline who lives in Louisville. Visitors “use these rooms for mediation and to get away from the general public,” said Thompson, 50.

Talk to strangers. Munson, who is outgoing, chats with the people waiting at the door. “You become, like, this team, and you share information. It’s really easy to strike up a conversation then,” said Munson, who lived in Bethesda for eight years.

Whiting looks for anyone wearing the logo of their alma mater or their favorite sports teams, and he uses it to open the conversation. “You can tell by their energy level whether they’re into it or not,” Whiting said. “But that can be a mistake, because they might want to talk to you.”

Do an act of kindness. Helping someone can lift both of your moods. Thompson always has magazines with her. “If I see a parent in trouble — we’ve all been there — I’ll give the magazine to the kids and say, ‘Tear out every picture of a dog in the magazine and give it to me,'” Thompson said, a mother. of two.

Other ideas include lending a phone charger, buying someone a cup of coffee, or helping to overcome the language barrier. “Just be a little more aware. You are not alone here. You’re all in this together,” Thompson said.

Whiting approaches people wearing military uniforms or Vietnam War hats to say thank you. “It makes these people feel good. It makes me feel good,” he said. “It’s the little things that make a huge difference.”

Entertain your children. Many airports (including Boston Logan and Chicago O’Hare) have designated play areas for children. If you’re not lucky enough to get stuck in one, head to the airport’s welcome center to ask about trinkets and toys. Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, for example, offers coloring books, crayons, playing cards and, recently, Slinkys. “We give them something to remember us by,” said Greg Kelly, executive director of the Savannah Airport Commission.

Leave. Munson takes the free shuttle from the airport to a nearby hotel and hangs out in the lobby. “It’s definitely worth being more comfortable than sitting in a place where the chairs are hard and they’re screaming over your head every few minutes,” she said. . “Use it as your personal sky club, as long as you’re behind long enough.”

Williams noted that the hotel restaurant can have better food at a cheaper price, be less crowded and offer free Wi-Fi. For a very long wait, book a room at the day rate to take a nap, watch TV or allow the children to jump on the beds. “It’s expensive, but it’s an option,” Williams said.

Thompson recommended checking with an airline agent to determine if it’s safe to leave. Don’t go out if the delay is due to mechanical issues, Leoni said. “I wouldn’t stray too far,” he said. “Things could change for the better very quickly.”

Waters is a New Jersey-based writer. His website is Find her on Twitter: @sharonannwaters.

Prospective travelers should consider local and national public health guidelines regarding the pandemic before planning any travel. Information on travel health advisories can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and on the CDC’s travel health advisories webpage.