You’re planning your next vacation and have a week off from reality to go see a new part of the world. You will most likely have the option to have a layover before getting to your final destination. Why not extend your layover in another fun new city and add two new stamps to your passport? A lot of airlines and major cities around the world offer extended layovers in what are called “stopover” cities. This can be a full day or a couple of days where you can leave the airport and explore before heading to your final destination.
There are some tips and tricks to ensuring that you can have a pack-filled time in a stopover city. Many airports that allow travelers to leave on layovers will have lockers that you can rent for your carry-ons if you are only planning on a day exploration. A lot of these airports also offer cheap—or even free—transportation and tours to the downtown of the city you’re visiting. Of course, you will want to hold onto your passport and the customs agents in these cities are used to people leaving the airport for a short amount of time before their next flight.
Important Tip: In testing these airline websites, I have found that I can recreate the same trips on the same dates, at better rates, using another airline or combination of airlines (alliances). I back-tested several hypothetical stopover itineraries using CheapOAir or CheapAir.com and in many cases, I was able to identify some even better deals.
Our List of Best Stopover Cities
Layover vs Stopover: What’s The Difference?
The primary difference a stopover and a layover is simply the amount of time that you spend between flights. The stopover is longer, and the layover is shorter (less than 24 hours).
A layover is a really nothing more a connection between flights. On domestic flights you want to allow 45-50 minutes to make a connection, and on international flights, it is better to allow 90 minutes, if not more. And often airlines price the flights lower if you take a longer layover duration.
Sometime a long layover allows enough time to exit the airport, do some quick sightseeing, maybe enjoy a quick meal, pick up a t-shirt or a souvenir, and then make a hasty return to the airport (plan this carefully). Generally speaking, a layover is scheduled for less than 24 hours.
If your stay is going to be 24 hours or longer, then this would be considered a stopover.
It is my view, an experienced world traveler and a former travel agent, that a stopover is better than a layover, if you have the time, as it affords more time to explore, allows the traveler to refresh and recover, and there is less stress in trying to make that return dash to the airport to make the connection. That long layover, for me anyway, is never long enough to really allow you get out and see and do. So if there are incentives or cost savings involved, why not just plan a proper stopover and do it right?
Best City Destinations for Stopovers
Ready to plan your next epic adventure? Plan a day layover or a couple of days stopover in one of these 19 cities before continuing on your trip:
Stopover in Reykjavik
Policy: Add one to seven days in Reykjavik to your trip at no additional cost in terms of airfare. Accommodation is not included, but there are tour packages available.
How to book: Book your flight on the icelandair.com booking engine. Select the option to ‘Stopover in Iceland’. You can then choose how many days you’d like to spend in Iceland and explore your booking options.
How to get out of the airport: Take a coordinated tour out of the airport, get a transfer into the city, or rent a car and see the top sites in Iceland!
For years, Icelandair has been the top airline for coordinating stopover trips for guests using the airline to travel mainly between Europe and North America. They make this possible by allowing guests to book a one-to-seven-day stopover before continuing their trips on to their destination city.
At the risk of stating the obvious here, just look at the route map – Iceland is almost exactly halfway along long air journey between Europe and North America. I mean, in a sense you are going right past there anyway, why not break up that long flight and see one of the most amazing natural marvels in our world. I’m not sure I could think of a better spot to get out and stretch my legs.
Icelandair has flights to 22 popular destinations in Europe and 13 gateway cities in North America (not counting several more off-the-beaten path destinations in Greenland), all of these connecting in Iceland. Here is a list of airports served by Icelandair.
If you like a Fly and Drive vacation, then Iceland might be the quintessential destination. From the airport, which is actually in Keflavik, just southwest of the city, you can rent a car easily and be on your way.
Or if you prefer to let the locals do the driving, you can take an airport bus transfer into the city. And several hotels in Reykjavik hotels in Reykjavik offer free shuttles to and from the airport.
Take tours to the coast, visit thermal baths like the famous Blue Lagoon, see natural geysers and hot-springs, or go whale-watching! Depending on the time of year you are traveling, you may be able to pack a lot more into your day, thanks to the midnight summer sun, or you could instead plan a unique and memorable wintery experience (maybe even see the northern lights).
While Reykjavik itself isn’t very large, a stay in the city still puts you in the center of all the action. For some added inspirations and insights for your stopover in Iceland, Getyourguide.com offers this interesting itinerary on how to spend 48 hours in Reykjavik.
Stopover in Amsterdam
Policy: KLM allows a free stopover on each leg of your journey, both inbound and outbound, with really no time limit (other than the ticket validity and immigration rules).
How to book: Use online booking tool at KLM.com (select your region or country), and then select the multi-city booking option. Build in your stopover in Amsterdam on either leg or both legs.
How to get out of the airport: The train connected to the airport takes you straight to the Amsterdam Centraal Station in 15 minutes, which puts you right in the heart of Amsterdam.
If you are visiting Amsterdam for the first time, you will want to explore the Canal Ring which is really the city center. Amsterdam Central Railway Station, and the river port adjacent to it, might be considered the northern limit of the Canal Ring. To the south, there are the Leidseplein and the Museumplein (home to the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Stedelijk Museum) districts. The famous Jordaan neighborhood is located just to the West, with its houseboats, flower markets, art galleries, cafe’s and trendy shops. Most of the city’s primary tourist attractions will be found within this area, and the various vistas and views from canals and bridges here will almost certainly be recognizable to anybody that has seen even a few photos of Amsterdam.
Admire the Dutch architecture and houseboats, take a canal cruise, and explore the lively Jordaan district. No doubt you will want to see the Royal Palace on Dam Square, the historical center of the city. Visit the Anne Frank House, which is a calling card of Amsterdam, as are the tulips and the many flower markets.
Be sure you leave time to visit some of the world’s best museums, such as the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum, with many priceless works on display, and also the Rembrandt House museum. Fans of modern art will appreciate the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Get a better appreciation for the nautical roots of Amsterdam at the NEMO Science Museum, itself an modern structure built in the shape of ships hull, located right on the water on the city’s old eastern docks, just a short walk from Centraal Station. And visit the tall ships at the National Maritime Museum!
Visit the A’DAM tower in trendy Amsterdam Noord, just across from the Amsterdam Centraal Station and riverport, where you can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the city.
And if you have the time and the inclination, you can easily get from Amsterdam to other cities by train for day trips, like Brussels, Bruges, Rotterdam or Paris.
Check out these suggestions from Getyourguide.com for spending 48 hours in Amsterdam, including some walkable routes and interesting points of attraction you might not have considered.
If you are short on time, be sure to read our article on how to See Amsterdam in One Day.
Stopover in Paris
Airline: Air France
Policy: Air France has the same polices as KLM, so they allow a free stopover on each leg of your journey, both inbound and outbound, with really no time limit (other than the ticket validity and immigration rules).
How to book: Use online booking tool at AirFrance.com (select your region or country), and then select the multi-city booking option. Build in your stopover in Paris on either leg or both legs.
How to get out of the airport: The train connected to the airport takes you straight to the Gare du Nord in central Paris. Svetlana and I did this and found it be to be easy and comfortable. Once in the rail station, it was a short escalator ride up to street level where we fell into a cab that took us the last mile to our hotel nearby.
Paris is another one that takes some time to really explore. Just a quick sightseeing pass will probably take you a good 3-4 days, without actually visiting any museums, palaces or major points of attraction. And really, even this will take some advance planning, in terms of logistics or geography. You won’t have any trouble finding the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral or really anything along the Seine River, however you’ll want to allow some time to see Montmartre, Montparnasse, the Latin Quarter and certainly the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
Of course, you’ll probably want to leave a day open just to visit the Louvre, and if nothing else. I also recommend a show at the Moulin Rouge. Sveta and I really enjoyed these memorable experiences, and we look forward to getting a second pass at exploring Paris (in warmer months next time).
Take a short river cruise along the Seine (these board very near the Eiffel Tower). Get some shopping in. Go have fondue or oysters in some local café, get familiar with French cuisine even if only on a surface level. Take your time and savor Paris. You’ll be so glad you did.
Be sure you have a look at this interesting itinerary prepared by Getyourguide.com for some insights and inspiration on how you might want to spend 48 hours in Paris.
Stopover in Los Angeles
Airline: Multiple airlines. LAX serves as a hub for Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United and is a focus city for Air New Zealand, Allegiant Air, Norwegian, Qantas, and Southwest Airlines.
Policy: Varies per airline.
How to book: Use booking tools on airline site(s).
How to get out of the airport: Take the Green Line shuttle of the Metro Silver Line and be in Downtown LA in no time. You might want to rent a car here, however, as LA is so spread out. In fact, LA is probably the quintessential fly & drive destination.
Los Angeles is a popular hub for many international and domestic flights. You can easily coordinate having an extended layover to explore this stopover city. LA is fun in that you can see stunning art at LACMA, take a picture of the Hollywood sign, and go enjoy a dip in the Pacific Ocean all in a couple of hours. Or you can just see where your mood takes you and wander around a fun beachside city or quirky, artist neighborhood.
Of course you are going to want to stay a few days in order to really get out and enjoy Southern California. Of course people know LA for its theme parks and so why not take a day and get over to Warner Brothers Studios or Universal Studios? But there is just so much more to see in LA that you won’t want to miss.
See Hollywood, walk the walk of fame, cruise along the Sunset strip, see the Chinese theater and the Dolby theater. Spend an afternoon at Venice Beach. Take in the sights of the city from Griffith Observatory. Catch a Dodgers game or walk up and down the Santa Monica Pier at sunset. Drive up the Ventura freeway past Malibu, see the Pacific coast.
Take a look at this interesting itinerary prepared by Getyourguide.com for some insights and inspiration on how you might want to spend 48 hours in Los Angeles.
Stopover in Panama City
Airline: Copa Airlines
Policy: Plan a Panama City stopover from 24 hours to seven days (6 nights) with no additional fees or increased airfare (other than the $50 entry/exit tax). Copa does not provide hotel stays. Valid only if the stopover is requested when the ticket is originally purchased and issued.
How to book: The Panama Stopover program is available through Copa Airlines’ sales channels (the Copa Airlines Reservation Center, ConnectMiles Service Center, and sales offices, and at Copa.com).
How to get out of the airport: Copa Airlines recommends taking a taxi or ride share from the airport. There are, of course, a number of hotels that offer shuttle service, or you can reserve your airport transfer service in advance. You may even consider renting a car here.
Panama City is another one of those destinations that is, geographically, along the way for many, and it offers a pleasant and cost effective way to break up that long and grueling flight to and from South America. And it allows travelers to avoid having to deal with those late night or early a.m. arrivals and departures when flying in and out of South American destinations. For Americans, there is no need to route yourself through one of the key US gateway cities that serve this part of the world, if you can just fly Copa Airlines and build in a nice stopover break in Panama.
Of course, one of the main things to do in Panama is visit and experience the world-famous Panama Canal, which is both an engineering marvel as well as a historical landmark. There is an excellent visitors center at the Miraflores locks that combines a small museum with a three-story observation deck from which you will almost certainly see the ships making the transit right in front of you. And there is a wide array of Panama Canal boat tours that will actually take you through the canal, providing an up-close and personal look at how ships routinely travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean with relative ease. There are also Panama City tours that combine a trip to the Miraflores locks with a city tour, a great option for those that want to squeeze more into one day.
As far as the city itself, there is not shortage of things to see and do. I loved visiting the old city, Viejo Panama, the ruins of Old Panama, roaming the little shops and markets, and exploring the old fortress there. Old Panama was the first European settlement and community on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. This first Panama City was looted and destroyed by the notorious English buccaneer Henry Morgan in 1671 (yes, that Captain Morgan). Today, there are only ruins left of Old Panama, and some amazing views, of course. The tower of the ancient cathedral is standing and has become a landmark of the city. Be sure you get over for a visit to Old Panama while you are there.
Panama is known for being a spot for outdoor adventure, with its amazing lush rainforests and biodiversity, and there are just so many opportunities to get out and enjoy it. There are opportunities for ziplining in the rainforest or taking a cable car through the rainforest jungle or a boat tour (or both!) You might even decide to stay at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, just for the full experience! Take some time to visit various nearby islands (take a relaxing catamaran or sailing tour) such as Bocas del Toro, or going out to the Monkey Islands on Gatun Lake.
The night life is fun in Panama City, as well. We had fun just hitting a few bars and restaurants downtown, and of course, we didn’t miss our chance to leave some hard earned cash in a casino or two while we were there.
Stopover in Istanbul
Airline: Turkish Airlines
Policy: Your layover must be longer than 20 hours. You may also qualify for free accommodation in Istanbul if you travel in Business or Economy class. Check to confirm that your final destination is on the ‘Stopover Destinations’ list.
How to get out of the airport: The long-awaited Metro Line M11 finally started its routes in January 2023. Now visitors traveling to Istanbul airport can travel into the city super-fast and comfortably on high speed rail.
The new subway station of Istanbul International Airport lies opposite Exit 11 at Istanbul Airport, on the front side of the car park. The station is only a 300-meter distance from the terminal entrance, so it is easy enough to find.
Read more here about Getting Around Istanbul.
How to book: There is no apparent requirement to book your flights directly with Turkish Airlines on the Turkishairlines.com website, but I would recommend doing this in any case. Once you have booked your flights, you can arrange for the stopover free accommodation service by sending an e-mail to the mail address (consult the table at the bottom of the stopover page designated according to your departure point). Provide your name & surname, reservation code (PNR) or ticket number, date range for the anticipated accommodation, preferred room type (single, double or triple), telephone and e-mail address at least 72 hours before your first flight (obviously the sooner, the better).
Istanbul is an amazing city, just for its history and its geography, as a crossroads intersection where Europe meets Asia. You’ll see historic sites right out of James Bond movies, incredible places like the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar market, and the underground Basilica Cistern. You will want to make sure that you are dressed appropriately if you are planning on visiting mosques or cathedrals while in the city—it is well worth it!
See Topkapi palace, the old city Sultanahmet, Taksim Square and the spice market, just for starters. Be sure to take time to sample the local Turkish cuisine, which is amazing. Take photos of the Bosphorus and cross the bridge linking Asia and Europe. And allow some time to do a bit of shopping. Take a look at this interesting itinerary prepared by Getyourguide.com for some insights on how to spend 48 hours in Istanbul.
Stopover in Singapore
Airline: Singapore Air
Policy: Singapore Airlines offers stopover packages for one or two nights starting at just S$41 (about $30 USD) including a hotel stay. You can choose from nearly 40 hotels including four-star choices and transfers from the airport are included.
If you book the upgraded Stopover Holiday package, it includes entry to over 20 attractions across the city and the two-night version includes a one-day pass to Universal Studios Singapore.
How to book: Use the airline’s multi-city flight builder to build your itinerary, then select and book your stopover package.
How to get out of the airport: Take the free tour out of the airport and learn about this City State with a guide—for free!
You may not want to leave Changi Airport during your layover—it is known as one of the best airports in the world. See the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, catch a movie, or do high-end shopping. There is even a pool where you can watch planes come and go. You can easily spend a day or two right here.
Of course, if you get the chance to visit Singapore, you do want to leave the airport. Go see the Gardens of the Bays or head to the top of Marina Bay Sands to take in a spectacular birds-eye view of the Lion City. Now you have at least a first impression of Singapore and you’ll have a better of idea of what is located where.
Visit the underground shopping at Orchard Road and then head to the Michelin Star street food spots. If time permits, get over to Sentosa Island (at least take the cable car, again for the memorable view) and visit one of the many parks and attractions there.
There is no shortage of amazing places to visit while you are in Singapore. Explore the various ethnic enclaves, such as Tanjong Pagar (Little Korea), Kampong Glam (Islamic district) with its strong Malay heritage, Little India with its shopping and Hindu temples, Chinatown, and more. Singapore is nothing if not a huge regional melting pot in it’s own right, so allow time to explore!
Stopover in Dublin
Airline: Aer Lingus
Policy: You choose how long you want your stopover to be in Dublin—or any Irish city they fly into.
How to book: Per their website, Aer Lingus asks travelers wanting a stopover in Ireland to contact them directly and their agents will assist in building their travel itinerary.
How to get out of the airport: There is no airport train, and the closest train stop is Connolly Station, which is located 12 km from the airport, on the northern edge of the city. Far easier to just take a taxi, or take the airport bus to Dublin central bus station Bus Aras (or really anywhere in Dublin).
It is very easy to get into Dublin from the airport, due to its relatively close proximity, and you can see a lot of the city in a short amount of time. Walk around the Liffey River and see Trinity College and the historic O’Connell Street.
Of course, visit the obvious Dublin tourist spots such as Dublin Castle or St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Learn how Guinness is made at the St. James Gate Brewery, or visit the Jameson Distillery for tours and tastings.
The Temple Bar District is one of Dublin’s most popular tourist spots. It features over thirty pubs and clubs, as well as street performers on Grafton Street every day of the week. There are also lots of shops and restaurants in this area, so you can spend all day here if you want to!
Or just walk around and pretend that you’re in a James Joyce novel before ending your visit with a cup of tea. And if you stay for a couple of days, head out of the city to the Cliffs of Mohr and Galway or Cork and kiss the Blarney Stone.
For a good primer on how to spend 48 hours in Dublin, we recommend this interesting itinerary prepared by Getyourguide.com for some insights and inspiration.
Stopover in Tokyo
Policy: Japan Airlines doesn’t have a page on their website detailing their stopover program. But their rules allow you to create an itinerary with a stopover of up to three nights in either Tokyo (HND or NRT) or Osaka (KIX) at no extra charge.
How to book: Use Japan Airlines’ multi-city booking tool to add a stopover to your flight. If the price goes up on the website, contact your regional JAL Reservation Center for help organizing the stopover.
How to get out of the airport: Take the JR train from Narita.
There are many things to do in Tokyo, but here are some of the best tourist spots:
The Imperial Palace is one of the first stops on your list. The Imperial Palace was once home to Japan’s emperor and now it serves as a public museum. There is a picturesque park here as well, so it is a good location for exploring on foot. And while in the area, take a short stroll over to Tokyo Central train station which is another impressive sight.
Be sure to include a visit Tokyo Tower, which can can be seen from almost anywhere in Tokyo and offers a memorable panoramic view of Tokyo.
For a taste of old Japan, visit the Sensoji Temple, which is a well-known tourist destination in Tokyo’s Asakusa district. Originally built in 628 CE, the Sensoji Temple welcomes over 3 million visitors every year. It is famous for its large red lanterns that are lit up at night and its beautiful garden with ponds and waterfalls.
No trip to Tokyo is complete without a visit Akihabara Electric Town, which is particular impressive at night. This district is home to over two hundred electronics retailers and wholesalers, and it is known as being a great place to buy anime-related goods, including manga and figurines.
Ginza is one of the most popular tourist spots in Tokyo, and it is famous for its high-end department stores and boutiques selling luxury goods from all over the world. It is a beautiful upscale shopping district with many international brands, but even if you aren’t shopping, it is a great place to visit on foot, just to get a feel for Tokyo. You will also find many restaurants and bars that offer great views of the cityscape.
One of my favorite things to do in Japan is eat – try some shabu shabu and for a great lunch on a budget, get some ramen in one of the many small eateries. I’ve had good luck finding them near the train stations in Japan, but they are pretty much everywhere.
For some insights on how to spend 48 hours in Tokyo, we refer you to this interesting itinerary prepared by Getyourguide.com.
Stopover in Helsinki
Policy: Enjoy five days in the capital city of Finland on flights to other parts of Europe or Asia.
How to get out of the airport: Commuter trains run every 10 minutes and take you to Helsinki Central Station. Take the I train or the P train. The train station is located on the arrivals floor, at the corridor between Terminals 1 and 2.
Finland is an interesting nation in that it was, for much of it’s history, part of Sweden, as well as Russia. In fact, did not become a separate nation until 1918 when it declared its independence from Russia, after last tsarist regime was brought down by the Bolsheviks in 1917.
You will find plenty to keep you busy in Helsinki. Visit the Helskinki Cathedral and the Uspensky Cathedral, both of which are hard to miss. Stroll along the Aleksanterinkatu, the main street in the city, and Market Square. Take a walk along the harbor area where you’ll see the ferries (which bear more than a slight resemblance to cruise ships) that run to Tallinn and Stockholm. You might consider the hop-on hop-off tour bus option for taking in the sights.
You’ll want to do a boat tour (unless it is winter) out to the scenic Helsinki Islands.
Explore Suomenlinna, a historical military island fortress city built by the Swedes, that at one time served to protect the approaches to the city and its harbor from Russian expansion. It is only 4 km from the city, but there is much here to see and do, so allow a day, if possible, to do so.
Finnair recommends that if you have an extended layover or stopover, the first spot you visit is the Helsinki Design Museum, a rotating collection of the best designs in Scandinavia and the world.
Relax before your next flight at the Allas Sea Pool, where you can enjoy the skyline from a heated pool at sunset. Finnair recommends capping off your night in the Kallio district for a drink at one of the quirky bars.
Helsinki offers an aquarium that is quite good, called Helsinki: Sea Life. And if time allows, consider doing a day trip by ferry down to Tallinn, in Estonia. The Tallink shuttle is a short 2-hour trip each way, and the old city there is worth a visit.
Stopover in Hong Kong
Airline: Cathay Pacific
Policy: Cathay Pacific Airlines does not currently have a Hong Kong stopover promotion. Cathay Pacific does, however, allow you to stretch your Hong Kong stopover up to three days for no additional charge.
How to book: Use the multi-city stopover booking tool on the Cathay Pacific website to build your itinerary.
How to get out of the airport: There is no shortage of taxis here, but the quickest and easiest method is the airport express train that runs to Kowloon station and Hong Kong station, which connects to MTR Central station on HK Island (see the MTR map here). I have done this and it was super easy, so I strongly recommend taking the train. From either station, you will probably still need to take a taxi, but you are so much closer now, which reduces your total transit time and the overall cost of getting to your hotel.
Once you are in Hong Kong, then there are handful of things you really need to accomplish. First you are going to want to work in a transit on a Star Ferry, which runs between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. And then you are going to want to make the trip to Victoria peak and get the view of the territory from the top. Try to do this on a clear day if you can, but it is still work doing even if it is overcast. Another really good option would be the Sky100 Observatory, that offers a 360 degree view of Victoria harbor.
Visit some traditional English pubs in Hong Kong and get on some double decker busses and a tram or two, just to cool your heels and get some good sightseeing in. Get your pictures taken next to the Bruce Lee statue on the Kowloon waterfront, and enjoy the fireworks after dark.
While exploring after dark, take a trip up to a little hillside bar district called Lan Kwai Fong, on the Hong Kong Island side. It’s a steep grade with bar after bar, most of which are packed with tourists.
You can easily spend several days exploring and shopping and finding interesting places to eat and drink, and vistas from which to take in the sights. Hong Kong is a walkable city, but you will have no trouble getting around on the subway system and tram cars. Considering working in a half day guided tour to get a little local insights.
Stopover in Dubai
Airline: Emirates Airlines
Policy: Emirates allows a short stopover of several days or a week, supposedly without any additional charge. Actually, I tested this online, and I found that the longer the stopover, the cheaper the flights.
Emirates does offer short Stopover Packages. They have partnered with over 100 local hotels and resorts with 24-hour check-in, airport meet & greet, transportation, and breakfast for a low fee as part of their Stopover Packages.
How to book: Use the Advanced Search option to do book your flights, including total duration of your stopover, on the Emirates.com website. For those that are interested in a stopover package, you can contact your local Emirates office to add the hotel and/or activities onto your booking. Of course you may prefer to simply book your own accommodations and order various sightseeing packages and tours separately.
How to get out of the airport: It is recommended that you use a taxi service to get to the sites you want to see when in Dubai, but there is a metro station at the airport as well.
Emirates Airlines makes it easy to leave the airport in Dubai and see one of the richest cities in the world. Even if all you want to do—or can afford to do—is window shop and walk around the canals and hotels, seeing Dubai in all of its splendor is special.
- 48 Hours in Dubai: The Perfect Two-Day Itinerary
- Where to Stay in Dubai
Start your time in the city near The Palm to find a hotel. Be sure to visit a beach club, like Nikki Beach Dubai, and the most famous landmark in the city, the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa. Just make sure you dress light and airy, the desert can get extremely hot!
Stopover in London
Airline: British Air
Policy: BA offers multi-stop options with added stopovers.
How to book: Use the multi-city tool at BA.com to find this locate and book stopover options.
How to get out of the airport: Sure it might be tempting to fall into a London cab, but the price will be a rude awakening unless it is a short distance. Just take the train to Paddington Station. Trains operate every 15 minutes between Heathrow and London Paddington. London Heathrow is also connected to central London by the main London Underground (or Tube) system, but remember to mind the gap!
There are, of course, the obvious points of attraction for which London is famous: the Tower of London, the Tower bridge, Big Ben and the parliament building, for starters. Most of these are drive-by locations, where you won’t really go inside, but I strongly recommend taking the tour of Tower of London. You’ll probably also want to visit the London Eye with offering a birds eye view of the city.
Visit Trafalgar Square, go see Piccadilly Circus, and take stroll through Kensington Gardens. Get on a double decker bus for a better vantage point, and rest your feet a bit. Work in a tour, maybe even a river tour on the Thames, if weather permits.
- 48 Hours in London: The Perfect Two-Day Itinerary
- Where to Stay in London
London also has enough amazing museums to keep you busy for weeks: work in a visit at the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the Science Museum, the National Maritime Museum, just to name a few.
You’ll want to find some local neighborhood pubs, enjoy some traditional English pub food, some fish & chips, and of course, sample a pint or two.
Stopover in Seoul
Airline: Asiana, Korean Air
Policy: Asiana Airlines offers free stopovers in Seoul. Korean Airlines also allows stopovers at no additional cost up to 24 hours. Both airlines offer programs that provide travelers with meals and hotel stays if their stopover is less than 24 hours (really, a long layover).
How to book: Use Asiana’s multi-city booking tool unless you’re booking an itinerary eligible for a free hotel. See rules and instructions for booking their complimentary stopover hotels (STPC) in linked PDFs here.
How to get out of the airport: Modern comfortable busses run downtown almost constantly, and at a very reasonable cost. These are generally 45 minute trips (maybe up to an hour), and they run to major ground transportation hubs, such as Seoul station, Gangnam Express Bus Terminal, City Hall and a number of other stations. Once downtown, travelers can get a taxi for the last mile connection to their hotel.
There are also train connections that will take you right down to Seoul Station from the terminal. The Airport Railroad Express (AREX) operates two trains: the Express Train, running from Incheon International Airport Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 directly to Seoul Station; and the All Stop Train that stops by 14 subway stations along the way from Incheon International Airport Terminal 2 to Seoul Station.
It is surprisingly easy to get around Seoul without knowing the language. Locals are always eager to help you. In fact, you might found that even the slightest hesitation, stopping for a moment to read some signs in the subway (in English), might prompt a helpful soul to stop and ask offer you assistance to point you in the right direction. Maybe Koreans see this as a nice opportunity to practice their English, or maybe they are genuinely just wanting to help, but whatever their motivation, it will probably make you feel welcome in Korea.
And certainly there is plenty to see. Go on up on the mountain to Seoul Tower, and get the lay of the land. Explore the Gyeongbok Palace & Temple.
Seoul is a phenomenal destination for anybody that loves to shop and eat. Leave time to hit some of the big market areas, such as the open air markets around Dondaemun Stadium and Namdaemum Gate. Another fun shopping area, a little more modern and trendy, is the Myeong-dong district, which seemed to be more popular with the younger crowd. Gangnam is south of the Han River, and really it is the more modern and glitzy part of the city. Many of the embassies are located here, as well as corporate offices in shiny high-rise buildings.
Also for those interested in history or military topics, it is an easy trip to the DMZ.
And for sure, for the love all that is righteous and good, make sure you get your hands on some Korean BBQ. In fact, do this early on in your trip, because you are likely going to want to go back. If you’ve not experienced this before, you are welcome. Thank me later.
Stopover in Madrid
Policy: Iberia offers travelers a reduced-rate hotel room in Madrid, allowing an cost effective stay of 1 to six nights.
How to book: Use the Iberia website to book. There is a stopover page that makes it super easy.
How to get out of the airport: Madrid Barajas airport is relatively close to the city and therefore there are many convenient options for getting into town (other than taxis and hotel shuttles):
- Take the C1 or C10 above ground trains to the city center,
- use Madrid metro system (Line 8) that stops in all terminals and continues onto Nuevos Ministerios station in the heart of the city.
- City busses from from Terminals 1, 2 and 3, for the friendly sum of 1.50 Euro, you can get downtown in comfort. These are routes 101 and 200. Alternatively you can take the airport express bus for 5 Euro, which serves Terminals 1, 2 and 4, and will whisk you into the city in 40-45 minutes (depending on traffic conditions). Airport express busses run 24 hours a day, every 15 minutes.
Hola Madrid! Iberia airlines offers a nice program, and Madrid serves as a hub for 85 destinations around Europe and 27 destinations in Africa and the Middle East. And of course, this is your gateway for another 29 amazing destinations in Spain.
Very often Madrid is the best connection, just depending on geography and availability of flights. For my past clients booking river cruises in the Bordeaux region in France, or the Provence in France, I would often find better connections going through Madrid than through the obvious connection in Paris.
Madrid is packed with things to see and do. There are dozens of prominent museums, palaces, cathedrals, architecture, with amazing parks and gardens everywhere. Honestly you could spend 3-4 days sightseeing and snapping selfies – never actually visiting anything – and still, you’d probably never cover it all.
See the Royal palace, the Gran Via, El Retiro Park, Puerta del Sol, Almudena Cathedral, the Los Ventas Bullring, just for starters. Or take a look at this interesting itinerary prepared by Getyourguide.com for some insights on how to spend 48 hours in Madrid.
Stopover in Honolulu
Airline: Hawaiian Airlines
Policy: Travelers flying Hawaiian Airlines to or from various international destinations can get a free stopover in Honolulu on each leg, whether outbound or return.
How to book: Use the multi-city option when booking on Hawaiian Airlines website.
How to get out of the airport: Probably a hotel shuttle is your best bet here, unless you are planning to rent a car (which is not a bad idea, as this is a great fly & drive destination). You can also book a hotel shuttle online in advance.
Hawaii is another one of those amazing locations that is both useful and alluring. It is ‘on the way’ to any number of destinations across the Pacific, and yet, it is a worthy destination all unto itself. Who really needs to invent an excuse to plan a stopover in Hawaii?
But think about it – it is a LONG flight to places like New Zealand, Australia, Tahiti, or American Samoa, so wouldn’t you be so glad to break that flight up along the way? Hawaiian airlines flies to Korea and Japan as well, offering connections to nine Asia-Pacific destinations and 16 cities in North America. And let’s not forget about the other Hawaiian Islands – if you are planning a vacation on Maui or one of the other islands, it might be fun to tack on a couple nights in Honolulu on one leg, if time permits.
Glass bottom boat tours off Waikiki Beach. Shark dives on the north shore of Oahu. Helicopter tours. Hiking through lush tropical rainforests, visiting amazing waterfalls and exploring live volcanos. Snorkeling with sea turtles. Kick back on a sunset cruise. Hike up Diamondhead. Ocean kayak tours. Swimming with dolphins.
Visit the Honolulu zoo and the Waikiki aquarium. Spend an evening at a traditional Hawaiian luau. Visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona memorial while you are here. And just admire the beauty of Hawaii.
Do I really need to keep writing about this place? Plan that trip already!
Stopover in Zurich
Airline: Swiss Air
Policy: Swiss Air has a stopover program was designed for transfer guests flying via Zurich, allowing them to stay 2 to 5 days without incurring additional airfare costs. The program is offered in conjunction.
There are packages available that include overnight accommodation and public transport in Switzerland.
How to book: Book flights and/or hotel packages online at swiss.com/stopover.
How to get out of the airport: The Metrobus Line 4 runs from 4:30 AM to midnight and costs less than 3 USD roundtrip, or a taxi for 20 USD roundtrip.
There are plenty of things that visitors can do in Zurich (other than banking). Visit the famous Bahnhofstrasse and see the shops, hotels, and banks along this street. Enjoy a walk through the Old Town or head over to Bellevue Palace to see where the Swiss government resides.
Lake Zurich is an absolutely stunning location that is worth a visit any time of the year. Take a boat tour, or a hike or drive along the shores of the lake to enjoy the amazing views.
The Swiss National Museum is located in an old castle on top of a hill overlooking Lake Zurich and offers interesting exhibits about Swiss history.
Not to diminish the attractiveness of Zurich itself as an amazing destination, but it is a super jump-off point for those wanting to explore other parts of Switzerland. Go to Interlaken or Lake Lucerne, or visit Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva. See the Alps by scenic train. Take the Bernina Express or the Glacier Express and sit back and let the panoramic beauty of Switzerland come to you.
Stopover in Mexico City
Policy: Though there is no stated program or policy, Aeromexico will often offer better fares for flights connecting through Mexico City.
How to book: Use the multi-city booking option online (book three flights, with one stop being Mexico City).
How to get out of the airport: The Metrobus Line 4 runs from 4:30 AM to midnight and costs less than 3 USD roundtrip, or a taxi for 20 USD roundtrip.
This is another intriguing destination where the geography works well to break up a long flight (particularly going to South America) or if you are simply making a connection to one of the smaller, less visited Mexican resort towns where there are few if any direct flights.
If you want to experience Mexico City, plan at least one full day (better two or more) simply to walk around and take in all the tastes, sites, and history of the capital. Remember it is the largest city in North America by population, so there is no shortages things to see and do in CDMX.
If you’re not seeing any of the ruins in Mexico on this trip, go to the National Museum of Anthropology and learn about the ancient Mayans, who were advanced for their time. Walk around the former residence of the Presidents of Mexico, Chapultepec Castle, or wander around the popular Roma Norte, Garibaldi or Condesa neighborhoods.
Stroll through the history downtown (Centro Historico) and the San Juan Market. There are number of guided tour options to give you a proper introduction to Mexico City.
Explore the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacan outside the city, if time permits.
Experience Lucha Libre, Mexico’s professional masked wrestling that is an art form all unto itself.
Enjoy some live Mariachi music after dark.
Review this itinerary prepared by Getyourguide.com for some insights on how to spend 48 hours in Mexico City.
No matter where you go, be sure to try a street taco and taste some tequila!
Stopover in Lisbon
Airline: TAP Portugal
Policy: Enjoy a free stopover for up to five days in Lisbon (a stopover in Porto also qualifies!). TAP Portugal offers international travelers various discounts on hotels, wine tastings, and restaurants in Lisbon and Porto both.
How to book: Visit the Stopover page on flytap.com to book your stopover in Lisbon or Porto.
How to get out of the airport: Take the subway (metro) Aeroporto-Saldanha line direct to downtown—it takes about 20 minutes.
Most likely, the one required point of attraction that won’t want to miss in Lisbon will the Torre de Belem. The Belem tower in the Tagus River shows design elements ranging from Moorish to Romanesque to Gothic. Or see the most popular landmark in the city, St. George’s Castle. This 2,000-year-old citadel looks out over the city and is amazing at sunset – in fact we recommend a sunset cruise and some good local wine to really get the full experience.
Lisbon is really an amazing tapestry of small local neighborhoods, alive with amazing food and music.
What is a Stopover?
See our article discussing the difference between stopovers vs. layovers.
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