Time is a luxury we don’t always have while traveling. Some people believe that you need 1-2 weeks to visit a country. On the flip side, who has an unlimited amount of vacation days from work that they can take such a long trip let alone take a trip multiple times a year. I truly believe that you only need 2-3 days to get a sense of what a city is all about. Don’t get me wrong, to find all the hidden gems in a city you definitely need to spend more time but hey thats what a return visit is for.
With that being said lets talk long layovers. Layovers are the perfect way to get a glimpse of another country when you have a limited time frame and budget. Fun fact, tickets are usually cheaper when a layover is involved. To me a long layover where you can actually leave the airport and enjoy the city is anywhere from 6 hours and longer. Mind you there are a few airports that you will need a minimum of 8 hours but for the most part 6 hours is a good rule of thumb.
During my first European Adventure with my girl Tori, we decided to book a ticket with a 24hr layover in Istanbul, Turkey. We landed late evening and stayed in the lounge for Turkish Airlines (one of my favorite airlines to travel) and left the airport very early the next morning. We had about 12 hours in the city and boy did we do and see a lot. Really its all in the planning but of course things can go wrong so you must be adaptable. We planned to leave the airport that evening but I couldn’t get my visa on arrival because my passport only had I think 4 more months until expiration. So unfortunately we all know the later you arrive to the airport or anywhere the less people working. The people who could override my date and issue me a visa wasn’t on shift for a few more hours that’s why we had to stay in the lounge. But hey, bright side, we stayed for free. The person manning the desk was super nice and helpful and allowed us to spend a few hours in the lounge for free. So overall, win win situation.
Traveling to China from Houston, I specifically looked for a ticket with a long over in another country. Lucky me, I found a bomb ticket (cheap and with an amazing airline). I found a ticket with Korean Air (my first love before discovering Turkish Airlines so now I have 2) with a 24 hour layover in Seoul, South Korea. After purchasing my ticket I started researching the airline and airport to see what perks might be there. And let me tell you, my research did not go unnoticed. Korean Air offered complimentary hotel rooms for persons with a layover longer than 12 hours (this was in 2014 so I don’t know if they still do). Yup, you heard me. I got a free bomb, clean, hotel room on the airport shuttle route and close to public transportation to explore the city. Now it took a little work to get it. I had to email customer service; they responded with a number I had to call. When I called they tried to say Korean Air didn’t offer the service any longer. But with luck and being persistent I was able to find an agent willing to give me the complimentary room. Lesson here is never take no for an answer. Make sure you put in the work and don’t leave any table unturned.
* For some reason I can’t find any of the pictures I took in Seoul. Guess I will just have to go back since no pictures is pretty much like I never went. *
Now don’t just start purchasing long layover tickets without doing any research. Make sure the airport you are flying into isn’t far from the city center or the must see attractions. Make sure you have a general idea of where you want to go, if you can leave the airport, and a general idea of cost. If you prefer leisure travel, a long layover still could be possible but instead of fitting as many sites in as possible maybe you would just want to see one or two sites and eat something.
Remember, always do what is best for you. It is your travel experience so make it work for you.
Leave a comment below letting me know what some of your tricks are when booking flights.