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Got Hours to Kill Before Your Flight Home? Don't Waste Them at the Airport.

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You had every intention of heading directly to the airport after the cruise, but the prime flights were sold out, leaving only the 8:00 pm flight. Or maybe you chose this flight because it was the cheapest. "What on earth will I do for 12 hours?" you ask. Whatever you do, don't waste it sitting around at the airport. There are far better places to people watch. Here are a few ideas for spending those precious final hours of your vacation.

Take a ship excursion and tour the port city. Cruise lines know there are people like you with later flights and, therefore, will be more than happy to sell you one of their post-cruise tours. While they can be a bit pricey, these tours are the ultimate in convenience. Simply disembark your ship, climb aboard a motor coach with your fellow cruisers, tour the city and continue on with the group to the airport. No need to worry about your luggage - it will travel with you on your entire journey.

Hire a taxi or a local tour guide to show you around. Many guides will pick you and your luggage up at the ship, take you on a tour, and drop you at the airport. While this may or may not be less expensive than the ship tour, you will generally have more flexibility and a more personal experience.

Rent a car for the day. This is especially good if you can perhaps share the cost with another couple or have a late night flight. The more time spent with your car, the better, and you will have all the flexibility you need.

Book a hotel room for a day. They aren't always easy to find, but there are some hotels which will let you have a room for a few hours at their "day rate" provided they have availability. This is ideal if all you want to do is have a place to relax for a few hours, go for a swim, use their amenities or have a meal.

Take advantage of the cruise ship's luggage valet service. Sometimes the simplest and least expensive solution to how to spend your time is to simply walk or take a taxi to a shopping area, a beach or some other favorite local attraction. What you don't want to do is haul all that luggage along with you. Many cruise lines offer a service, for an extra fee, whereby they will send your luggage from the ship directly to the airport. Some airlines offer this service, as well, in select ports (Southwest, for one). Check with the cruise line or airline for details.

Visit friends or relatives in town. Perhaps your lucky enough to have friends or relatives in town with a vehicle who would be more than happy to pick you up and spend the day entertaining you. To assure that they remain your friends after the trip, don't forget to reciprocate the kindness next time they come to your town.

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