Part of budget travel planning sometimes comes with extended layovers to get the best flight deals. And some of the best adventures happen on extended layovers.
But, not all layovers are created equally. Several factors go into deciding whether it makes the most sense to wait out your delay in the airport or explore the nearest city.
- How long is your layover? Anything shorter than say, 6 hours, may not leave enough time to gain any value from leaving the airport.
- Which airport is your layover located? Some airports are notorious for being difficult to navigate, huge or overly crowded, making it difficult to escape and come back before your next flight quickly. Some airports also have enough entertainment to keep you busy in between trips!
- Are your bags checked through straight to your next location? If not, waiting for luggage, lugging it around the city, and re-checking can take a toll energy wise and time wise.
- How close is the airport to the nearest city? Is there anything to see or do you have to drive 1hr+ to see anything meaningful.
- Will you have to clear customs/immigration? You will have to budget time to clear immigration/customs twice (entry/exit), and this can sometimes be a daunting task (Hello, US entry via JFK).
- Are there easy modes of transportation? Can you walk? Train system? Uber? Taxi
- Will you need to exchange currency?
- Do you need a VISA to leave the airport and enter the said country?
If you find yourself in proximity to a town or city, your bags are taken care of, and you’re able to navigate the airport quickly, squeeze in a free city!
I always suggest that people google top attractions in whatever city they will be located in and see how far it is from the airport. Some of the best ways to quickly get a glimpse of a new culture are via the food! As a newly acclaimed foodie, I love trying the local cuisine of a new culture. And sometimes the best food comes from “hole in the wall” spots. (Don’t knock it until you try it.)
I sometimes find myself looking for longer layovers to get a quick city in that I have yet to visit to get a quick taste/feel!
- Some cities have “layover tours” where they’ll customize tours, or have tours available, to show you as much as the city as possible during your downtime. You can either schedule ahead of time by doing research or upon arrival at the airport via a welcome/help desk. And as an added plus, when a participant of a layover tour, you’re not required to get a visa. A simple google search of your airport destination can provide details on layover tours prior to you leaving.
Airports with free Layover Tours: Salt Lake City, Utah; Doha, Qatar; Istanbul, Turkey; Tokyo, Japan; Taipei, Taiwan; Seoul, Korea; Singapore.
- Airports typically will have lockers or luggage storage, for a small fee, if you are a carry-on only traveler or if you’re luggage is not checked straight through to your destination.
- Most important thing, don’t miss your flight!!
- Download Google Translate to have an easier time communicating or translating in a foreign language.
Are you a layover adventurer? Or more of an airport relaxer?
Drop your favorite layover adventures below!