Many fliers view layovers as an inconvenience, but for Jaclyn Sienna India, owner of a New York City travel company called Sienna Charles, they’re an opportunity to explore the destination her flight stops in. “I try to make the place where I have to change planes a part of my vacation,” she said. “Often, these side trips end up being as exciting as my final destination.”
Here is India’s advice on how to have a memorable layover:
Plan layovers strategically
Have a more diverse vacation by choosing a stop that is in contrast to the locale you’re headed to. If you’re en route to a beach getaway in the Maldives, for example, consider a stop in Dubai to fit in an urban escape, or stop in either Dallas or Chicago for a ski or hiking trip in Jackson Hole or Aspen. You can also plan for a layover on your return journey, and time-permitting, you can do a layover each way in different locales. India often builds in two separate layovers when planning itineraries for her clients and said that she may have to play around with flight combinations to make them happen, but they can be done.
Return to your favorite destinations
India suggested that travelers arrange layovers in destinations they enjoy visiting and give their trip a special touch by participating in a specific experience. It could be a meal at a favorite restaurant in Paris or an art show in London. Personally, India said she loves stopping in Reykjavik, Iceland, on her way to other cities in Europe for some relaxation at the Blue Lagoon, a popular geothermal spa. “Going to the Blue Lagoon is one of my all-time favorite things to do, and fitting a short visit in makes my overall trip really pop,” she said.
A daylong layover works, too
If you have between eight hours and less than a day to kill between flights, you can still have a fantastic layover, India said. On a recent 10-hour layover in Helsinki, Finland, for example, she took a privately guided city tour that she had booked in advance. “I was able to get a feel of Helsinki in a few hours and also had a delicious meal at one of the popular restaurants there,” she said. Other possibilities for activities on short layovers include a tour of a well-known art museum, a shopping excursion in a specific neighborhood and even a jog, walk or bike ride in a scenic park.
Make your stop affordable
Your layover doesn’t have to be costly. Some airlines, said India, allow free layovers — sometimes with a time restriction — so a stop won’t cost you more money beyond your ticket price (Icelandair, for example, allows free “stopovers” in Iceland for up to seven nights at no additional cost.). A handful of airlines, including Singapore Airlines and Emirates, have occasional layover promotions in the spirit of promoting the cities where they are based.