Things to do During a Long Layover | 18 Hours in JFK

So I've wrapped up my sophomore year of college (woot woot!) and let me tell you, it was rough. Between dropping a class, running the International Students Association and figuring out that I actually have like 2.5 real friends (lol), I've been keeping myself pretty busy. 

But I'm finally back home in Kenya for the summer and I couldn't be happier. There's really just something about being surrounded by the people you love that just...sets you free. You feel me?

Getting home, however, was a bit of a hassle. I'm the type to book my tickets waaaay in advance—ya girl doesn’t play about those ticket prices. Whenever I go to uni in the US, I book a return ticket because my intention is to come right back home because that bio major stress can only be tolerated a little at a time. 

When I had come home for Christmas break, I booked my spring semester ticket in early December. Everything looked fine and dandy and I was set. Little did I know that my tickets had a crucial flaw: timing. 

I left Raleigh at around 6:20 am and arrived in New York about an hour and fifteen minutes later at 7:50-ish. I was hustling my way through JFK—as one does—on my way to drop off the luggage I was checking at the Qatar Airways desk. 

I got to the check-in desk and there was literally no one there. Weird. I strolled over to one of the big screens that show all the upcoming flights and couldn’t locate my flight. 

My flight was supposed to leave at 10:00 on the dot, yet it wasn’t there. Weirder. 

Being the paranoid person that I am, I immediately started thinking that I booked my connecting flight a week too late and that I was going to be stuck roaming around JFK like Tom Hanks in The Terminal. Before I started hyperventilating, I whipped out my flight itinerary and checked the time for my next flight. Bam. I instantly felt like a total idiot.

Right there, bolded and in print, although a little smaller than I would have liked, were the letters ‘PM’. 

When I tell you that I was devastated, please believe that I was utterly shattered. I had an eighteen hour wait ahead of me and the check-in desk wouldn’t open until about four to five hours before my flight. 


My next dilemma was that I was too broke to go explore the city for the day and even if I hadn't been, there was no way I was about to be lugging around my big suitcase, my backpack, and my tote. It just wasn’t about to happen. I was going to have to stay put. 

So for the next eighteen hours I had to keep myself busy. Here’s what I ended up doing: 

1. Get Some Food
I was stuck and I hadn’t eaten since dinner the previous day at 4:00pm so naturally my first decision was to buy some food. Being stuck and hungry just didn’t sound like a good idea to me. I’m not a fan of hunger.

 I’m pretty sure you aren’t either. For breakfast, I ended up getting a water and a lovely parfait. I also ate some delicious Lindt chocolates that I had in my backpack. 

Okay, they were meant to be a gift, but the situation called for some sweet comfort. 

2. Buy Internet
Unfortunately, JFK only allows you to connect to their wifi for forty-five minutes of complimentary use. Being that I had a casual eighteen hours to kill, this was just not going to cut it. 

Boingo is their wifi provider and had several options: I could either pay $7 and some change for the next 24 hours or $4 and some change for a monthly subscription. Girl, I clicked on that $4 monthly subscription so fast! That extra $3 could sit right where it needed to: my bank account.

I then proceeded to cancel the subscription when I got home. 

3. Netflix
Because I had bought wifi, I now could do what I do best: binge watch shows as I eat. I found a wall to sit by near some lovely old Korean ladies and some backpackers who had missed their flight and got to watching. 

I watched a few episodes of Girlboss, an episode or two of Greys Anatomy, some Trevor Noah stand-up comedy, and the entire season of Dear White People for good measure. 

I also watched White Chicks with a nice girl who was waiting on a flight to Korea via Beijing, China a little later in the day when the old ladies and the backpackers had left.

4. Talk to Strangers 
I like to make friends wherever I go and this one is definitely one of my favorite things to do during a layover, so I got to chatting with the people around me. The two elderly Korean ladies had just come from visiting their grandkids and were heading back to Korea via Istanbul, Turkey. 

They gave me candy. I took it. I know you’re not supposed to take candy from strangers but I think that only applies to kids, and I’m about to be 20 so it’s really quite alright.

The two backpackers on the other side of me had come up from Florida and were on their way to Europe. The only problem was that they had missed their flight to Athens, Greece the prior evening and didn’t want to spend money on a hotel in the city so they spent the night in Terminal 8. 

5. Take a Nap  
I hadn’t slept the night before my flight so I was pretty exhausted. Taking multiple short naps was a great way for me to recharge until it was time for me to go check in my luggage. I couldn't sleep for long because I was paranoid that I'd wake up and all my stuff would be gone. 

Aside from what I did above, here are a few more things you can do if you are stuck in an airport. 

6. Take a Shower, Brush Your Teeth
If you’ve been traveling for a while already, I’m willing to bet that you don’t smell too fresh…and neither does your breath. 

Take some time to hit the bathrooms and freshen up a little bit. I really hope you packed a toothbrush in your carry on. 

In fact, take a look at this post for some ideas of things you definitely don’t want to leave out of your carry-on. 

7. Shop
The best part about shopping in airports is that most of the time, everything is duty free. This means no sales tax, ladies!

I can’t even begin to tell you how that extra 7% has pained me each time I make a purchase. This is a great alternative. If funds are low, it’s always nice to just wander and window shop instead. 

8. Get Some Work Done
You probably have your laptop with you. Why not whip it out and get some work done? You can draft a few blog posts (which is probably what I should have been doing instead of binge watching Netflix and talking to strangers). 

You can get caught up on your emails, and you can even skype some family and friends. That last part isn’t necessarily work but it definitely counts as something to do on a long layover. 

9. Take Some Insta Worthy Pics
You’re in an airport, girlfriend. Let your inner jet setter loose and take a few #TravelDiary selfies and pictures like this

Throw in some shots of planes taking off and landing, or even a few snaps of the airport tarmac with the planes all lined up... kind of like this. The possibilities are endless. 

You can even take some pictures as you shop/window shop. And of course, once your in the plane, I know you'll want to take pictures like this. Yeah, those are my favorite kinds.

10. Journal 
This time in the airport can be a great time of introspection. You can even write about your journey so far. 

I love keeping a non-digital travel diary because in a few months/years, you’ll want to relive the moments of your journey in detail. 

What better time to jot them all down than right when they’re fresh in your mind? 

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