The Stopover Secret: How to Get More From Any Trip

By Adam Seper on November 2nd, 2016

Are you planning a trip and want to make the most of your flight and travel budget by adding a stopover?

Did you know that you can often add a popular city into your flight itinerary, whether it’s a round trip flight or a long-term, round the world trip, for very little additional money (sometimes none at all, and sometimes even less)?

What do you know about stopovers?

Many travelers don’t know much about stopovers.  When flying internationally (and often regionally), most airlines have to stop somewhere en route to the final destination.  This could mean a layover of an hour or so, but in some cases it could reach half a day, or maybe even overnight.  Most travelers just accept this and stay in the airport or get a room at an airport hotel before flying on to their final destination.

But what if you’re traveling through a city that you’d love to explore?  What if you’re passing over a place you’ve always wanted to visit?  Did you know that with many itineraries, you can stopover in certain cities for a few days with little change to your budget (you can sometimes even add an extra flight for less!)? The money you save by choosing smart stopovers may let you upgrade a long-haul flight to business class for a little more comfort!

Want to check out Dubai but don’t have the funds to spend more than a few days there?  How about a few days in Hawaii en route to Asia?  Want to see the Great Wall but don’t think fitting China into the itinerary makes financial sense?  Want to see what London has to offer but don’t have the budget for more than a day or two? Looking into your stopover options gives you the opportunity to see more for less.

Want to add a Stopover to your trip?

The 3 Main Ways to Add a Stopover

1. Go directly through the airlines

Many airlines offer stopovers for free or a nominal fee, it just might take a bit of digging to find out how to do it.  You can find some information on airline websites, but often a call is necessary.  While travel agents aren’t all the rage anymore, this is a time when one can come in handy.  Travel agents know the ins and outs of the airline industry and will be able to tell you if stopping over in a certain destination is feasible. Keep in mind that national airlines are most likely the ones who allow stopovers in their home country.  For example, Emirates Airlines cover UAE, British Airways cover London, Singapore Air covers Singapore.

2. Search multi-stop flights on your own

If you’re having trouble finding an airline that will stop over in a particular city or country, you can often find a multi-city flight on a site like BootsnAll’s Indie for the same price, or sometimes cheaper, than a one way or round trip flight.  If you’re planning a long-term trip and going to purchase a multi-stop flight, then it pays to try finding a way to get a free or cheap stopover into your itinerary.

Flight prices are chang constantly, and you never know when you can find that one crazy deal, so be diligent in checking all your options.  If you can’t find a good RT or multi-city flight, try piecing together a series of one way flights.

3. Use a travel agency

If you want some expert help in adding a stopover to your longer trip, head to your local travel agent for help or get in touch via phone, chat or email with a rep at Indie or AirTreks

How to find cheap stopover flights

There are a few ways to find free or cheap stopovers when planning your trip. Our multi-flight booking tool, Indie, is adept at quickly finding stopovers, and below we’ll dig into how to use Indie to maximize your airfare. If you’re not much on DIY for complex airfare, the experts over at AirTreks are always willing to find logical stopovers within your multi-stop trip and can show you what your options are.

Choosing smart stopovers
Many times a stopover is just an extended layover. Chances are when you’ve been searching for flights on your favorite booking site, you’ve seen that most long, international flights with a particular airline have a layover in a certain city. This is a good chance to make that couple-hour layover into a couple-day stopover.

If you see that a flight to Berlin stops in Amsterdam for a layover, search that same flight but add an extra stop in Amsterdam. Many times the price is just a little more expensive, the same, and sometimes even cheaper! Generally speaking it’s easiest to book stopovers with the airline themselves, Indie, AirTreks or a travel agent. It’s absolutely possible on big booking sites, but they don’t make it easy.

Keep reading below the break for information on how to book a stopover in some of our favorite cities and what to do while you’re there.


Dubai, United Arab Emirates

A metropolis built from the desert up in just a few decades, Dubai’s a place that many travelers would love to see.  But the expense of traveling to this out of the way destinaion means many travelers dismiss it.  But what if it was just a stop along the way?

Using the airlines to visit Dubai on a stopover:

If you book your flights with Emirates Airlines from most places in Europe to Asia or Australia (or from the US to elsewhere in the Middle East or North Africa), you’ll probably have a layover in Dubai.  Emirates offers stopover packages and encourages its customers to stop in for a night or two and see the city. But to book a stopover through Emirates, you have to visit a local Emirates office or go through a travel agent.

Some other options for visiting Dubai on a stopover

This trip from Sao Paulo to Madrid, to Dubai, to Mahe, to New Delhi to Kathmandu to Bangkok to Bali and back to Sao Paulo again cost $3493USD as of October 28th, 2016. The same exact itinerary without Dubai actually costs slightly more, $3551, on the same date. Sometimes it’s a matter of just playing around and trying different route and city combinations. Remember that dates and days of the week (Tuesdays – Thursdays are typically cheaper) can change a price as well.

AirTreks has been helping folks plan long-term trips for over 25 years now, and if you’re planning a big trip, it may pay to get in touch with one of their travel experts to chat about your options. Their TripPlanner is a great tool to get started even without firm dates. Try out different route options and get price range estimates to get a feel for what your trip may cost.

Things to do and see in Dubai on a short stopover:
You won’t be bored on a stopover to Dubai as there are plenty of things to see and do.  Fancy skiing or snowboarding in the middle of the desert?  You can do that in Dubai.  If shopping is your thing, there isn’t a better shopping mecca any where else around the world.  Want to see the world’s tallest building which also houses the world’s only (self-proclaimed) 7-star hotel?  Dubai has it.  Desert safaris, beach fun, and just observing the lavish lifestyle of some the wealthiest people in the world are all on offer in Dubai.

Thinking about a gap year?


Reykjavik Iceland makes a great stopover en route to Europe

A stunningly beautiful and unique country that offers an incredible array of landscapes, Iceland isn’t always on the tourist radar, especially for those traveling on a budget.

Using the airlines to visit Iceland on a stopover:

Iceland Air makes it easy for tourists to check out this beautiful country, if only for a few days.  Book your flights with them and you can get a free stopover in Iceland to explore. They offer services to Iceland from Boston, New York, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis/St. Paul, DC, Orlando, Halifax, and Toronto. You can book an Iceland stopover online at Iceland Air.

Other options for visiting Iceland on a stopover

If you’re planning a multi-stop or RTW trip, Iceland makes a great stopover en route to Europe. From Reykjavik, you can go to Europe and Asia then back to the US again.

Things to do and see in Iceland on a short stopover:
If you’re into the outdoors, Iceland delivers.  Vatnajökull National Park is the largest national park in Europe, where you can see mountains, volcanoes, glaciers, and waterfalls.  Want a more relaxing stopover? There’s always the Blue Lagoon – a geothermal spa in the middle of a lava field, certainly one of the more unique spa locations in the world.


The Merlion Fountain in Singapore, Singapore

Travelers to Southeast Asia are used to great travel deals and rock-bottom prices.  But Singapore is an exception to the rule when it comes to Southeast Asia.  While thrifty travelers can still get by on less here than in places like London and New York, it’s much more expensive than traveling in neighboring countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia.  But it’s worth it.

Using the airines to visit Singapore on a stopover:

There are many ways to stop over in Singapore, whether you’re heading to Europe from Australia, vice versa, or from the US to various places throughout Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.  Singapore Air offers holiday stopover packages in Singapore for accommodations, return airport transfers, and free admission to major attractions.

If you go to the flight booking page and search a multi-city flight, simply add Singapore in the itinerary either going to or coming home from your destination. We found flights from Sydney to London, with a stopover in Singapore on the way there, for $1375. We also searched a round trip flight from Sydney to London, and the cost was only about $45 cheaper, at $1330.

The real savings come from the hotel, transfer, and site-seeing deals Singapore Air offers once you get to the shopping cart page of your booking confirmation. Add one of their Singapore Stopover Holiday for as little as $65.

Other options for visiting Singapore on a stopover

Using Indie, we were able to find a round trip flight from Sydney to London, with a stopover in Singapore, for about $2 cheaper than what was offered on Singapore Air – $1373. Of course that means missing out on the hotel, airport transfers, and siteseeing discounts from Singapore Air for the price of a coffee.

A multi-stop itinerary round trip from Tuscon, including Auckland, Sydney, Singapore, Male, Paris and Toronto costs $3461 at the time of writing. And if you search the exact same trip, but take Singapore out, the cost actually increases by almost $100, to $3549.

For really complex trips, you may want to get in touch with AirTreks. All of their consultants have traveled extensively and they can make planning an epic, 10-leg trip around the world easier and help you fit in as many stopovers as you like.

Things to do and see in Singapore on a short stopover:
Beaches, culture, food, and shopping dominate a Singapore itinerary.  The blend of Chinese, Indian, Malay, and Arab cultures combine to create an interesting and unique country.  If food is important to your travel experience, you’ll have no problems finding top notch cuisine in Singapore.  Dining in fine restaurants is possible, but if you’re looking to eat amazing food at super low prices, hit up the street carts that litter the city.  If you’re traveling with kids, the zoo and bird park would be great options, and it’s a shopper’s paradise, particularly if you’re looking for electronics.

>> Check out these indie travel tips for Singapore.


Tokyo, Japan, home to Shibuya Crossing, one of the world's busiest crosswalks

Tokyo never makes the list for budget friendly destinations, but it’s a fantastic stopover destination.  This futuristic city should be seen by any travel lover, and it’s the perfect place to spend a few days en route to another destination.

Options for visiting Tokyo on a stopover

We did have trouble finding an airline that offered free or inexpensive stopovers in Tokyo, but it’s still possible to book a multi-city flight that stops in Tokyo for a few days for a slightly higher price than a round trip flight.

With Indie, we found a 10-leg trip, including a stopover in Tokyo from Honolulu to Kuala Lumpur, for $4003, which was only about $50 more than the same exact trip without Tokyo.

It can also pay to go directly to the experts at AirTreks if you want good stopover options – they’ll help you make the most of your trip.

Things to do and see in Tokyo on a short stopover:
The most populated metro area in the world, is a great place to eat and sightsee. Fresh sushi and fish are available everywhere.  Ornate temples, the Imperial Palace’s gardens, the Tokyo Tower, and the Meiji Shrine are great places to visit for those in town on a short stopover.  If you want to get some shots of the impressive skyline, there are lots of options, but viewing from the World Trade Center building is perhaps the best.  Even if you’re only in town for a day or less, it’s possible to take a cheap bus tour from the airport. If you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city, you don’t have to go far to find mountains to the west and islands to the south.

>> Check out some tips for saving money on your trip to Japan


Big Ben and Parliament in London

It doesn’t take any prodding to convince someone to want to visit London.  It’s truly one of the world’s great cities, and there’s no shortage of historic sites to see and things to do.  But for pretty much all travelers hailing from outside the UK, visiting London is brutal on the wallet. Brexit has changed this somewhat, but London’s not going to figure on any lists of the world’s cheapest destinations any time soon.

Using the airlines to visit London on a stopover:

To plan a stopover on British airways in London, you can use their multi-city booking option.

Other options for visiting London on a stopover:

There are several ways to add London to your itinerary for a marginal cost.

AirTreks has RTW routes with stopovers in famous cities like London and Tokyo starting at under $2000.

We also found a multi-stop fare on Indie, New York to London to Barcelona to New York, for $706.  A round trip fare on Indie from New York to Barcelona was $626 

The same rout on Kayak was about $100 less, at $530 with London vs. $430 without including London.

So generally speaking for about $75-100 more, you can add London into your itinerary. So the question you have to ask yourself in this specific scenario is whether or not it’s worth the cash

So for less than $100, you can add London into your itinerary. Sometimes you can even save money. This 10-leg multi-city trip spanning South America, Australia, Asia and Europe was $4424 as of October 28, 2016. Taking a longer London stop out of the itinerary on this multi-stop trip increased the cost by $200, to $4444 and ironically enough includes an overnight in London between flights.  So the question you have to ask yourself in this specific scenario is whether or not it’s worth the cash and the time to stop in London (it’s hard to say no to London).

There are oddities that may allow you to add certain cities into your itinerary and SAVE money – sometimes lots of money. It pays to play around with your itinerary online with Kayak, Indie or AirTreks TripPlanner and see if you can uncover a good deal.

Things to do and see in London on a short stopover:
Rolf Potts managed to cram in 19 London clichés in an afternoon, and while I don’t recommend seeing the city in the same frantic manner, using his experiences as a guideline would be a great idea.  The usual tourist sites of Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, London Bridge, Big Ben, and the London Eye are easy to get to from the airport.  On a budget? Check out museum options as many offer free admission.  You can also see a Shakespearian play at the Globe Theater or a Premier League soccer (football) match.


A stopover in Istanbul: your chance to see the Grand Bazaar

While cheap, Istanbul is still considerably more expensive than destinations in SE Asia, South America, Africa, and other parts of the Middle East, but if you’re having trouble fitting it into your itinerary and budget, a stopover’s a good option for spending a few days there while passing through to another destination.

Using the airlines for visiting Istanbul on a stopover:
If you can find a cheap way to add Istanbul into your flight plans, Turkish Airlines offer several free tours of Istanbul, even if you only have an afternoon or day to stop over.  Best of all is that these tours are absolutely free!  Turkish Airlines offers flights through Istanbul from the US to Africa; Europe to Africa, Asia, or Australia; and Australia to Europe, amongst others, but unfortunately they don’t have any advertised flight deals to add Istanbul.

Other options for visiting Istanbul on a stopover:

The this trip including stops in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Central America cost $2799 at the time of writing. Taking Istanbul out from this RTW Trip actually increased the price by $105, to $2904.

Things to do and see in Istanbul on a short stopover:
If organized tours aren’t your thing and you’d rather take a few days to explore on your own, there’s plenty to see in Istanbul.  It’s a massive city rich with history, split into three distinct areas.  Most of the sites tourists come to see are located in the old city.  Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque are two of the most popular and historically significant sites that are must-sees in Istanbul.  If you’re a market-lover, then be sure to explore the vast bazaars located all around the old city.  A visit to a hamam, or Turkish bath, would make a great send off to get you ready to explore your next destination.

>> Find budget accommodation in Istanbul 

Choosing airfare and hammering out your itinerary can be a massive headache at times, especially if this is your first extended adventure.  But options abound, and as long as you’re willing to do your homework, you can add in some amazing places for little or no extra cost, sometimes for less than a more direct route.

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Have you ever used stopovers?  Where’d you go?  What’d you do?  We’d love to hear from you.

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