I’m always looking for ways to see more for less. One great trick I’ve used is extending layovers. This essentially gives you two destinations for the price of one (at least flight-wise). Here’s how I do it:
What is a Layover?
I’m sure most people know what a layover is. It’s a stop connecting two flights. You can’t always fly directly from your nearest airport to your final destination. You might have to first fly to a bigger airport that has more options. Or, especially if it’s a long way away, you might have to fly somewhere roughly halfway in between, then catch another flight the rest of the way. That stop is a layover.
What does “Extending” a Layover Mean?
Most of the time when you book a flight with a layover, that layover will last between 1 and 4 hours. Just enough time to disembark, maybe grab something to eat, use the restroom, and walk over to the departure gate for your next flight in time for boarding.
Now, you’re stopping there anyway. Why not, instead of hanging out in the airport for a few hours, you make that layover last a few days? You have to stop there either way so by extending that layover and giving yourself time to actually experience this second destination, you’re essentially getting a two-for-one flight!
How to Book Extended Layovers
Sounds great but how do I do this, you say? There are several ways to extend a layover.
For a Day Layover
Firstly, if you just want a brief stopover to go out and explore your layover destination for the day, you might be able to just book the flight as usual. Just scroll through all the options that your flight search engine or the airline’s website give you and look for a pattern that includes a long layover.
Depending on how far the airport is from what you want to see, I would recommend having at least a 6 hour layover, and 8 or 9 is better. I recently used a 9-hour layover in Paris to go into the city and see Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Tuileries Gardens, Place de la Concorde, the Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower, mostly walking along the Seine. Just a quick, highlights walking tour.
In some destinations, you can get away with even less time. In Iceland, there is a bus from the airport to the nearby Blue Lagoon thermal baths. So even if you only have 4 or 5 hours between flights, you can go soak away the first half of your trip for an hour or two and be back in plenty of time. Some airports, like Singapore, even offer a 2 to 3 hour free tour to get a quick taste of the city during your layover.
For Layovers Longer Than a Day
For a longer extended layover, you will probably have to book two separate flights.
First, search your entire trip from your departure airport to your destination. Look at the options and see where the layovers commonly occur between those points. There may be one or two options and there may be dozens. Chose one that appeals to you.
Then start your search over. Choose the option for “multiple destinations”, if there is one. It’s usually right next to where you chose “one way” or “round trip”. Then search for your departure point to your chosen layover spot whenever you want to leave and on the next line, put in your layover spot to your final destination but make the date a few days/weeks later. This is a good way to still book the entire trip together.
Alternatively, or if there is no “multiple destinations” option, you may need to book each flight separately. I like to search and decide which flight time/day I want for both before booking either. This helps avoid problems such as booking the first half intending to extend your layover to two days, only to find the second half is only available once a week.
Note: Keep in mind that airline prices can differ significantly based on the time of day and day of the week you fly. The price you pay for a flight with a standard layover may not be the same as two separate flights with your multi-day extended layover. It may be slightly more but it can also be cheaper! Play around to find the best compromise of time and price.
If this seems like too much work or you want to see more possibilities and prices, AirWander is a site that does it all for you. Like a typical flight search engine, you input your departure and destination points. But then you can click the little “+” button in the middle and choose how many days you want your layover to be.
Then AirWander will
Keep in mind, however, that those price differences are estimates based on recent searches and are not always completely accurate once you chose one and click through to purchase the tickets.
Airlines that Design Flights for Extended Layovers
Some airlines, especially from countries that are trying to increase tourism, promote free extended layovers. They make it very easy to search and book these bonus stopovers. Some even throw in extras to entice you such as a free night in a hotel or a free ticket for the hop-on-hop-off bus. If a tourist visa is usually required, countries that promote stopovers often waive the visa for 24 hour “transit” visitors (sometimes longer!).
Here are some of the most well known airlines that offer free extended layovers:
- Iceland Air & Wow Air for Iceland
- Finnair for Finland
- TAP for Portugal
- SWISS Air Lines for Switzerland
irCanada for Canada
- Qatar Airways for Qatar
- Emirates for Dubai
- Etihad for Abu Dhabi
- Singapore Airlines for Singapore
- Ethiopian for Ethiopia
So now that you know how, consider extending your layovers on your next trip and double your destinations for free!
*This post includes one or more affiliate links. I earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!) if you purchase a product or service through one of these links. Find out more here.*
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