Outbound Collective logo

Why You Should Wait at the Airport for an Extra 5 Hours

What's better than traveling? Free traveling. So next time your flight is overbooked, take the deal and wait at the airport.

By: Breanne McNitt + Save to a List

It was the holiday season and all the airports were teaming with overwhelmed, panicked people running around trying to catch their next flight. And there I was, calm, cool, and collected in the midst of the chaos. Being punctual, I always make sure to arrive at the airport with way too much time to spare. So I was at my gate, headphones playing "Life Itself" by the Glass Animals, and people watching, well before my flight was planned to board. Through my music I heard the announcement. "Flight 273 has been overbooked. We are looking for a traveler who is willing to get on our next flight to Las Vegas. We will give you a flight voucher worth $300 plus the cost of this flight." Not wanting to wait at the airport any longer, I put my headphones back in and continued to people watch. But then the announcement was made again, and again, and again, and again. After the fifth time this announcement was made, I texted my friend, Dakota, "Hey, do you mind if my flight lands 4 hours after the original time? I want to get some money for free flights." Dakota responds, "Of course! Take the free money! See you later tonight!"  So with that, I walked up to the counter and said, "I'm willing to take you up on that offer. I'll change flights." And just like that, the Southwest flight attendant printed out my flight voucher for $584 and even gave me $10 extra so I could buy lunch at the airport. Off to the the food court I wandered, with free money towards flights and five hours of waiting in my near future.

After this delayed flight, I had a killer couple of days in Red Rocks climbing into the New Year with my best friend. And then the other adventure planning began. What was I going to do with close to $600 of flights that I had to use before the end of 2017?

At the top of Johnny Vegas, my first all trad multi-pitch lead! Photo: Dakota Snider 

Step 1) Go to Yosemite for the start of my Spring Break.  

Originally I told myself I wasn't going to return to the Valley until I started my job there for the summer, but with free flights how could I pass up a quick visit to my favorite place. So I flew to Sacramento, was picked up by a friend, and we made it to the valley by 4am to begin a couple days of much needed Yosemite air.

Catching the sunset in El Cap Meadow.

Sierra Point. Got the privilege of showing a few Yosemite first-timers around the park. Seeing the Valley through their eyes reminded me how special this place really is.

Step 2) Fly from Sacramento to Vegas.  

After a few days in Yosemite, I hoped back on a plane and flew to meet up with my roommate so we could begin the second leg of my spring break adventure. From Vegas we drove to Zion, and hiked Angels Landing that night-- we planned this to be a sunset hike, but misjudged how fast we hiked and got to the top of Angels Landing nearly 2 hours before sunset. The next day we hiked to Observation Point and then wandered around the sandstone near Checkerboard Mesa, before returning to our campsite for our last night in Zion. In the morning we packed up camp and hit the road to Moab. A few days in Moab brought us a sunrise at Delicate Arch, exploring some local spots with our friends who were temporarily calling Moab home, and ending the trip with beautiful hike in Canyonlands. From Moab we drove all the way back to our house in Tempe, AZ stopping only to take pictures and do cartwheels in Monument Valley.

Got to the top of Angels Landing within 2 hours of arriving in Zion.

Sunrise at Delicate Arch 

Step 3) Fly to Denver for a long weekend.  

Easter weekend was my only three day weekend of the semester, so I took this chance to visit three different friends in Colorado. An old high school friend, Joseph, picked me up from the airport. After not seeing each other for over 3 years, it felt good to catch up as we drove in the car from Denver to Boulder. Once in Boulder we free soloed up the Second FlatIron, bouldered in Flagstaff, and drank some beers at The Dark Horse. Then my co-counselor from camp the past summer, Sam, met up with us and then her and I cruised up to Fort Collins. We hiked through snow in Rocky Mountain National Park, went to lots of local breweries, and biked around Fort Collins. After a day in Fort Collins, Sam and I drove down to Golden to meet up with a college friend, Wes. We slack lined for a while, again went to a delicious brewery, and then Wes drove me to the airport so I could return back to Tempe. It was a jam packed weekend that would never have been possible without those free flights.

Lunch break on the Ypsilon Lake Trail

Step 4) Still have $350 left for flights.

Step 5) Since I don't see any more flights in my future the rest of this year-- besides the one to Thailand, but since Southwest doesn't fly to Thailand the voucher wouldn't be of any use there anyway-- I have decided to offer it to a friend in return to being my road trip buddy. At the beginning of September I will need to drive my car from Yosemite to Michigan before I fly to Thailand, so I am crossing my figures that I can convince a friend to drive with me and in return they'll get a free flight back home.

So yes, next time you hear the flight attendants begging for someone to give up their seat, DO IT!

Regan stretching her legs in Monument Valley.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


10 Things you need to do in Baja

wyld honeys

Journey to Wyoming’s premier snowmobiling destination: Togwotee Mountain Lodge

Samuel Brockway

Hiking in comfort: a review of Danner Mountain 600 Evo boots

Meghan White

A peek through God's window

Heather Arnold