- Walking around terminal through terminal, trying to find the one airport lounge that is land-side, is a great way to burn the calories you intake from the airport food you will have to endure. Dragging your bags along with you gives you an even better workout.
- Get your grub on in Terminal 1. This is the only real terminal with food at night. Or at least with a selection of food. But the terminal closes at 1 am (I am told). Or at least the restaurants do. And even at 9 pm, some of the places are getting low on food. But they do have a great variety. Sushi, Chinese, deli, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Sbarro, Korean, etc. You can eat greasy or eat healthy. But you can’t eat cheap.
- Learn how out to date airport information websites are. All but one website (including articles written in the same week as my layover) wrote that there was a sole land-side airport lounge, the Oasis Lounge, in Terminal 4 that anyone can buy there way into for $45. After an hour of walking around, and trying to find a person who even knew what an airport lounge was, or that JFK even had any, I learned that few months ago, the construction in Terminal 4 rearranged the area, and that the Oasis Lounge is now INSIDE security. In other words, there are now ZERO airport lounges in JFK available to people on layovers who can’t check in yet.
- Ride the AirTrain. If you get really bored, you can hop on the AirTrain and ride it in circles. You can even catch a nap on it if you want, as there is really no one on the train at night. Or you can sleep in the waiting area on the AirTrain stations as one guy was doing. Security doesn’t seem to mind as long as you are not homeless or bothering anyone.
- Explore – you can wander as much as you want. Well, within reason. You may get stopped a couple of times and asked if ‘ “Do you need any help?” by a couple suspicious security guards. When you tell them, “I’m just wandering because I have 16 hours to kill”, they usually just give you looks of sorrow and send you on your bored way.
- Play in your pajamas. When you decide that if you are stuck in an airport you might as well be comfortable, pop into the nearest bathroom and put on some pajamas. There is no shame when you have 16 hours of nothingness. Running around in your socks and pajamas, sliding across the floor isn’t really looked down on, as long as you aren’t blocking a major walkway. Also, you are likely making the overnight, camera monitoring, security person’s job more amusing.
- Build a bed/fort./etc. Although the fort thing may be slightly difficult, with a sleeping bag or large sheet, I did see some rows of armless chairs that would have been prime fort building support structures. But, if you don’t fancy a fort, find a cool little nook to make a nest in using your clothing, jackets, and luggage. There seem to be plenty of outlets too so you can build yourself your own gaming area if you want.
- Get Drunk: There may not be any comfortable chairs, but there is definitly not a lack of booze available land-side at JFK. Once drunk, you can walk around and make friends with random strangers (some guy did this to me on my way down to Colombia. Nice guy though). Being drunk helps you sleep (pass-out) on the uncomfortable airport floor too.
- Leave JFK – you can check luggage for $12 to $20 (at least that’s what it says online) a bag/a day in Terminal 1. Then you can take the AirTrain to the subway and go out and explore the nightlife of New York. This is seriously your best option. Because even if you totally plan on hunkering down and working at the terminal, it is so non-conducive to concentration and relaxing, that you will probably just end up updating your social media stats every five minutes out of boredom.
- See how many distinct places inside of JFK airport you can check into on Foursquare. Really, there is a lot! And if you check in while creating a status with a photo through Instagram (which you have of course linked to your Facebook and Twitter), you can update 4 social medias simultaneously every five minutes. The next day you can see who your real friends (stalkers) are.
- Sleep. Or try. More like rest. Because you won’t sleep with all the announcements, cleaning machines, and people walking around. Unless you are some sort of magic.
- Finally give up and pay to get on an earlier flight. If you are lucky you can probably get on an earlier flight at no extra charge. But if you are flying other airlines, they make you pay $50 to change your flight, something you only agree to do because you are too sleep deprived to realize how much you spent on food versus how much you are going to for 2 extra hours.
Once air-side (through security) there are a whole other assortment of things to do:
- Camp, fort build
- Pay a ridiculous amount for use of an airport lounge for a few hours because that is all you have left now (if your terminal even has a lounge).
- Walk around your terminal
- Get drunk
Basically all the same stuff, but this time the floors are carpeted. Ooooooo.
About Dani Blanchette
I am a freelance travel and music photographer and creator of GoingNomadic.com.
I love music, food, and exploring cities without guidebooks. I’ve flown a helicopter, hitchhiked down the east coast USA, and once snuck into the back of a zoo (in Serbia) and pet a lion.
I am always up for an adventure, and sometimes I videotape them.