‘Stopover’ doesn’t have to be a dirty word
Posted on October 1, 2011
This is a picture of the Olsen kids (with their carry-on) luggage at a LA Dodgers game. The carry-ons were a bit of a pain to haul around, but it was better to be at a baseball game than inside an airport.
When life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. So what do you do with four kids when you have a 10-hour layover in Los Angeles?
When our family was faced with this dilemma, a Dodgers baseball game and a sunny afternoon at Venice Beach proved to be a better option than just hanging out at the airport. By making the layover part of the vacation experience, it became more than just a painful delay.
For many air travellers, “stopover” is a dirty word. It means you’ll be spending a significant amount of time in an airport or even staying overnight en route to your ultimate destination. But there’s another way to look at stopovers.
A forced layover can provide the ideal opportunity to have an adventure by exploring a city without much additional cost. In some cases, you can even schedule a couple of days in the stopover city without adding to the total cost of your flights.
When it comes to travel, minimizing costs and maximizing value is always a good idea. Putting thought into where your flight connection might be and planning ahead to see some of the key attractions allows you to visit two places for the price of one flight.
More than that, it gets you out of the airport to have a little fun. Our children still talk about the adventures they had that day in Los Angeles.
How to book a free stopover
Decide on your destination and then look at the flights available from the originating airport to your final destination. Take note of the stops each airline makes in the itinerary and scan for stopover cities you are interested in visiting. To get a free stopover, you’ll have to fly through an airline’s hub city. A hub is an airport the airline uses as a main transfer point to get visitors to their ultimate destination. If you have always wanted to see Houston, for example, and want a free stopover en route to another destination, you should consider flying with Continental Airlines, because Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport is Continental’s main hub.
– If you are travelling to an international destination, find out the travel requirements for both the stopover country and the destination country you plan to visit.
Some countries may require you to obtain a visa for a short visit, while other countries may allow a short stay without a visa. A good place to check travel requirements for Canadians to any country is Canadian Consular Affairs.
– You may not be able to book free stopovers on travel websites like Travelocity or Orbitz. Your best option is to consult a local travel agent to help you figure out stopover possibilities and to provide assistance with booking a stopover. Alternatively, you could call the airline directly.
– Make the most of a stopover by planning ahead. If you have to stay overnight somewhere along the way, consider arriving earlier and seeing what that city has to offer. Figure out what you want to see and consider booking a tour or a car rental. Some airlines have stopover packages that offer discounts on hotels, attractions and ground transportation, so it’s a good idea to check the airline’s website for stopover packages. Singapore Airlines for example, has a stopover program sponsored by the tourist board that offers hotels in Singapore starting at $1 per night.
– Book early to get the lowest airfare possible and increase your chances of getting a free stopover. Be aware that some airlines will allow you to stop over on both your outbound and your return flight.
If you are travelling to Australia, for example, you may be able to stop in New Zealand on the way over and the Cook Islands on the return flight.
Some airlines charge a fee for stopovers on certain flights and some do not allow stopovers at all. If making a stopover is a priority for you, be sure to book your ticket with an airline that allows stopovers. In many cases, a travel agent may be able to save you hours of time figuring out the airline-specific rules regarding stopovers.