The Stopover Secret: How to Get More From Any Trip

By Adam Seper on June 1st, 2017
BootsnAll

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 – more on that later!)? 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 Fiji or Tahiti en route to New Zealand or Australia?  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 in their home country for free or a nominal fee, but it might take a bit of digging to find out how to do it as only a few airlines advertise this. You can find some information on airline websites, but often a call is necessary.  Keep in mind that national airlines are most likely the ones who allow stopovers in their home country.  For example, Emirates Airlines offers stopovers in Dubai, Fiji Airlines in Nadi, Singapore Air in Singapore, Iceland Air in Reykjavik.

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 change 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 round trip or multi-city flight, try piecing together a series of one way flights.

3. Use a travel agency

While it’s often tempting to try to figure all this out on your own, this is a time when using a travel agency or company who specializes in complex, multi-stop airfare 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. 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 AirTreks

How to find cheap stopover flights

There are a few ways to find free or cheap stopovers when planning your trip. Our online 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. It’s vital to know what’s called airline geography to be able to use an online tool and figure this puzzle out on your own.

If you’re not much on DIY for complex airfare, then this is when it pays to use a company who sells these types of tickets. The experts over at AirTreks are always trying to maximize your trip for you, and part of that is helping you find logical stopovers within your multi-stop trip. They know all types of different tricks to maximize your route, which is a huge benefit to going with a company who specializes in these types of trips.

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 have a layover somewhere en route to your final destination. This is a good chance to make that couple-hour layover into a couple-day stopover.

If you see that a flight to London or Amsterdam stops in Reykjavik, Iceland on the way, be aware that Iceland Air offers you the opportunity to extend that couple hour layover into a couple day stopover, sometimes for absolutely nothing, somethings for a very nominal fee (check all date possibilities as this has the most impact on cost). Some airlines offer and advertise stopovers (like Iceland Air), so you can book stopovers with those airline themselves. Or you can talk to an agent at AirTreks (or your favorite company who specializes in multi-stop airfare) or do it yourself on Indie.

It’s absolutely possible on big booking sites, but you’re going to have to play around to find the right airline/flight combinations (and know about that airline geography mentioned above).

An insider tip to get the most bang for your buck is to book a stopover in a nontraditional way by booking two separate flights on two separate tickets on two different airlines. Flying in and out of hub cities in a region is typically the most affordable way to fly around the world, and oftentimes you can use budget airlines or find special deals to use these hub cities as stopovers to get from Point A to Point B.

For example, let’s say you’re going from Sydney to South Africa or India or Europe or the Middle East. Singapore is a big hub city that is between those regions, and you can use that as your stopover between the two regions. Scoot Airlines is a budget airline based out of Singapore. They have very inexpensive flights from Sydney to Singapore. Then you can then find a separate flight from Singapore to your final destination (we’ll provide a real example in the Singapore section below).

Much of the strategy when trying to find stopovers that make sense is 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 as traveling in high season or around holidays.

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, and once you’re closer to finalizing your route, get in touch and talk with a travel planner. They can help maximize your route and find stopovers that may work for your proposed itinerary.

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

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 Emirates 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 those packages are hotel and tour packages. To book your airfare through Emirates, you can do it on their website, but you have to book a muli-stop flight, and you’re going to have to play around with dates to find it for little extra costs. You can also visit a local Emirates office.

Using Indie to visit Dubai on a stopover

For all of these examples, we’re going to show you how to use Indie to add an extra destination for a small addition to your budget. And oftentimes you can add a city to your itinerary and LESSEN the price!

Check out this trip:

Sao Paulo > Madrid > Dubai > Mahe > Delhi > Kathmandu > Bangkok > Bali > Sao Paulo

DXB_Stopover

The lowest price for this route was USD$3589 as of May 4, 2017.

Check out the same exact itinerary with the same dates, only without Dubai 

No_DXB


The lowest cost option for the route without Dubai was actually moreUSD$3620.

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 anywhere 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?

Iceland

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 Iceland Air 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 Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis/St. Paul, DC, Orlando, Tampa Bay, Anchorage, Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton, Halifax, and Toronto. You can book an Iceland stopover online at Iceland Air.

Using Indie to visit Iceland on a stopover

Check out this trip:

Vancouver > Reykjavik > Amsterdam > Moscow > Beijing > Tokyo > Vancouver

REK_Stopover

The lowest price for this route was USD$1754 as of May 4, 2017.

Check out the same exact itinerary with the same dates, only without Reykjavik 


No_REK

The lowest cost option for the route without Reykjavik was only $74 less – USD$1680.

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.

Singapore

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 Singapore Air 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 round trip flights from Sydney to London, with a stopover in Singapore on the way there, for $1241.64. We also searched a round trip flight from Sydney to London without the stop in Singapore, and the cost was only $19 less, at $1222.08.

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.

Using Indie for visiting Singapore on a stopover

Check out this trip:
Los Angeles > Auckland > Sydney > Singapore > Johannesburg > Paris > Los Angeles

SIN_Stopover

The lowest price for this route was USD$2875 as of May 4, 2017.

Check out the same exact itinerary with the same dates, only without Singapore 

No_SIN


The lowest cost option for the route without Singapore was actually slightly moreUSD$2900. But if you look at the screenshot above, you’ll notice that Indie still takes you through Singapore on separate flights to get you from Sydney to Johannesburg. So this is a case where it pays to be tedious in your research and add a few days in Singapore to get a stop that only costs you $25 extra.

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

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.

Using Indie for visiting Tokyo on a stopover


There are no airlines that offer a free or cheap stopover in Tokyo, but if you know what city combinations to look for, you can find a stopover in Tokyo for very little additional money.

Check out this trip:

San Francisco > Honolulu > Kuala Lumpur > Bombay > Istanbul > London > San Francisco

TYO_Stopover

The lowest price for this route was USD$2255 as of May 4, 2017.

Check out the same exact itinerary with the same dates, only without Tokyo 

No_TYO


The lowest cost option for the route without Tokyo was only slightly lessUSD$2184. So you could add a stop in Tokyo for about $70 more.

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 sight-see. 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

London

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 Indie to visit London on a stopover:


British Airways doesn’t offer stopovers in London, but you can use Indie or a site like Kayak or SkyScanner to add London to your multi-stop itinerary for little to no extra money. London is one of those hub cities that can sometimes even make your itinerary less expensive if you are already heading to Europe for part of your trip, particularly if your main European destinations are smaller, more obscure cities, or cities in Central/Eastern Europe that are typically more expensive to get to and from.

Check out this trip:

Chicago > London > Bucharest > Cairo > Dar es Salaam > Johannesburg > Sao Paulo > Chicago

LON_Stopover_2

The lowest price for this route was USD$2464 as of May 4, 2017.

Check out the same exact itinerary with the same dates, only without London 

No_LON_2


The lowest cost option for the route without London was $8 more – USD$2472.

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.

Istanbul

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 Turkish Air for visiting Istanbul on a stopover:


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. Turkish Air doesn’t have any advertised flight deals to add Istanbul as a free or cheap stopover, but if you are choosing the DIY model of airfare for your trip and find that Turkish Air is your best option to get from point A to point B, then play around with dates to see if you can extend the layover into a longer stopover for little extra cost. In most cases, you can.

Using Indie to visit Istanbul on a stopover:

Check out this trip:

Miami > Lisbon > Istanbul > Addis Ababab > Colombo > Bali > Miami

IST_Stopover

The lowest price for this route was USD$2917 as of May 4, 2017.

Check out the same exact itinerary with the same dates, only without Istanbul 

No_IST


The lowest cost option for the route without London was $163 more – USD$3080.

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.

Additional Stopover Ideas

There are other popular destinations that you can add to your itinerary as stopovers for little to no extra cost. The key is becoming knowledgeable in airline geography, and either becoming aware of certain cities that are cheap places to stop between point A or point B, or knowing with cities in each region are the least expensive to fly in and out of:

  • Add Nadi, Fiji between LA/San Francisco and New Zealand or Australia
  • Add Papeete, Tahiti between LA/San Francisco and New Zealand or between Santiago/Easter Island and Auckland
  • Add Madrid between Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, or Bogota and your next European destination
  • Add Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, or Singapore between Australia and Europe/Africa

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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Photo credits: Steven UrquhartshutterlkAdellyneVincent St. ThomasSean PavoneS.BorisovCurioso.