When booking a longhaul flight, most travelers will search furiously to book the flight with the shortest layover – even if it means passing up an incredible cheap flight deal. Already faced with the idea of being on a plane for hours, we tend to think that faster is always better. But what if we told you that sometimes it pays to book flights with long layovers?
The beauty of long stopovers is that you can see more without having to spend more. You get to experience an entirely new city on the way to your destination without paying for an extra plane ticket.
Fortunately, learning how to book a flight with long layovers is easy. Read on to learn the two main ways to score a long layover so you can start to see more of the world for less.
Airlines That Offer Free Long Layovers
The first way to score an extended layover doesn’t require any advanced flight booking or travel hacking skills. Some of the world’s most popular airlines actually offer programs that allow you to get out of the airport and see a new city on your layover. In fact, these airlines encourage it so much that many of them actually offer free or cheap hotel stays.
When you take advantage of these programs, it’s like you’re getting a free trip to a brand new city. Who says traveling the world needs to be expensive?
TAP Air Portugal
With TAP Portugal’s stopover option, you can choose to book a long layover in Lisbon or Porto for up to 5 nights at no additional cost for airfare. In addition to waiving the stopover fee, TAP Portugal also offers exclusive deals and discounts at hotels and attractions throughout the city, making this program a great way to see Europe on a budget.
With the Iceland Air Stopover Pass, travelers flying across the Atlantic can stay for 1-7 days at no additional airfare. With no additional airfare costs and already amazing flight deals, this layover is a great way to see one of the world’s most popular travel destinations.
When travelers book a Qatar Airways flight with a long layover – at least 12 hours – in Qatar, they can receive a free visa to enter the country, as well as 1-4 night hotel stay for a minimal booking fee. This long layover is an excellent chance to see this modern city as it gears up to host the 2022 World Cup.
If you’ve ever wanted a chance to experience Madrid, Spain, Iberia’s Hola Madrid program was made for you. Through the program, travelers passing through Madrid can stay in the city for up to 6 days at no additional airfare. Plus, Iberia encourages visitors to fully experience the city by offering steep deals and discounts, including 40% off your hotel booking and three free beers at Mahou.
Air Canada offers travelers to book a long layover in Vancouver, Montreal, or Toronto for no additional airfare. Depending on which cabin you’re flying in, you’re also eligible to book a hotel room for free or at a reduced rate. What’s really great about Air Canada’s stopover option is that you can utilize it to and from your destination – giving you the option to see 3 different cities in one trip.
For travelers flying with Etihad, those with a connecting flight through Abu Dhabi can now leave the airport to adventure through this thrilling beachside city. Etihad’s stopover option provides travelers with a free two-night hotel stay and offers steeply discounted rates for longer or upgraded stays.
These are just a handful of airlines that offer an extended layover option. When booking flights to a city you’d like to explore, it never hurts to check what an airline’s stopover policy is.
How to Book Flights With Long Layovers
Whether your airline doesn’t offer a stopover option or there’s a specific city you’d like to visit, you’ll need to book your own long layover.
An excellent way to do this is by using Google Flights, similar to any other flight search.
Use multi-city Search
First, perform a general search to your desired destination to get a feel for the best time to buy tickets. Next, choose a potential layover destination and do the same, again making a note of the best time to find cheap flights.
Then, perform a multi-city search by selecting it from the dropdown menu that also contains “round trip” and “one-way” options. Then add a third flight to your trip.
As for how you layout your trip, that’s entirely up to you. Just remember to include your layover city as your middle destination in the multi-city search. You can book your long layover for the beginning of your trip or on the way home.
Example: Let’s say that you’re planning a trip from Chicago to Bangkok. As you're booking your flights, you decide that your trip to Asia is also the perfect opportunity to finally visit Tokyo, home of the 2020 Summer Olympics.
You could book your trip so that your flight itinerary looks like this:
- Chicago to Tokyo
- Tokyo to Bangkok
- Bangkok to Chicago
When you book a multi-city ticket through Google Flights, the length of your layover is completely up to you. Plus, because Google Flights provides the links to purchase tickets, you only need to perform a single search for all 3 of your tickets.
Fly Through a Popular Airport
We discussed this idea in our post about finding last minute flights as a digital nomad.
When performing searches to your target destination, pay attention to any cities where several flights seem to have a layover and determine if this is a city that you’d like to visit.
Then perform a few searches to see if you can find cheap flights from that city to your target destination. If you can, simply book two one way tickets: one to your long layover destination and one to your end destination.
Note that this option does carry some risk because if your first flight is delayed, you could miss your second flight to your end destination. However, you may also end up saving money, as flights from high-traffic airports tend to be cheaper, so you need to weigh the risk vs. the reward here.
An example of this that we’ve used in the past: Flying from Bali to New York City can be very expensive. Instead of booking this flight directly, one of our flight deal experts saved hundreds of dollars by first flying from Bali to Hong Kong, a very high-traffic airport. After spending a weekend exploring Hong Kong, he then flew from Hong Kong to New York City for only $199.
Time to Book Your Long Layover
Now that you know how to book flights with long layovers, it’s your turn to embrace layovers like a true veteran traveler.
The next time you receive one of our cheap flight deals to your inbox, see if you can add even more value to your trip by booking a long layover and let us know how it goes!
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BY: ZACH ANDERSON, CONTENT MARKETING & FLIGHT EXPERT
Zach is a digital marketer, copywriter, and flight deal expert at Dollar Flight Club where he helps 1 million people travel more. As a digital nomad, he is deeply passionate about location independence, Thai food, and helping others see the world affordably.