Thank you Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card from Chase for sponsoring this series of articles for the business traveler. Savvy business travelers are masters at balancing the “professional” with the “personal” when they travel. They work effectively to carve out time to sightsee. They experience local culture. They seek out and entertain clients at hidden gems. They accumulate rewards to leverage for more adventures in new cities. In this series, we’ll provide tips and resources for business travelers to not only work “smart,” but also play “smart” to get more out of their business travel and enjoy the journey. 

Anyone who has traveled for business knows the pain of an airport layover. In 2013, it’s rare that we’ll always be able to find a direct route to our destination; it’s increasingly unlikely when traveling overseas. This means it’s more and more important to be able to maximize your inevitable layover. Traveling domestically may not present a big challenge, but traveling internationally often means long hours in terminals and early mornings trying to catch a few Z’s doubled over uncomfortable gate armrests. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few great tips for maximizing your layover while you’re en route to your final destination.

Get Out Of Dodge

Business travel isn’t all about making your way to a lounge for a glass of scotch, a shower and a nap. Business travel presents a unique opportunity for a traveler that goes beyond just visiting new destinations for work purposes. I recently traveled to Kolkata, India. Originating from Denver, CO meant stops in two cities with a combined layover time of almost 12 hours before reaching my final destination. One thing you can do in these situations is to research ahead and find ways to get out of the airport. Some airports in China, and other countries that are often home to long layovers, are beginning to offer traveler services that include day tours to nearby cities with visits to popular tourist destinations like monuments, museums, cathedrals and more. You can get out in the city, see the sights, and try some local cuisine all before it’s time to board for your next leg.

Traveling through Delhi? The airport is only a few miles outside of the city center, so you can easily arrange for a taxi and a few sightseeing opportunities with enough time. Traveling to Malaysia? Well, you might need to reconsider your options. By many reports, the Kuala Lumpur airport is several hours from the city center by public transport. So assess your options carefully, and get your plans in order, but using your layover as an opportunity to get into the local city is a great way to experience local culture before getting to your final destination.

Learn To Navigate

Whether you’re traveling internationally or domestically, knowing how to navigate the airport you’ll be in is key to not only successfully getting to your connection on time, but also making the most of your time in between flights. If you are visiting an airport you’re likely to visit again in the future, you should use your time wisely getting to know where you’re going, what’s located where, and where you can find the resources that best fit your needs within the airport.

If you’re visiting an airport for the first time, see if the seatback pocket on the plane has a reference card for your destination. Also use the people around you on the flight as a resource. Are you looking for a place to unwind? The best place to get some grub? Maybe you’re just looking for the best lounge. Strike up a conversation with someone around you and see how they can help!

Traveling through Taiwan I had a three-hour layover, and having never been there before, I began chatting with a fellow traveler near me, asking about the airport. She told me that she traveled through Taiwan pretty regularly and was full of tips for the quickest ways to get where I was going, and which lounge was usually less crowded and featured more local-style fare, which is a feature I prioritize when traveling internationally.

Other times, simply getting through airports in a timely fashion is the most important piece of the puzzle. When facing a five-hour layover in Mumbai, I asked a traveler as we were on approach if they had any tips for getting to the domestic terminal for my connection, and what I should do when I got there. He recommended staying in the International terminal for at least a few hours before transferring. The International terminal featured better amenities, and given the backups that usually occurred at the international baggage claim and transfer, he suggested I could easily get some rest and some food before moving to the domestic terminal, all the while missing the crowds. And boy was he right! I missed the crowds, my transition was quick, and I was able to relax without having to rush.

Similarly, on my return trip, I took advantage of a suggestion by an acquaintance in Kolkata to visit a particular shop. Ishana turned out to be a perfect place to spend time during that particular layover. With local sweets, live local music, a gorgeous setting to relax and let the time pass — I never would have stopped in without the recommendation of a local who knew his way around. Learning to navigate, from whatever sources you can find, not only helps you to spend your time effectively, but also helps you find hidden gems and immerse yourself in local culture.

Make The Best of What’s Around

Any business traveler lucky enough to travel above coach class knows this one well. I’ve alluded to this particular tip for upgrading your layover in both of the previous paragraphs — and it deserves to be its own. If you’re at business class level or higher and have access to a premier-level lounge offered by the carrier on which you’re traveling, always make the lounge your first stop during your layover if you aren’t leaving the airport. But even if you don’t have access to international or premiere lounges, upgrading your layover can be as simple as “finding your spot.” Using navigational tips, amenity recommendations and knowledge of any previous visits, you can easily find quiet locations to get work done or rest, or bustling locations to mingle with fellow travelers. But the biggest key to making the best of what’s around is never being afraid to explore. Stow your bags if you can, but otherwise, take the chance to wander and experience what your airport might have to offer — you never know what you might find!

  • Munich International Airport has its own brewery that offers daily tours.
  • Schiphol has an oxygen bar where you can rejuvenate yourself.
  • Changi Airport in Singapore offers verdant and relaxing gardens through which you can wander.
  • If relaxation isn’t your thing, keep your eyes open for shopping destinations; London Heathrow offers an 11,000 square foot Harrod’s department store.

No matter what airport you’re at, there’s surely to be something for everyone — you just have to find it.

In order to upgrade your layover and make the best of your down time in between flights, there are lots of things you can do. Save your work for the plane and use your airport opportunities to take advantage of what the local culture, flavor and space offer you. Get out of the airport if you can, make a day trip out of it. Use tips from fellow travelers on what you might be able to find in the airport; don’t be afraid to look for a new experience if one can be found. When in doubt, simply explore what’s around you and immerse yourself as much as you can. If you follow these simple tips you’re well on your way to upgrading your layover.

As a Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Cardmember, you’re closer to a getaway with every card purchase.Learn more.

Thank you to Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card from Chase and Technorati for being sponsors of this article. All opinions expressed here are my own.