7 Types of Travellers you See in the Airport

Panama City from the Sky

Panama City from the Sky

Is there a place on earth that has a more interesting meld of people than an international airport? If you’re into people watching then the airport is a goldmine. It’s not only an agglomeration of cultures, but types of people. I have spent obscene amounts of time in airports around the world, and as much as I have hated them, I’ve learned to love the mosaic of people. I have noticed something about airports though, no matter where in the world, there are always these 7 types of travellers there:

The Overexcited Traveller

These people are so excited about their trip, that they race through the airport taking pictures of everything from the toilets to the sign that says the prices of alcohol in the duty free shops. Somehow these people are never alone, and their partners are always completely the opposite. Their friend/lover/spouse will spend their entire time trying to control their counterpart as the Overexcited Traveller constantly shouts things like “oh my god, they’ve got a Burger King here in the airport” while taking a picture of the poor girl behind the counter with the flash on. If you have 500 photos of air planes parked at the airport gate you are an Overexcited Traveller.

The Sleepy Traveller

There is nothing more amazing than watching the skill of sleeping people in airports. It doesn’t matter the time of day you’ll always find people defying the confines of bench armrests to sprawl out for a nap. Travel puts nearly every one’s sleep schedule on its head, and there are just some people that decide not to fight it. The sleep doesn’t stop for these guys when they get on the plane either, they’ll be passed out with the chair back before the plane’s shoes even get off the ground. If you’ve ever woken up spooning your carry-on luggage than you are a Sleepy Traveller.

 The Gift Shop Traveller

It’s not that they haven’t done any shopping on their trip, it’s just that they’ve realized that they’ve forgotten to buy a souvenir for their 16th cousin 14 times removed. Like the overexcited traveller these travellers will always have a partner. In some cases their partner is but an innocent by-stander doing his or her best to control their significant other while they attempt to spend 40 dollars on a t-shirt that says “I Heart NYC.” However, in rare and dangerous cases the partner can be an encouraging figure to the shopping and even take part in the event. This usually happens when sisters, or girls that “have been friends since high school,” go on a trip together. If you have ever worn a souvenir t-shirt on the plane because you didn’t have room in your hand luggage for the gift you are a Gift Shop Traveller.

 The Business Traveller

Shadow of an Airplane on the clouds below

Shadow of an Airplane on the clouds below

Business Travellers act as if they’ve never left the office. They are on their blackberries up until the very second the stewardess tells them to shut them off. They think wearing a suit will get them upgraded to first class and spend their time in airport bar showing up to their flight only after the line has cleared. If you’ve ever sat in economy class wearing a suit thinking about how uncomfortable suits are to wear on air planes then you are a Business Traveller.

The Internet Addict Traveller

Internet Addict Travellers are the most desperate looking of all the travellers, and I know I fit in this category. You’ll find the internet addict travellers racing around the airport asking staff where they can get free wifi or sitting on the floor of the airport in a corner so they can use the plug-in. While they wait for their plane they skip out on food, drink and the use of a bathroom so they can update facebook and twitter with their rants about how they don’t understand how none of the airlines offer wifi on their flights. If you’ve ever nearly missed your flight because you were trying to load a photo on the super slow internet then you are definitely an Internet Addict Traveller.

 The Too Cool for School Traveller

The too cool traveller can be found nonchalantly sitting on one of the airport benches wearing shorts and using massive noise cancelling headphones. They go out of their way to act like they don’t care that they’re in an airport because they think it makes them look cool. The Too Cool traveller will occasionally pull a cell phone from their pockets to respond to a friend’s “wats up” text with a quick “nutin. waiting @ the airport for my plane to leave,” using the word “my” specifically in hopes that the friend will actually think its their personal plane. If you’ve ever looked at the business traveller and thought, “what a jerk, he/she thinks wearing a suit will get him/her an upgrade to first class,” then you’re probably at least partially a Too Cool Traveller.

The Team Traveller

Maybe a sports team or may be a family, regardless this type of traveller moves around the airport in packs and they always wears their team uniforms. The families are the most fun to watch, generally they are all a little too close and are all wearing marching “I Heart NYC” t-shirts they bought at the airport leaving home. Generally the family includes a mom who is also a Gift Shop Traveller, a dad who is a Business Traveller or an Overexcited Traveller, a son who is an Internet Traveller and a daughter who is a Too Cool Traveller.

Conclusion

I have personally, at some point in time, been every single one of these types of travellers. Which one are you? Can you identify any other type of traveller?


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: Brendan van Son is a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. He has visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than he has the desire to count. Check out his profile on . for a little bit more about him.

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56 Comments

  1. Haha this is as funny as it is revealing! I’ve been every one of those travellers too. Though I now should be the internet addicted traveller, honestly I’m just a sleepy traveller! :)

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    • @Lavanya – Don’t feel bad… some people need their “beauty sleep” haha

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    • @Julie – I think I used to play off as the “Too Cool for School Traveller” too… I’ve changed though haha

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  2. I think I’m the over excited traveler too! :P

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    • @Jodi – We want to see your pictures of the Burger King counter girl!

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  3. Haha – I love this – I am headed to the airport today and have 5 or 6 pieces of electronics charging now so I don’t have to worry about finding power points at the airport… guess that makes me an Internet Addict. I’ll definitely be keeping this in mind as I kill time people watching today.

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    • @Lee – Pre-charging doesn’t matter to the internet addict. You will realize that using your charged electronics in the departures terminal will kill your battery and, thus, also killing your chances of using the electronics on the plane :D Be warned, I am an internet addict traveller and I know that you can never have enough of a charge

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  4. I’m the sleepy traveler. I get little sleep on most days. So I always count time on airplanes as bedtime. Only thing I worry about is looking funny if my mouth is open while I’m asleep. =P

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    • @Gerard – I sleep with my mouth open too… I’m prone to drool down my shirt… which is another reason I’m not a business traveller: I don’t want to drool on my nice clothes.

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  5. How funny :) I think I’ve been each one of them at one point or another, but I wish I was more of a sleepy traveler – that really only happens to me when I’m super jet lagged.

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    • @Sabrina – I’ve been every one of these in one day before!!! Airports and travel do funny things to us!

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  6. This is hilarious and so true. I worked at an airport for 6 years and definitely saw all of these types of travelers. The overexcited ones always stood out the most though. I can never understand why some people want to take a picture of the Sbarro’s in an airport. Shouldn’t you save your memory card for something better?

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    • Hahaha @Alouise – You can either be bored in an airport or excited. For those of us who are bored it’s a lot of fun watching those who are excited!

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  7. ha ha! I am definitely the Internet Addicted traveller; it’s amazing how often I sit in the most uncomfortable place (on the cold floor right under the A/C) because it’s the only place that will reach the power sockets!

    What about the Nervous Traveller? Those that constantly check/double check for their passports, leave the line to go to the toilet seconds before boarding and gasp audibly every time the plane shakes with turbulence… Think my plane into Argentina last week was full of these as they all clapped and cheered on arrival, firstly when the wheels hit the runway, and again when the captain announced we had landed in Buenos Aires. Maybe it’s a common event around here that the pilot arrives at the wrong airport?!

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    • HAHAHAH Brit – In Latin America the people almost always clap when they land. And are almost always nervous. You’re right, I think that nervous traveller has to be included in the list.

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  8. Great article. I’d add the ‘ONG this trip was such a mistake’ traveller to the list. They are easy to spot because there’ll be a couple (fighting) or a family (whining kids/snarky parents). Can be spotted in both departure and arrival areas, though the latter is more understandable!

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  9. I’m definitely the sleepy traveller. I’ll try and get in a quick nap before boarding and then once I’m on the plane, I’ll try and get to sleep as quick as possible. I fell asleep before taking off once, it was the smoothest take-off ever!

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    • @Pete – I can never sleep in planes. One time I was so proud of myself because I fell asleep in the plane before take off. When I woke up I asked the person next to me how long we had left on the flight. They said to open the window, at which point I realized we were still on the ground and had been delayed 2 hours :(

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  10. I’m definitely the Sleep Traveler! I can sleep ANYWHERE at anytime no questions asked! If I don’t get any sleep the night before, I will be on the plane knocked out before even taking off and it takes an act of God to wake me up. If there’s a layover for three hours…I spend one hour eating/reading and then right back to sleep. Great list!

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    • @Naomi – I don’t like when people can watch me sleeping… that’s why I’m not so much an airport sleeper haha

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  11. I’m an overexcited traveler at the beginning, the internet addict while on the trip and sleepy traveler at the end of the trip. ;D
    I always need to update my twitter and FB status and sometimes upload some ‘important’ pics while i was travelling hehehe

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    • @Eka – Good point, I think you’re probably right. I think I’m a sleepy traveller at the start, an internet addict during, and a too cool on the way home haha

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  12. TOTALLY the internet addict! A few weeks ago I was sat on the floor in the middle of the airport as the best wifi signal seemed to be right in the way of everyone else! I had about 100 people trip over me and yell at me… :)

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    • @Lauren – Anything to get that great signal. haha

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  13. You forgot one category: the freaky traveler. Fortunately we’ve documented just about every flavor of freaky traveler at FreakJet.com. Let us know what you think!

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  14. Haha there is definitely another type – I fit into none of these! Get me in an airport and I become the Stresshead Traveler. The Stresshead Traveler is actually super organised, but worries needlessly. They’ll arrive 3 hours before the flight after they’ve already checked in online, be anxiously waiting in a tiny security queue worrying about getting to the gate….and once they get to the gate, they look at their watch and realise they still have 2 hours 40 minutes to wait.

    They will only move from the seat at their gate to go to the bathroom (or if starving), and count down the seconds until the time on their boarding pass appears, whilst constantly checking that their passport hasn’t sprouted legs and escaped from their bag.

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    • Hahaha Tom – Great response!! I definitely missed that one and am glad you guys added this one into the comments!

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  15. What about the anxious traveler? The one who fears flying but their love of travel forces them to get on that airplane! That’s me!

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  16. Hello!
    This is really funny!
    :-)

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  17. HA! this is hilarious. i most closely resemble the internet addicted traveler. although i’d like to suggest a new category…the “I haven’t Really Left Home” traveler. this is definitely me. i wear the same clothes i always wear, i don’t pack anything special…just the same crap i use in my place of residence day in and day out…and when i travel (which is often) i honestly feel as though i’m just visiting a different wing of my giant home. make sense?

    and for what it’s worth, the MIA airport has been one of my favorite people watching airports for more than half my life. it never ceases to entertain!

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    • @Heather – I think I’m probably in the same category as you. I think maybe that makes us kind of like a mix of internet/business/too cool travellers haha

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  18. Glad to see us poor stressed out travellers have made an appearance on the comments. Tom – have you been watching me??

    I once arrived so early that the airline staff laughed at me and told me the check-in for my flight wasn’t even open yet!

    I am also the “afraid of security” traveller – I have never in my life broken a security rule and I actively despise those people who can’t follow the 400 liquid signs they pass before the scanners, yet in the queue for security I end up nervous and twitchy. God help me when I have to go through Oz later this year – I’ve watched “Nothing to Declare” and I just KNOW I’m going to end up on an episode!

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    • @Lou – That is hillarious haha

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  19. You wish you were me traveller or does that fall under to cool for school?

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    • @Lauren – hahaha, I think the “You wish you were me” traveller is like a mix between the too cool and the business traveller haha

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  20. I’m the business traveler with a good pinch of internet addict and sleepy traveler. Those 3 traveler types seem to overlap if you happen to travel a lot for business :) Funny post – referenced it on my blog for business travelers to Mexico (mexicobiztravel.com). Everyone can envision themselves as one type of traveler at some point or another. There’s also the nervous traveler as someone had mentioned – the one who will gladly welcome a sleeping medication or glass of wine (or more) before the plane even takes off.

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    • @Josh – thanks for the mention… yeah, I really missed the boat on the nervous traveller didn’t I? I’m glad people have brought that up!

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  21. You got the business traveler wrong. 90% of them stand in line 30 minutes before the door opens to board so they can be FIRST! I call them gate lice.

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    • @Paul – Hahahaha, you are right with most of them I think haha. They always stand there at their gate with their little wheeling bag, looking like “come on, get me on this plane already… I’ve got business to do in Cedar Rapids” haha

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  22. I was the ‘too-cool’ traveller when I first started travelling without my parents! Now I’m the sleepy traveller, especially between connecting flights :)

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    • @Audrey – I started too cool now I’m Internet… but I think I’ve been all of them at some point.

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  23. Very humorous way to look at this airport situation. We were recently stuck at the airport for rather long time and got to see all these types of people you have mentioned here. I have to agree with your observation.

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    • @savvy – you learn to love them… haha

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  24. Haha, you are hilarious! What about the “people watching traveler”?

    Loved the article;)

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    • @Kimberly – Hahaha, good call… I never thought of putting myself a mold! lol

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  25. Great to see how many responses this post got, I think many people recognize the traveler type within :)
    I found your post because I’m publishing my list of 12 airport traveler types this week! Might consider linking to your post if “people can’t get enough to read about traveller types”!
    Great stuff!
    Emiel

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    • People love reading about types of travelers Emiel, and you’re right. It’s because they like to laugh at themselves a little bit I think :D

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  26. There is a dying breed I count myself in – “the book readers”. Somehow the moment i check-in in the airport i leave everyday routine outside and become stress free, filled with excitment of what’s ahead …in there where you land. And that moment in the airport is that waiting room where you can just relax, prepare, fantasise… and read.

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    • @Inga… what is this “book” you speak of?? haha

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  27. I enjoyed your types and my next flights I will have fun trying to identifying them. I am between the “too cool” and “sleepy” character, but also the “people watcher” pretending I do not notice, hiding behind dark glasses or half-closed eyes….know what I mean? :)

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    • haha, Lisa I know exactly what you mean. I think to write an article like this you have to be at least a little bit the “people watcher” type of traveler haha.

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  28. Brendan since my first “RAF Yukon” flight to Dortmund as a kid I have had a fascination with planes and airports. You might consider the “rookie” as they are at every airport. They definitely have the “big eye” look and you know them for their trying to take it all in. They are looking everywhere and have a sly little smile that let’s them know they entered a fraternity (of travellers) that they are proud to be a part of. This individual is in an adventure mode that can only come from being a rookie air traveller with dreams of places yet discovered. Great theme and impressed with the responses.

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  29. hahaha…true story..:) When I started travelling I was a mixture of the
    overexcited and the too cool traveller ..now I’m the Internet addict one..

    Post a Reply

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