This post was inspired by my quick layover in London, England. I was happy to spend my time in the city but learned that I could have done a few things differently to make it more enjoyable.
8 hours in London, England
London England was my first official stop of my backpacking trip of 2016. I had been to London a few times before so I didn’t care to stick around too long. I had an 8 hour layover and wanted to get into the city, I couldn’t wait to start exploring. In the end it was totally worth it. Getting into the city was amazing, it was my first reminded that I wasn’t in Canada anymore. Although along the way I learned a few things that I would do differently to make the experience more enjoyable.
I landed at the Gatwick airport which a train which you can catch to take you into the city centre. I took the train to the London Bridge Station, it took about 50 minutes.
Once off the train I accidentally stumbled across the Borough Market, It was so cute and there were so many vendors to choose from. I would definitely check this out if you’re going to see the London Bridge. I grabbed a panini and began to head in the direction of the London bridge. There was a lovely park area, unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to sit and enjoy the scenery, I wanted to wander around a bit and was cutting it close for catching the train back to catch my flight to Amsterdam.
At this point I was so exhausted, my bag was heavy and I just wanted to relax. After being up early, catching a 7 hour flight and wandering around with my backpack on, I started to question why I thought squeezing in this layover adventure was a good idea. Finding my way back to the train station I stumbled upon a small art gallery show, stopped in a convince store to grab another snack and hopped on the next train back to Gatwick airport.
It was awesome to start my adventure asap but looking back next time I would stick around the airport for a layover 8 hours long. I had to lug around my backpack and made me that much more tired as I still had another flight and find my hostel. But you live and you learn.
Here are some suggestions as to how to spend a layover if you want to run about the city you’re in for a few hours.
Find a place to store your luggage
If you are going to wander into town, see if you can find somewhere to store your bags for the day, a lot of airports have this service. If you can’t find it yourself go to the customer service or help desk. Ask the gate attendant as you exit the plane if their airline has any services that can accommodate you. If you are flying with two different airlines be sure to ask both. There is a possibility that they can provide storage of your bags or that you can check your luggage early. Carrying your own bag can save you some money but it can be frustratingly heavy and inconvenient if you want to enjoy your layover.
Opt for a very long or very short layover
Give yourself the time to enjoy the city that you have a short stop over in. Take the time to calculate how long it will take you get from the airport into the city. Take into account the time it will take to go through customs and find a place to store your bags. Also make sure you give yourself enough time to get back to the airport to catch your next flight. Ideally 5 hours is good for a short layover and 10 or more for a longer layover. The best time layover time I experience was 13 hours.
Find comfortable spot to relax
Take the time to explore the airport, if you decided that you don’t want to rush into the city during your layover. I have been to a handful of airports around the world and each one has something interesting. Some have awesome seating areas, places to shop, hotels and sleeping pods. Most airports also now provide free wifi and plugs so you can charge any electronics that need a boost. One of my favourite layovers was in Malaysia, I had 13 hours to kill, so I bought a hotel room for a 6 hour sleep and it was the best sleep I had on my whole backpacking trip. Money well spent!