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Making the Most of Long Layover Flights

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Making The Most Of Long Layover Flights - Luxury Travel Hacks

Most of us avid travellers are usually trying to save a few dollars where ever we can.  While doing so can save a ton of cash, especially when following our many luxury travel hacks, it sometimes also has its interesting perks, such as long layover flights. 

Last year, my friend told me she was travelling and that she would have a 12-hour layover in Paris. “Can you believe it? A 12-hour layover! What am I going to do?” she blurted. Honestly, I was kind of confused by her reaction. I thought to myself, am I the only one who likes long layover flights?

The way I see it, long layover flights means the chance to see other places at no extra cost, which is a major win! I guess a long layover is not for everyone and it definitely comes with a disadvantage which is if you are stuck in the airport. However, if you can actually make the most of it, cheap flights with long layovers can be fantastic?

First of all, let’s not get confused between a layover vs stopover

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Long Layover Flights - Luxury Travel Hacks

A Layover vs Stopover

The layover vs stopover debate. It’s simple, a layover is when the time between your connecting flight is less than 24 hours. On the other hand, a stopover is essentially an extended layover. A stopover is normally over 24 hours and means you’ll need to book accomodation.

So Why a Long Layover?

Depending on how long you have before your next flight, I think we can all agree, the best way to pass the time is to get out of the airport. If you’re lucky, your transit flight will have a layover long enough to spend a few hours sightseeing but short enough for you not to spend any money on accomodation.

After convincing my friend that her long layover flights were not a bad thing, she confessed she had been avoiding this city for a long time. Not because she didn’t want to go there but because she had always been put off by the fact it was such a big tourist hot spot. Being touristy, accommodation can be expensive, however, with this long layover she could see the city without the cost of accommodation. Great luxury travel hack, isn’t it. 

How Do Long Layovers Come About?

A few years ago, if your friend had said they were going to Dubai, Istanbul or Reykjavik you might have wondered why they would ever go there. These places were relatively uncommon tourist destinations. It is hard to imagine that now, isn’t it? So, how did these places turn into the tourist destinations they are today?

One factor came from airlines which have their base in these cities. Transforming their usual inconvenient long layover flights and turning them into an opportunity for travellers to see a new place. It is a win for everyone; the airline, the passenger and the country.

For example, in 2016, tourism in Iceland had increased to 1.75 million from a mere 400,000 in 2010. The cause of this was primarily from budget airlines Wow Air and Icelandair who opened up this transatlantic routes through cheap flights with long layovers. The airlines advertised these long layover flights and short stopovers for passengers on both sides of the Atlantic by promoting a transit flight with connection at Keflavik International Airport opening up Iceland to the world.   

In 2002, luxury airline Emirates started adding more long layover flights in their home base, Dubai. Due to its location, Dubai is often a popular long layover location for many long haul flights. Can you imagine taking a break from your journey from Europe to Australia by going on a desert safari in Dubai? Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? So, why are so many people still put off by long layover flights?

With Layover Flight Rules - They Don't Work for Everyone

You have to remember that you might not be allowed to leave the airport. Depending on the visa requirements of the country, you simply might not have any other option but to wait in the airport. Therefore it is your responsibility to check all visa requirements of the country you are transiting through. 

Another questions to ask yourself is how much time do I actually have?  If you’re in a hurry, or maybe have limited time off work, you might be eager to reach your destination of choice rather than take a forced side trip somewhere else. You really don’t want to miss your connecting flight! So, before you get excited about exploring a new city, make sure you have enough of time.

Finally, we should also factor in the additional cost. While, technically, you haven’t paid anything to visit that city, you might face high transport costs when leaving the airport.

Layover Flight Rules - Long Layover Flights - Luxury Travel Hacks

Check out this detailed article on layovers in specific regions.

Long Layovers in Specific Regions


Other Aspects of a Long Layover Flight to Consider

An easy aspect to forget is weather! For example, if you’re connecting in Amsterdam on your way to Bangkok you might not have factored in that Amsterdam will certainly be a colder than Bangkok!

Nevertheless, as keen travellers, we’re usually adaptable and have the gear for all weather. We’ll therefore take the downsides with a pinch of salt if it means we get to visit a new place.

Long Layovers - Free Layover Tours

What if I told you that many airports actually want you to visit their city? As a result, they’ll give you a helping hand by giving you free transport and a free city tour?

Singapore is one of the most expensive holiday destination in the world. It might have slipped down your bucket list of places due to this. But, is it any surprise that the once crowned “best airport in the world” offers its transit passengers, who are on a long layover, a free Singapore city tour.

Arriving in Singapore during the night? Don’t worry they also run overnight layover tours. If you have at least 5.5 hours to spare before your next flight, you can join the free guided airport layover tour by signing up upon arrival in Changi Airport. However, you need to be quick and arrive at the ideal time. Sadly, it can book out very quickly. 

Other cities which currently offer free tours for their layover passengers include:

  • Doha (Qatar) with a Doha city tour available
  • Istanbul (Turkey) with a city tour available
  • Seoul (South Korea) with a Korea transit tour available
  • Taipei (Taiwan) with a great airport layover tour available
  • Tokyo (Japan) with a city tour available

These are some interesting destinations which you might not have considered travelling to before. A few hours in these cities is enough time to experience the vibe and culture of the place. It gives you enough time to see sights and get a general idea of the place. The best part is it is FREE!

Also, the hassle of having to get yourself into the city and navigate your way around has also been taken off your hands. With a free city tour, such as the free Singapore tour, you can enjoy the luxury of having someone guide you round, without the need to worry about getting lost or making it back to the airport on time.

How to Make the Most of your Long Layover

In order to make the most of your short time in your layover location, try to plan ahead.

  • You should have a realistic plan of what you want to do and see.
  • Understand that you won’t have time to do everything, and that’s ok. 
    • Don’t run around trying to do as much as you can, you’ll feel exhausted. 
  • Try new food, obviously.
  • And of course enjoy the atmosphere and the vibe of the city.

Check out these detailed articles on layovers in: 

Layover in Shanghai – Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Visit

Layover in Oman – No Matter The Time


So Will You Consider a Layover?

STILL NOT CONVINCED? Check out – The Layover – Is It Worth It?

73 thoughts on “Making the Most of Long Layover Flights”

  1. I’m always so paranoid about not getting back to the airport in time, because you never know how long it will take to get back through airport security and all that. But I really like the idea of the airports actually sponsoring tours, I definitely think that’s something I’d do!

    1. I also am a total stress head so would never do it unless I knew I had tonnes of time or on an included layover tour. The included layover tours really are the best 🙂

  2. I am a huge fan of long layovers. I have visited Lisbon and the wall of China with long layovers. I purposely book my flights with long layovers to either enjoy the airport lounges or to exit and visit the city.

  3. So many great tips! I never knew that so many airports offered free city tours and I actually didn´t think you could leave the airport during a layover! Thanks for this

    1. No worries at all :-)!I am glad we could help. If you manage to ever enjoy a free city tour or fantastic layover we would love to hear from you about your experience :-).

  4. I also worry about not having another time but I guess if you have a really long wait then you have plenty of time to get back. I am going to try and find some long layover flights on my next trip

  5. Thank you for these great tips. We travel a lot internationally and your tips are life-saving. With kids, things become a bit hectic but next time I will keep these layover tours tips in my mind.

  6. It’s the first time that I met the term layover and I have yet to experience layover or stopover. I have been to two countries but those are short flights. If given a chance, I would love to experience this too.
    One of my dreams is to be able to travel to several places around the world. But my current situation won’t allow me. But I am not losing hope. I am continuously searching for ways to increase my current income so that I may enjoy life in the coming years.
    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful article.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Sharon. I hope this article gives you the hope needed to be able to see more countries when you travel. Good luck.

  7. I have never experienced a layover or stopover for that matter. The longest flight I’ve had has been four hours. Makes my life seem kind of unlived. But I am sure I will visit Australia, the Far East or South America one day and I will be sure to come back to this post for your invaluable tips. Plus, I’ve learned a new phrase today – layover flights.

    1. Hi A.J. I hope you are able to experience a layover in the near future. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions :-)!

  8. Yup, definitely love to get out of the airport and see a new city! Long layovers are great! I have not done a free tour yet though, hopefully soon!

  9. I had no idea some airports offered free city tours – that’s so awesome! I hardly ever have long enough layovers to comfortably explore the city, but it probably has to do with me mostly trying to avoid lengthy transfers from point A to point B (so, something to consider next time I book a flight ;)). I have properly done a layover only once. On the way to Peru I had 10 h to spare in Atlanta. So we went to see the Coca Cola experience and have a burger in a real American McDonald’s (so different from Europe!). Was fun 🙂 Thank you for this useful reminder that layovers could be a blessing in disguise 😀

  10. I’ll admit I’m not a fan of the layover and always try to book direct flights however I realize it’s hard to get direct flights to some of these destinations. Probably the reason I never travel that far. I did not know about some of the restrictions about not being able to leave the airport. I would definitely consider a long layover if the price was right after reading this. You may have very well convinced me!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Scott. I am so glad I have convinced you and I hope you can enjoy a layover in the near future!

  11. We love a lay over and actively try and work them into any trip we plan. I didn’t know the history behind it though but as a traveller it’s such a good opportunity!

  12. First time we went out of the country for our honeymoon, we had a layover in Miami, and it wasn’t fun at all. The weather was hot and muggy, so of course the hotel room was FREEZING. They had the AC kicked up so high, I saw Elsa storming out like “Can’t do it, dude…I’m freezing my dress off.” Then when we got back from Jamaica, we had to sleep in the airport and that was rather miserable. To this day, I still don’t know how we actually fell asleep on those hard benches. Next time, we’ll definitely be more prepared.

  13. I had no idea about the free city tours put on by the airports! That is really really neat! I would definitely take advantage of that if given the opportunity. Especially since leaving the airport on a layover really stressed me out as I ALWAYS feel like I will miss my connecting flight lol But a sponsored tour by the airport sounds like a safe alternative to see the city and assure that one won’t be late for their flight. Great post!

  14. Some great ideas. I prefer not to have long layovers as for most countries I need a visa and it is likely that I cannot exit the airport to go out anyway without a prior visa. It kinda sucks! I did have a 16 hour layover in Singapore once and went out and explored the city, which was tiring but fun

  15. I have always been sceptical about booking flights with long layover and hence have paid more to avoid. Now I see the flipside after reading your preference and the benefits.

  16. Not gonna lie, travel gives me anxiety and the idea of long lay-overs especially makes me a little paranoid, but thanks to this article, I feel like it maybe won;t that bad, because I did not know there were so many things that could happen! Thanks!

  17. I’ve always despaired of long layovers at the airport and try to avoid them, especially if I’m traveling alone and don’t want to explore a new city on my own. However, you have laid out many pluses for doing so and might even have changed my mind!

  18. Now I know what’s the difference between stopover and layover, honestly. But people commonly use stopover doesn’t matter if it’s less than or over 24 hours. I had one layover before in Hongkong, and that was 15 hours. Yet, I didn’t leave the airport. Upon arriving at the airport, I was already dead tired, it was big and I was overwhelmed, so leaving the airport wasn’t my option. Now almost 3 years had passed, I might reconsider the idea if I book an international flight soon. 🙂

    1. That is totally fair enough. Sometimes it is easier to stay in the airport and rest. Hopefully one day you will be able to enjoy a layover though :-).

  19. This is super interesting, I’d never really considered deliberately taking a longer layover to visit another city on the way to my destination – definitely something I’ll be trying in the future though! ?

  20. I love the idea of free layover tours for travelers. Unfortunately, I’d probably just stay at the airport because I’d be afraid of missing my next flight.

    1. If they are organised tours through the airport you are only allowed on them providing you have enough time and they will assess that for you :-)! Well, that is what they do in Singapore. It is great :-).

  21. My eldest had a 23 hour layover in The Azores, Portugal and had planned on sleeping at the airport… we ended up booking her a room for the night as it turned out the airport wasn’t open 24 hours… just something else to consider if you’re planning on taking advantage of a layover.

    1. That is very true Anna :-)! 23 hours is such a horrribly long layover. I would certainly be booking a hotel for that amount of time too 🙂

  22. I had a 3 hours layover in Paris, and decided to visit the Eiffel Tower only to get stuck at the check-in line at the airport.
    I literally ran into the plane. I will never leave an airport except if I have 12 hours layover.

    1. Yes, I don’t think I would recommend leaving the airport with a layover any shorter than 5 hours. I am glad you made it back in time.

  23. Such a nice read. It’s always good to have a long layover. As you said, ‘long enough to spend a few hours sightseeing but short enough for you not to spend any money on accommodation’. It’s fun exploring knowing no extra money needs to be spent on a bed for the night. Thanks for all the great tips!

  24. I don’t think I’d mind a long layover if it was long enough to sight see for a while, it would be a great way to see new places without having to pay extra to visit each stop by itself.

  25. I never knew that so many airports offered free city tours during long layovers.Singapore and other places are amazing to explore.

  26. This is such an interesting read! I’ve never thought of layovers in a positive light and you’ve successfully convinced me that it’s not that bad. I’m actually looking forward to one now.

  27. Great read! I tried to book a 12-hour layover when I traveled to Dubai from New York, but my travel buddy didn’t want to deal with the wait time. I’ll definitely do it if I ever travel that far again.

  28. I never knew about the free city tours. Although I would love to discover the cities, my layovers have never been so long except once due to a flight cancellation and then I was so exhausted I didn’t have the energy to leave the airport. I just grabbed a corner and fell asleep.

  29. I agree with you that Long Layovers are sometimes necessary. After an ultra long haul flight, a layover can ease the jet lag a bit. We make the most of a long layover to catch up on our sleep, take a quick tour of the airport, connect with a new place or even get some work done using reliable wifi 🙂

  30. These are such great tips! I never had a chance to visit any city during my layover simply because the layovers were not long enough. While traveling with kids, my aim always remains on reaching the destination safely. Now that they are grown up and started appreciating traveling for fun, I will choose some flights with longer layovers.

  31. These are great tips for long layovers. How exciting to visit some places you were not intend to go primarily. Quite interesting and life saving.

  32. I love long layovers myself! I was traumatized with a 42-hour flight from Philippines to Belize with just short layovers in between. I couldn’t feel my legs anymore on the last leg. From then on, I made sure that I have enough layovers to actually break my trips. I’ve spent a day in Dubai, China, Bangkok and Addis Ababa for free with hotels, transport and food. Awesome article!

  33. I definitely prefer a long layover to one where you have to sprint to the next gate (which I have had to do) I appreciate the breathing room (quite literally lol)

  34. I absolutely dislike long layovers. If I have no option, I prefer staying the layover city for a couple of days. It just makes it more convenient and you get to see another place!

  35. I love lay overflights, especially the long layovers. I try and squeeze a few extra days and make it a point to explore the destination. This way, I have explored Singapore, loved KL and explored parts of Lucknow too. Though a pressing traffic situation always makes me feel paranoid!

  36. I love long layovers! I always try to explore the city or at least one attraction that the city has to offer before heading back to the airport!

  37. Christina Zhou

    Thanks for helping people understanding the layover policy at the connection airport in such an easy way! I never heard about this before! Mind-blowing!

  38. As long as I’m travelling kid free, I’d be so happy to have a long layover! You have such a positive way to look at it! What a great chance to see another destination!

  39. yes!!! i was looking for something like this for a while, thanks for all the great tips! looking forward to a layover in Dubai

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