Long layovers are a growing trend in travel. You read that right. While connecting flights once meant scrambling between terminals or sleeping in airports, the airline industry has flipped that model on its head with stopovers.
IcelandAir first marketed a stopover option in the 1960s to bring North American tourists to the lesser-known Nordic nation. As part of the layover package, travelers could book up to seven days in Reykjavík while traveling to (or from) Europe. Backpackers loved it, and by the early 2000s, the package grew in popularity as international interest in Iceland rose. But it wasn’t until 2012, when Iceland remarketed their stopover campaign, that the idea really took off.
Since then, multiple airlines have followed suit, promoting stopovers in their hub cities. Some local governments are even subsidizing these mini-vacations. Henry Harteveldt, president and travel industry analyst for the Atmosphere Research Group, tells Business Insider, “The governments know that if a consumer stays overnight they will spend money at restaurants, shops, and other venues so it boosts the local economy.”
Everyone wins with stopovers: cities benefit from an influx of out-of-town cash; airline sales increase; and travelers get to see another place for the price of one flight. With dozens of airline stopovers to choose from, it’s time to decide how you’ll spend your next layover. Here are the five best stopovers to tack a mini-vacation on to your next big trip.
The TAP Portugal stopover program offers up to five nights in Lisbon or Porto at no additional cost for both roundtrip and one-way trips. You can customize your experience and find discounted hotel rates with their stopover app.
Stopover tip: Wine lovers, rejoice! Meander through the Douro Valley in Porto, a world-renowned wine-producing region.
Traveling from Europe or the U.S. to Asia? Pre-book your stopover in Dubai, and Emirates Airline agents will help plan your itinerary and secure your no-fee visa. The airline also offers discounts on restaurants and local excursions. It’s not free, but options start at $60.
Stopover tip: Dubai is the perfect place to be spontaneous. Since your itinerary is planned for you, focus on fine dining, nightlife, and jewelry shopping at the Deira Gold Souk.
Stopover tip: Be adventurous. You can’t leave without sampling the fruit that’s so odorous it was banned from Singapore subways or checking out Singapore’s botanical gardens.
If you’re traveling from the U.S. to Europe or Asia via Toronto, you can also take advantage of AirCanada’s stopover package, and explore the city.
Stopover tip: Plan your stopover like a regular vacation. Arrange a day-trip to Niagra Falls, or connect with art, spirit, and nature in Aga Khan Park.
Tight connection in Istanbul? Turkish Airlines passengers with layovers of 24 hours or less can leave the airport and explore Istanbul’s historic sites for free. As part of the Touristanbul program, tour guides pick you up, take you to restaurants and landmarks, and then bring you back to the airport for your connecting flight.
Stopover tip: You’ll want to schedule your time to make the most out of your whirlwind tour. Visit the city center to see the intricate architectural style of its Byzantine and Ottoman structures.
Layovers no longer have to mean added stress, overpriced airport food, and endless waiting. Look for a stopover on your next flight to get double the wanderlust at an affordable price.
Western Union is not affiliated with any of the airlines featured in this article.