The problem with being an avid traveller is that the chances something will go wrong quadruplicate. While airports can be magical places to anxiously await the trip of a lifetime, they easily turn into diabolic traps when you are left for hours on end between gate one and gate twenty-two because you lost your flight/it got cancelled/you are me and have spent more time waiting in terminals than you have in the air.
The reason this is probably one of the most annoying things that can happen (even though it is definitely not the worst) is that although nine hours stuck at Chicago O'Hare wouldn't sound so bad scrolling through your Facebook feed, sending emojis to your mates on Whatsapp, watching cat videos on Youtube, the sad truth is that most airports only offer one hour free WiFi. Let's be honest, spending five dollars for an hour of internet connection when you are stuck there for at least another four is not worth it. So how can you pass the time and make the most of it?
To be fair, there isn't much you can do. But having found myself so often in that situation, I know some things you definitely have to do:
1. Get in touch with your family or friends
Firstly and most importantly, let someone know you are alive and well. You do have an hour of internet connection, so skip the black hole that is YouTube and use it to let your loved ones know what's going on. I once found myself in Paris, at Charles-De Gaulle with no SIM, before Whatsapp was a thing, and my parents did not know about the glory that is Facebook. In that case I used that hour to message the first person I saw online on Facebook, gave them my dad's phone number and asked them to text him. Thinking about it now, asking at the airport info point would work just as well.
2. Lost your connection or flight got cancelled? Think about your clothes!
After years of travel misadventures I have learnt that your luggage can go a long way without you. You do want to know where your luggage is at all times, so don't be afraid to ask the airline assistants about it. Being persistent is key here. They will tell you that everything is fine and that you will find your luggage at your final destination, but I can tell you from experience that half of the time they have no idea if what they're saying will actually happen. Spending five days with no clothing whatsoever in another country is not great, I can tell you that.
3. Make some friends
Chances are you are not the only person who is stuck at the airport for some reason, especially if your flight got cancelled as it would have carried another few hundred people. You are all in the same agonising position, so why not complain together and exchange funny stories while waiting?
Travelers are great people, and they have a lot to talk about. If not for the stories, do it for the help. Having someone who can help you in an uncomfortable situation, especially if you are unable of contacting your loved ones, is practically fundamental.
4. Food and warmth
I don't know if this is so important to me as an Italian, but never ever forget to stock up on food if you have to spend a lot of time in an airport. Feed yourself often, because waiting is stressful and at least food can make you happy and warm.
Speaking of, you should also hang out by the airport restaurants. A lot of airports can get very cold very quickly during winter, and food courts are the warmest place you will find. A lost flight is not worth getting sick for, and a full stomach can always turn any bad situation into a better one.
Traveling can be incredibly stressful, and airports are only magical places if you spend up to three hours in them. Given that you never know what might happen, keeping safe while traveling is the only thing that really matters (even more than emojis and funny videos). To know more about how to stay safe abroad and travel aware visit the Foreign and Commonwealth website at: www.gov.uk/travelaware or follow @FCOtravel on Twitter.