Sightseeing On a Layover
My husband and I like to travel - a lot! - and most of the time we are squeezing the most out of our vacation days to fit in all of our trips for the year. But aside from days off, we all know that traveling also costs money. And it can be quite expensive, depending on where we are headed and what flights are available.
So somewhere between saving money and trying to see the world, we started a little habit of taking long layovers (sometimes over night) in order to see just one more city and to break up a long journey. This is how we do it.
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First of all, flights with long layovers usually cost less. Probably because spending hours in an airport is inconvenient for travelers. But it all depends on how you look at it - glass half full, folks! If the layover is over 4 hours, our minds immediately go to: what can we do or see in the city, instead of sitting in the terminal. When we see an option for a 5 hour layover vs. a 2 hour layover and the price is tempting, that’s when we start researching activities. We can usually save at least $100 on flights with longer layovers. And check one more place off of our list!
USE A TOUR GUIDE
On a trip to South Africa, we ended up with a 9 hour layover in London. From 10:00am to 6:00pm, right smack in the middle of the day. So we did some research and booked a guided city tour of London. (By the way: We used a company called Top Class Black Cab Tours and highly recommend them).
We arranged for the car to pick us up from the airport and were able to see the highlights of the city in just a few hours. The other perk of a guided city tour was that we could leave our bags in the car while we explored and we always had someone to take our picture!
Typically, we like to fly home from a long trip on Saturday. Prices tend to be slightly cheaper on Saturday (versus Friday or Sunday) and we like to get home and have Sunday to readjust to life post-vacation (unpack, grocery shop, cry while looking at vacation photos, etc.). But if an overnight layover presents itself, we’ll take it!
On a recent trip to Greece, we wanted to get home on Saturday so looked at flying out of Athens that day. Then we saw an option that got us to Madrid, Spain for the night (it was literally a 14 hour layover) and it was sooo much cheaper. We got a hotel for the night in Madrid, had tapas and sangria at a cozy street cafe, and were up for the airport by 7:00am the next morning. It was such a nice way to end the trip!
MAKE THE MOST OUT OF DELAYS
I can speak from a lot of experience when I say: travel plans do not always go how you planned! In fact, in my case, they rarely do. I seem to always be the target for flight delays, cancellations, bad weather, you name it! But I’ve learned to make the most of it.
On a trip to South America, our flight was delayed so much that we missed our connection in Miami. We argued at the terminal for a while and then realized our best option was to rebook for the following morning and go enjoy our evening. So we flagged a taxi and went to dinner in South Beach! It was beautiful and we enjoyed wine on the rooftop while watching the sunset.
It really is about making the most of your time in any place! The airline paid for our hotel that night and we met some fellow travelers in the bar. I think they may have been slightly jealous when they heard how we made the most of the evening!
The next morning, we woke up bright and early to catch our flight and immediately headed out for our first activity upon landing in South America! We barely missed a thing and we weren’t miserable. We had a good night’s sleep in a hotel and hadn’t spent the night in a terminal. I think the key here is: when you are delayed enough that it screws up travel plans, you can ask for things like free hotels and meal vouchers. Especially if you mention an anniversary trip or engagement ;)
GO FOR IT!
The last piece of advice I’ll leave you with for optimizing your travel days (and budget) is to just go for it and say yes! If you can squeeze in one more experience, one more city, one more yummy meal, why not? You won’t miss the extra sleep or time at home. You’ll head into work on Monday with your heart feeling full and you’ll be planning your next layover excursion before you know it!