Packing Tips for Unexpected Layovers

packing tips

Flight delays. Broken aircraft. Overbook flights. Poor weather. These are just a few of the reasons why you’re flight could be delayed or you may face an unexpected – or longer – layover. Unless you have a direct flight, and these days few of us do, you need to be prepared to face this reality should it occur.

Be Prepared

No one wants to think what if they have an extended layover but the best way to handle it is to be prepared. This means having all of the things you need at your disposal. You should carry an extra days’ worth of any medications you or your family needs. Having a credit card available should you need to spend the night somewhere unexpected is also important. Some airlines will give you a hotel room but they are becoming less and less likely to do this. Packing plenty of snacks not just helps during flights but can save you money if you’re stranded.

Be sure to also carry the phone numbers for whoever is picking you up on the other end. Having the phone number of your destination hotel or shuttle service also makes sense. Keep these people updated as your layover progresses.

International Flights

The longer your flights, or the more connections you have, the greater the risk there is for delay. When flying internationally it makes sense to always carry a carry-on sized suitcase. In the suitcase include a change of clothes for each person traveling, along with medications and toiletries. It may seem like a hassle but you will be glad you have it if you’re stuck somewhere overnight with no luggage. Remember, with a delay or unplanned layover there’s also a greater risk that your luggage will be lost or possibly routed differently than you. Having extra clothing available will come in very handy. Before you leave make sure to call your credit and/or debit card company, and let them know you may be using the card not only in your destination country but any other countries you may have a layover in.

Layovers with Kids

Having an unexpected or long layover when you’re an adult is frustrating but when you’re traveling with children it can be a downright nightmare. First, keep your cool. If kids see that you are stressed out or worried it will rub off on them. Calmly explain to them what is happening and plan for a diversion to pass the time. Older kids may be thrilled to learn they’ve got an extra hour or time to play on the iPad while younger kids may be happy taking a long walk to explore the airport. Many large airports have play areas – find them! Airports are big, exciting places for children of all ages and you might be surprised at how much fun they can have just exploring and learning about the inner workings of the airport.

Layovers can put a big cramp in your travel plans but try to take them in stride and see it all as a part of  the journey – which is just as important as the destination!


  1. Teresa Claire says

    Thank you for these tips. Nothing ever seems to go as planned when we travel. Great post 🙂

  2. hmrcarlson says

    I am going to forward this to my hubby. He travels constantly & has experienced his fair share of layovers…

  3. Ronald G says

    I don't fly much so this very useful to me..thank you

  4. I can imagine how difficult a layover would be traveling with little ones. Car rides can be particular fussy, I don't know how parents do it while on a flight. Great tips!
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  5. Ann Bacciaglia says

    Great tips as you never know when you will counter an unexpected layover. It is best to be prepared. Thanks for sharing.

  6. These are really great tips. I can't tell you how many crumpled, disheveled parents I've seen roaming around airports, barely keeping it together while their poor children die a slow death of boredom. Always be prepared!
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  7. What a great concept! I love this!!
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  8. Great tips. Layovers can be hard, especially with kids.
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  9. Great tips as you never know when you will counter an unexpected layover. It is best to be prepared. I had to stay in Houston recently, it was a nightmare! There was a mom without formula for the baby….Thanks for sharing.

  10. We've had some huge layovers and no meltdowns thus far (knock on wood). I feel so lucky to have such great travelers in my children. 🙂
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  11. The New Classy says

    Can you believe that I have never actually commercially flown. I will definitely keep these tips in mind, though.

  12. Great tips, we are taking a trip in May and I will keep these in mind!
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  13. I once had a layover and my daughter blew out her diaper and I had NO other clothes because they were in the checked bag. Disaster.

  14. Lay over is no fun especially if you have younger kids but surely there are ways to make it better.
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  15. thanks for the ideas, im not sure i can handle an international flight with a toddler!
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  16. These are great tips. Thankfully I have never had it happen, but at least I have some tips if it does
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  17. Very good ideas.
    I am always packing for preparation of one thing or the other. This is good to keep in mind.
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  18. justamom8225 says

    These are definitely some great tips, thank you so much! I've been mostly fortunate with layovers.

  19. These are great tips. I've had a few layovers myself, but we have yet fly with my 3 year old. But I agree, if you try to take it in stride and make it as fun as possible, it will work out better for everyone in the end.
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  20. Amanda Love says

    I always pack as though I'm packing for a layover with kids. Usually my kids are with me anyway so I always need the extra. Thanks for the tips.
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  21. So many uncertain things during travel. Great tips 🙂
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  22. Oh my layovers are hard but we survive by making them an adventure and we have learned to pack for a layover by taking a carry on.

  23. Great tips. I don't travel much but I hope to start soon.
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  24. I have not traveled with kids yet, but I really would like to avoid it if at all possible.
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  25. When I was moving to England nine years ago, we had an unexpected layover in St. Kitts. Three hours of waiting in an airport terminal with screaming children, frustrated passengers and a headache! It was a nightmare. I prayed that, that wasn't sign of how things would be in England. Thankfully it wasn't. I loved my time there immensely. I also learned a lesson…on my flight back to Trinidad, I stocked up on medication, a book and ear plugs. 🙂
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  26. thelesleyshow says

    I've had a layover with my kids and it was the worst, we were so bored and on a budget so anything to do in the airport or near the airport was way too expensive.
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  27. touristmeetstravel says

    This a great post, people who tend to travel a lot really need to read this over.
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  28. People think I am crazy when I pack random things and try to be prepared for what ever. I have a 2 year old and an 8 year old and they are not great at waiting at all. Will have to save these tips for next time to help things along if I need them:)

  29. Tough Cookie Mommy says

    These are some great tips. I almost had an unexpected layover in Atlanta a few weeks ago and would have been lost without extra materials.

  30. During my last international travel had an 8 hour layover in London (with my kids). Fortunately I was prepared and had everything we needed packed in my carry on.
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  31. So far the most I've had with delays was only an hour(thank God). I wouldn't survive if it took longer than five hours. That would be torture
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  32. Great tips. I always make sure my kids have packed plenty of things to do (games, arts & crafts, etc) and snacks as well as a change of clothes in our carry ons just in case.
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  33. These are really good tips. I always make sure I have extra medicine, wet wipes, clothes, snacks and of course my portable usb phone charger with me.

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