Whittle while you wait

What do you do to pass the time in an airport waiting for a flight? Have any suggestions to make the interval more pleasant? ITN asked readers those questions and printed some of their responses in the May ‘05 issue. More ideas have come in and we are presenting them here.

If you have any tips to contribute (photos with captions welcome), write to Whittle While You Wait, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramentro, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com (please include the address at which you receive ITN).

I was very surprised to read the “Whittle While You Wait” letters in the May ’05 issue and see that no one mentioned handheld games.

My husband and I never take a trip without our little handheld Freecell and solitaire games to entertain us while we wait. We pull them out of our carry-on bag in the airport, once we get to cruising altitude on the flight and when we are winding down before going to sleep at night. We know they’ll come in handy anywhere we expect to be standing in line or waiting somewhere.

We always carry extra batteries and a tiny screwdriver (in our checked luggage) in case the batteries wear out. In our opinion, it’s much easier to use handheld games while waiting in line than crossword puzzles, which we used to carry.


Norman, OK

I never have a problem entertaining myself at airports — or on long flights, for that matter. Here are many of the ways I amuse myself.

Needlework. I’m an avid stitcher, both cross-stitch and needlepoint. I can happily spend hours just stitching, remaining calm and relaxed while still able to hear announcements. Knitters claim the same thing.

Check out the shops and services of the airport. You never know what you will find. I’m still hoping for that full-service spa or at least a nail salon! What better way to while away a few hours than getting a manicure, pedicure and facial? At the very least, I pick up water and chocolate for the flight.

Eat. Since the food service on planes is universally bad or simply nonexistent, anything served in an airport food court or restaurant is bound to be better. Besides, it’s one way to guarantee that you aren’t starving when you arrive at your destination at some odd hour.

Pay bills and balance my checkbook. There are always mailboxes in airports. It’s a great way to catch up.

Write postcards or letters. This is particularly good on the way home from a vacation.

Check in with my office. As a lawyer, there is always some last-minute crisis with a client, or perhaps I didn’t have time to leave instructions on some matter. Often I haven’t had time to change my voicemail message to a vacation one — I have plenty of time to do so once I’ve gotten through security at the airport.

Read. Waiting for flights is often the only time I actually read the entire New York Times or even glance through magazines. I save the light fiction reading for the flights, where I can safely lose myself in the story without missing some critical announcement.

Do crossword puzzles and other word games.

Listen to music or audible books. With the advent of the iPod and other MP3 players, this is a wonderful option, as one little piece of equipment holds hours of entertainment. An added advantage is that it helps you tune out the cell phone yappers and unruly or screaming children. The one downfall: not hearing announcements!

Read guidebooks and plan my trip. I travel without much of an itinerary usually, so this is often the ideal time to start figuring out what I want to see and do at my destination. I’ve even been known to call and make reservations for hotels and dining on the trip while waiting for flights.

Make a friend. This is not always something you are in the mood to do or may even desire to do. However, I’ve had wonderful experiences talking to fellow travelers. Conversations often started when someone asked for directions or information or someone was simply fascinated by whatever I was stitching. I often get great tips on things to see and do, plus places to eat and stay, from other travelers or returning locals.

My favorite friend-making experience in an airport — in Moscow in 1995, at the crack of dawn, my friends and I were waiting for our flight after endless hours getting through security, ticketing and passport control. A woman approached one of my friends and said something. She pointed to me and said, “She speaks French.”

Next thing I know, I’m chatting in French (or attempting to, at least) with a woman who couldn’t find her gate. We ended up having a lovely conversation about our recent experiences traveling in Russia.

People-watch. This is particularly fun when I am traveling to some exotic locale or am on a local airline, as hints of the culture are evident if you look. For example, my sister and I found the people-watching while awaiting our flight in Amman, Jordan, during Ramadan to be particularly intriguing — there were lots of passengers for flights to Jeddah, all robed in white and making their pilgrimage to Mecca.

Take it easy. Perhaps the best thing of all, for me, when waiting in airports is that I can totally relax for a little bit — no list of errands to do, calls to make or things to do around the house. Down time is precious these days, and waiting for flights provides just that.


New York, NY

Being retired and now a heavy traveler, I also had to come up with something to do while waiting for a flight. Most important to answer — how could I have the hours pass by and “have fun at the same time”?

For me, the answer is something that is just coming into play: the Pocket Video Recorder AV420 from Archos, Inc. (3-A Goodyear, Irvine, CA 92618; phone 949/609-1483, e-mail us-info@archos.com or visit www.archos.com).

This product records the video/sound right off your TV in your home WITHOUT a computer and plays up to 320 hours of video (your favorite movies) or 20,000 songs or shows 800,000 photos. It includes other interesting features as well.

With a big viewing screen for a portable video recorder, it has good battery life and is absolutely perfect for the air traveler with nothing to do while waiting on the ground or high in the sky.

This Archos unit is like nothing else out, and it is being grabbed up as fast as stores can get them in. After my travel agent told me about it I ordered one and it was back-­ordered for three weeks. The recorder unit costs $499.95, not including extras.

I hope the above helps other bored travelers like myself pass the time away real quick and with a lot of fun.


Spring Valley, NY

My apologies to reader Gary Mockli (May ’05, pg. 47), but I often use waiting time at the airport to make cell phone calls to my five grown children (there’s not enough time to really talk when I am home) and to friends in order to catch up with all the latest news. From now on, Gary, I will try to go to an inconspicuous corner to talk.

I also try to catch up on reading magazines I subscribe to but never seem to have time to read at home.

And I do “Double Crostics” rather than crosswords, but the lovely effect of passing time easily is the same.


Indianapolis, IN

How do I pass the time in airports? My carry-on bag always has a paperback novel, a magazine, that morning’s newspaper, crossword puzzles and circular (non neighbor-poking) knitting needles with work in progress.

On the airplane, I use the catch that holds up the tray table as a holder for the knitting directions. I haven’t had any problem with the needles (which ARE allowed by the TSA), but I was questioned about the blunt-end kids’ scissors I swiped from my grandchildren’s art box.

While I wait, I play mental games, such as guessing where a traveler came from or is going. My favorite game, though, is one that my sister and I started playing eons ago: “Boxers or Briefs?” or, these days, “Briefs or Thong?”


Scottsdale, AZ

I have traveled all over the world carrying a needlepoint canvas with me. First in backpack days, now in later life, on ship, plane and train.

People everywhere stop to see what I am making and chat with me. This always makes waiting an interesting event. Through sign language, a woman on a train in Italy wanted to work on my needlepoint herself.

I think this is the perfect way to pass the time while waiting for a flight. The added joy of this is that each needlepoint pillow and chair back in my home reminds me of what part of the world I was in when I worked on it.


Dayton, OH