Recently I posted on Facebook that I purchased all of my plane tickets to my upcoming trip to Asia for a total of $736. That is a steal. You could easily spend $700 dollars just getting to Singapore, or Tokyo, or to Bangkok from here in Houston. Many of my Facebook friends asked for my secret to getting off so cheaply on flights. A large portion of this has been taking advantage of layovers. A lot of people hate layovers They don’t like collecting bags, walking through the airport to connect, or taking longer to get to their destination. However, a long layover can be a cheap way to sneak in an additional city or country gratis or for a few bucks more.
I do not do this much on my domestic excursions, but if I can spare another couple of days on an international trip and cannot afford a straight flight (most times I cannot) I will try to see if I can’t explore somewhere else. This has come in the clutch a as I have been attempting to see thirty countries before I turn thirty next year. When I went to a conference in Paris my friend and I were flying to Amsterdam beforehand but were going to have at least an eight-hour layover in Istanbul. I booked a ticket with an overnight layover which allowed us more time to explore an extra city that neither of us had been to.
The trick with finding a layover is just proper planning. You want to find a city that is connecting to your destination that you are interested in and see if there is an option to get a long layover. When you look up your flight check out what the connecting cities are. Many times some of the cheapest flights are likely to have a longer layover somewhere. For me, spending up to $50 more for a flight to be able to check out an extra city is well worth the money. It takes a little bit of tinkering but definitely be aware of your options.
Once you have decided on your long layover you need to think about your transportation options. Are you in a city that has good public transit or will you need to account for a taxi or get a driver through your Air BnB host? You will want to block off a total of about 5-6 hours for getting through customs 2-3 hours coming and going. All airports are not created equal, and depending on when you get into your layover city, you could be standing in customs for a few hours. Also be aware of any visas that you will need. You may have to procure them before getting to the city. A visa for Istanbul cost about $20 and I was able to book it online. You also need to make sure that your passport will enable you to get into the country at all. All that said, you want to know what kind of time you need to accomplish what is on your to-do list.
Lastly, there are two approaches to take to the long layover: Have a focused plan or fly completely by the seat of your pants. Because you have such a short amount of time you wont be able to see or do everything that may catch your attention, especially if the attractions that you want to see are far away from each other. So you should make a realistic list of things that you may want to do or see and then check to see how much travel time you have to plan for. I would suggest, if you go this route to be flexible. Leave time for adventure and detours. You don’t always need a plan though. Sometimes it is better to just blow with the wind and see where you end up. Just watch your time!
Let me know if you have taken a layover somewhere. What’s your favorite layover destination?