How to Book Flights with Long Layovers

December 8, 2021

Layovers, which are also called connections, are flight stops between your departure city and final destination.

When they last longer, such as three or four hours for domestic itineraries and four to 24 hours or longer for international ones, travelers also call them stopovers.

Discover how savvy flyers take advantage of these connections and how to book flights with long layovers.

Why Book Flights with a Long Layover?

The most obvious reason to book a flight with a long layover is to give yourself time to travel from the gate of your arriving flight to the gate of your connecting flight.

  • Airlines typically recommend a minimum of one hour for domestic layovers and two hours for international layovers.
  • You can easily extend those times if you or someone that you're traveling with has mobility issues, the gates are far apart at different terminals or different airports, or you are unfamiliar with the airport layout.
booking flights with long layovers

Image Credit: Victor Freitas

Save Money or Time

Price is another reason to book flights with long layovers, which are generally cheaper than direct flights or flights with short layovers.

  • For example, a mid-week non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris costs $1,205 and takes under 11 hours. This non-stop with a higher price may be worth it if you’re traveling on business or have to get somewhere for a wedding.
  • If you’re willing to make a 13.5-hour stop in Istanbul for a total travel time of over 30 hours, the price drops to $499 on Turkish Airlines. If you’re on a budget or have plenty of time, This long layover saves you $700.

Making the Most of Your Long Layovers

You might also consider a longer layover if you just want a break from your flight. Even small domestic airports will have amenities that will allow you to do the following things on your stop.

  • Dine on restaurant-quality food with a wider menu selection.
  • Take a shower. Don't forget to bring a change of clothes in your hand-carry.
  • Catch up on social media and make phone calls to let friends and relatives know what you're doing. Airports typically have free Wi-Fi.
  • Get some work done. If you didn't bring your own laptop to do your job, you can spend some time at your airport’s business center, which typically has access to computers and office equipment, such as copiers.
  • Exercise to work out tired muscles. Many larger airports will have gyms, workout stations, or designated walking paths.
  • Meet new people. Put a selection of personal photos in your smartphone, especially ones that show the unique features of where you live. You can use these as conversation starters.
  • Get some sleep. If you find it difficult to sleep on an airplane, especially in economy class, you can book a few hours in an airport hotel to rest on comfortable beds. Such rooms will also typically have full bathrooms if you want to freshen up.

Best Domestic Airports for Long Layovers

Some of US airports invite long layovers because they have plenty of things to do. Here are three of the best:

  • McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas: you can get a taste of the city's casinos by trying your hand at the slot machines throughout the terminals. If you'd rather keep your money, you can also visit museums dedicated to art or aviation.
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The art collection here boasts over 250 pieces that include 20 stone sculptures. You can also enjoy local musicians, especially around the city's annual Jazz Festival in May.
  • San Francisco International Airport. You'll be soothed by the fishes and underwater creatures that make their home at a branch of the Steinhardt Aquarium. Because many of the eateries are outposts of local restaurants, you'll find plenty of delicious places to satisfy your taste buds.
Reykjavik Keflavik Airport

Reykjavik Keflavik Airport (Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Best International Airports for Long Layovers

Layovers at international airports can easily last 24 hours or longer, which gives you enough time to not only enjoy the delights at the terminals but to catch public transportation into the city for tour. Three of the best places to enjoy your time include the following:

  • Changi Airport in Singapore. With more retailers than the average US shopping mall, this facility also features the world's tallest airport slide, several gardens, and a movie theater. You can easily take the train into downtown, which only takes 30 minutes.
  • Reykjavik-Keflavik Airport in Iceland (and home of Icelandair). Put your hand-carries in the luggage lockers before resting your weary body at the nearby Blue Lagoon, which is the country's most famous geothermal spa. Airport shuttles can take you to the capital in about 45 minutes.
  • Inchon International Airport in South Korea. Choose from several free tours of local spots such as the Gyeongbokgung Palace or several local temples. These sightseeing excursions happen several times during the day and can last from one to several hours.

Scoring a Free Hotel

If your layover is long enough, the following airlines offer you free accommodations (free stopovers) if you meet certain criteria such as transit times, minimum fares, and ticket types.

Air Canada, for example, grants you a free hotel for stopovers of over six hours in Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver. But Etihad Airways requires transits of 18 hours or more in Abu Dhabi.

You'll have to check carefully with each provider to make sure that your flight qualifies.

Here is a list (at the time of this article publishing) of carriers that provide free hotels for long layovers:

  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air Serbia
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • China Southern Airways
  • Emirates Airlines
  • Etihiad Airways
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Gulf Air
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian
  • Sri Lankan Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines
  • XiamenAir
  • Finnair

Click HERE to read each carriers' policies.

How to Book Flights with Very Long Layovers

If you prefer that someone takes care of the details, the easiest way to book flights with very long layovers (day layovers) is to call your local travel agent. Yes, they do still exist, but they now charge service fees that could range from $25-$50 per airline ticket or up to $500 for complete itinerary planning.

Tell them where you're departing from and where you want to go (they will do a multi-city search). They can then offer a range of cities where stopovers are worthwhile. As a plus, they can recommend what to do during your long connection and can book interesting tours.

How to Book Online Flights with Long Layovers

If you're a do-it-yourselfer, you can use any airline website or online travel site (such as Skyscanner) to find international flights with very long layover flights. Enter your departure and destination airports as well as the dates of travel. Flights that meet your requirements will then be listed.

Sort these flights by duration so that the longest connections appear first. You'll not only see the total length of the flight but will also discover how long the layover lasts in the connecting city.

Be sure to research the relevant airports to ensure that you have enough time to get to the city and back during your allotted stop.

Conclusion

Relying on travel agents or searching online works best when you want to know how to book international flights with long layovers. (You’d be hard-pressed to find scheduled domestic layovers that last longer than three or four hours.) When you want to take advantage of such lengthy stops, look for airports with plenty of diversions and quick access to nearby attractions.

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