As a member of several travel forums and groups one of the questions I often see asked is “I have a 10 hour layover in _____, can I go outside and do something?” The short answer is “Yes”, and the longer answer is “Yes, but should you?”

None of this applies if you are a magical person who does not ever experience jetlag.

Clouds over the US Midwest from a plane

Such a lovely view from the window of the plane. If only I’d known that in just a few hours I would not be enjoying myself in Madrid!

If you are coming from a place 2 hours away, say even from New York to Florida, and you have a 10 hour layover during the day (key point), yes, completely fine. Go outside, do something fun, absolutely don’t spend it in an airport.

On the other hand, if you are coming from the US to let’s say Europe, and you have a Travel Mishaps in Madrid, Spain 10 hour layover in Madrid before heading to Paris….well…you might want to rethink that. Even during the day this is a nightmare. I’ll probably do a longer post someday for the two horror stories but to give you a brief overview of my own 10 hour layover in Madrid….

The Madrid Experience

A statue of a man on a horse in Madrid Center

A probably-famous statue in the middle of Madrid Center

I have this picture. I don’t remember taking it. The entire thing was a blur, this picture, a market somewhere, bad churros and so. much. tired. I spent an hour in Madrid center before giving up. My backpack was heavy, my stomach hurt from the churros, and I was all round not having fun.

Three churros and a cup of chocolate

The churros in question

I then spent the remaining 6 hours sitting in the airport, stressing because my gate wasn’t revealed until 5 minutes before we left, all the Spaniards were passed out on the floor with a level of ease I’ll only achieve in another lifetime…No. I will never do this again, I will pay more to not do this.

See, I was thinking the above as I boarded my plane to Paris, but apparently it still hadn’t quite clicked. There was more for me to learn, apparently.

The Zurich Experience

I thought my mistake had been made in choosing a layover after an international flight, so when I signed up for a weekend in Rome with another 10 hour layover in Zurich I thought it’d be okay. Only problem? The layover was at night. Coming from the US I know at least a few things will be open at any hour…not so in Europe in my experience. The subway wasn’t running, it was 40 euro to get to Zurich the town by cab each way (the town was 10 minutes away), and nothing would have been open anyways. Not only that, but we made the idiot decision to go outside for some fresh air.

We got locked out of the terminal area. The terminal, the area where all the lounges and sleep areas were. We weren’t able to get back in until 5AM and spent the night curled up on chairs. Misery, but at least Rome was worth it.

So my rules now are, if it’s 24+ hours, it’s fine, get a hotel/hostel, etc. If I’ve only traveled a bit that day and it’s still light out and everything’s running, also fine. But these easy guidelines, in my opinion, should always be followed to avoid awfulness. I have a longer post on my lovely time in Zurich here at: The Zurich Airport Doesn’t Belong in the World’s Top 10. 

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