Many people stress over trying to find a direct flight (and the cost of some of those direct flights). I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t. Embrace layovers.
As you may be aware from my previous post on finding bargain airfare, most of my flying had previously been booked by my company – who would fly you the wrong way around the world to save $5. I learned to use this to my advantage though. They once flew me from Florida to Amsterdam to Hong Kong – but with my five hour layover in Amsterdam, I was able to take the train into the center and meet up with a friend for a canal tour. When I got to Hong Kong, I also had less than a day before I was leaving again, but I managed to go out with some friends. The second time I had less than 24 hours in Hong Kong, I used it to go to Disneyland and Victoria’s Peak. My job working on cruise ships was often like a bunch of long layovers strung together – a few hours in this city, a few more in that one. With the right mindset and a bit of research, you can use layovers like a bonus mini-holiday! And you don’t even have to pay for a hotel.
A few years ago, Iceland Air started a “stop over” campaign (stop overs being more than 24 hours between flights) – allowing you to spend time in their country before travelling on to Europe or North America. Finland’s Finn Air announced something similar last year. There’s an entire websites, such as layoverguides.com and sleepinginairports.net with guides on what to do with long layovers in airports. Or you can download the Smart Layovers App. Some airports, such as Korea’s Incheon-Seoul Airport offer layover specific city tours based on the length of your layover. (Check out this blog for a list of cities offering FREE layover tours.) A new site called airwander.com actually lets you pick your flights based on where you can stop over and tells you how much extra it will cost – and in many cases it’s cheaper to stop over (hotel not included)!
The key to utilizing layovers (which are less than 24 hours) is to give yourself enough time to get into the city, do something, and get back through security before your ongoing flight. This site will tell you some of the cities in the world with the closest airports (and this is a good one for Europe). If you have time and energy, try planning for 8-12 hours layover, particularly during the day (then you can sleep on the flight!) Do your research in advance (so you don’t waste your precious layover hours!) Know the best option for getting to the city/attraction, and allow double time for getting back, plus time for security lines. Also be sure to research visa restrictions for leaving the airport!
As I said before, I easily did this in Amsterdam, where the city centre is about a 15 minute train ride from the airport. It’s a similar situation in Copenhagen, which if you fly Norwegian Air (again, see my previous post) you will likely find yourself with a few hours in Copenhagen. In Hong Kong, it’s about 15 minutes by Taxi or 35 minutes by metro to HK Disneyland. In San Diego, I managed to take a taxi from the airport to the renowned San Diego Zoo, where they even provided left luggage facilities, and enjoyed a lovey day at the zoo before flying on. There is always something to do with a few extra hours – even if it’s just to go get a local lunch!
My rule of thumb is that you cannot check a place off if you never even left the airport (or cruise port for that matter!). I know many of you are on strict time constraints, but consider a long layover on your next holiday – you’ll feel like you’ve seen so much more and it won’t have cost you anything extra!