snowy airport ice plane winter weather
Credit: Sergey Svechnikov, Unsplash

If you’re reading this article, I’m sorry. The holiday horror-story has befallen you: your flight has been cancelled or delayed. You’re facing the next few hours with a hoard of unhappy holiday-makers stuck in, of all places, the airport.

Fear not, stranded traveller. We are here for you.

Flight delays can be a blessing in disguise. You are granted extra hours to finish last-minute gift shopping, cash in on the airport lounge or use the free wifi to finish up a final work project. Need more ideas to make the unexpected wait productive instead of destructive?

Here are 5 ways to survive your holiday flight delay:


Live the high life in duty free

vancouver international airportCourtesy of YVR

My favourite section of any international airport is Duty Free. You can waste hours browsing the rows of tobacco, alcohol, cosmetics, perfumes and food. All that training hunting down free samples in the aisles of Costco is about to pay off: if you’re lucky, you’ll be doted upon with testers. I’m talking sips of wine and whiskey, plastic cups of mixed cocktails, puffs of pricey perfume and slices of decadent chocolate. If you can get pampered, fed and slightly buzzed for free, that’s a delay not wasted. 

Be forewarned—it’s tempting to become a little too liberal with your credit card in these situations.

Pamper yourself at an airport spa

Taylor & ColtTaylor & Cold | Courtesy of YYC

Nothing makes the hours fly by (when your plane won’t) or relaxes the body after an unexpected delay like a massage. Ignore the horrific weather outside and get cozy in an airport spa. If you find yourself stranded in Calgary International, visit OraOxygen Wellness Spa for a facial, manicure and pedicure, or a revitalizing Oxygen session. Men can experience classic luxury at Taylor & Colt, a male-exclusive barbershop that offers hot shaves, personal iPads and complimentary beverages.

No spa in sight? Visit the nearest pharmacy and purchase a face mask. Find a secluded spot, plug in your headphones, play some Zen music, and relax.

Work on that beach bod

If you’re heading somewhere hot or exotic, or want to run out your frustration, you’ll appreciate the extra hours to squeeze in a last-minute workout. GoodLife Fitness ha opened a 930m2 gym in Toronto Pearson International Airport. They provide work-out clothing, shoes, luggage storage and showers. (How awesome is that?!) If you’re not already a member, you can purchase a day pass for $15.

No gym in your terminal? There’s no reason why you can’t stretch, do sit-ups, or power-walk through the airport. You might get some funny looks, but limbering up before a long flight is beneficial for your body. Thank me later.

Eat your feelings

airport table

If you’d rather eat than sweat, there are new, swanky restaurants featuring high-profile chefs in most big airports. You can dine on margarita pizza at Corso in Pearson Airport or nibble on fresh sandwiches from The Local in Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport.

The Shake Shack and Blue Smoke on the Road are delicious and affordable choices at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. If you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated, La Vie is an adorable French restaurant tucked away in Terminal 5.

Drink your feelings (but not too much)

wine lounge red waiting sitting blurryEmanuel Feruzi

If all else fails, allow Starbucks’ seasonal beverages to improve your mood. Syrupy lattes and flavoured whipping cream not strong enough? Luckily, airports are in adequate supply of alcohol. Choose from 85 wines at Vinifera wine bar in YYZ, sip a caesar with bacon vodka at Molson Brewhouse in YYC, order a mimosa at Trafalgar Pub in JFK, or try a local beer at Publican Tavern in ORD. Who said the holiday had to begin at your destination?


Dining & Shopping by Airport:

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Toronto Pearson Airport: where to eat, drink and dine 

Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport: shop here and dine here

Ottawa International Airport: eat and drink or shop here

Winnipeg Richardson International Airport: shopping, dining and services

Regina International: shops and dining guide

Calgary International Airport: eat, drink and dine

Edmonton International Airport: shop, dine and relax

Vancouver International Airport: dining, shops and services


New York | LaGuardia: at the airport

New York | JFK: shops and restaurants (by terminal)

Boston | Logan International Airport: dining, shops and amenities 

Chicago | O'Hare International Airport: dining and shops


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