Don’t stress about small stopovers in your travel plans. Instead, think of them as mini vacations tucked into your existing one. Many airlines offer great deals if you’re willing to take on a flight stopover, so not only will you get to spend a day in a great destination you may not have gotten to visit otherwise, you’ll also save money. It’s a win-win.
Choosing a Flight Stopover
Don’t waste valuable time researching a destination when you’re there. Instead, do your homework, and prepare an itinerary for what you want to do and see. You may even consider enlisting a travel agent to streamline this process. Take a look at this list of exciting destinations to get some ideas for your game plan:
- Iceland: It all started with Icelandair’s famous stopover program in Reykjavik in the 1970s, which hoped to boost tourism in this Nordic capital. It worked: The city became a major tourist destination, which you can discover for yourself by spending three to seven days there. If you’re on a quick layover in a city like Reykjavik, you might consider renting a car so you can get around quickly, easily and at your own pace.
- Canada: Air Canada launched its free Toronto stopover program in 2016 for those flying to Europe or Asia, allowing them to increase their time between flights from a few hours to up to one week.
- Finland: Finnair offers flights to Europe and Asia via free layovers in Helsinki, the Finnish capital, for up to five days on either side of your trip. Pro tip: Stockholm is nearby, too.
- China: The last thing you want to do when traveling to any country is arrive at your destination and be stuck waiting to leave the airport because you don’t have the right visa. Want to avoid the paperwork and still get a sneak peek at China? The country lets you visit cities like Shanghai or Beijing and sidestep the visa process with three different exemptions of varying length.
- Thailand: A flight to Australia is a long journey, so why not do a layover in Bangkok courtesy of Thai Airways?
Prepare, and Then Prepare Some More
Traveling light always makes things easier. If you’re not lugging around a heavy suitcase, you can hop on public transit and save money, for example. Consider packing a carry-on for your stopover and a bigger suitcase for your final destination, which you can leave in luggage storage at the airport.
Each destination has some unique treats you might want to bring home. Make a list of must-haves and where to buy them to ensure you won’t be lugging a massive suitcase home. If there are fragile or particularly bulky items, like, say, an espresso maker from Rome, consider shipping them back to the States to save energy (and possible baggage fees).
While you’re toting that light bag around, one thing that can make a trip infinitely better is using GPS in unfamiliar terrain, as well as features like Google Translate. These days, it’s possible to buy a local SIM card fairly inexpensively in many destinations, especially Europe, so make sure you pick up a local card with data to aid in your adventures.
Once you’ve got all your birds in a row, or at least in a somewhat straight line, sit back and enjoy your getaway; you’ve done everything you can to prepare. There will always be surprises around the corner, but with a little preparation, you can welcome the unexpected with more of a smile.