Last night I landed in Florence. I had four layovers on the way here, which doesn't sound like a positive thing at first, but I booked them intentionally. Very frequently, if I have a long flight, I'll book tons of long layovers and actually leave the airport on each one.
My first layover was in Newark for almost five hours, so I rented a car, drove to see my family in New Jersey for a couple hours, and then headed back to the airport. My next flight brought me to Lisbon for two hours, which was a layover I couldn't avoid, but was too short to enjoy. It was early in the morning when I landed, and it was a short flight to my next destination, Amsterdam, so I got there early as well. I had twenty-two hours in Amsterdam, so I checked into my airport hotel, dropped off my stuff, and headed downtown.
Downtown I had some lunch , visited the Rijksmusem to see the Vermeers (I'm on a pointless quest to see all 34 Vermeers), visited the Van Gogh museum, had dinner, and then walked around the red light district before heading back to the hotel.
The next morning I woke up early again and headed to Zurich, which I was warned was incredibly boring. I managed to take the least direct train downtown, which gave me a mini tour of the outer edges of the city, I walked down the main shopping street, wandered through old Zurich, ate a couple Swiss chocolates, spent a lot of time down by the water watching the swans, took some pictures, and then headed back to the airport to work in the Swiss Air lounge. After eight hours total in Zurich, I headed to Florence.
This amalgamation of flights cost the same as a flight to Florence with the 1-2 unusable stopovers that would have been unavoidable anyway. Instead, I got to spend a couple extra days traveling to see my family as well as two cities/countries I hadn't seen before. I wouldn't want to do this sort of new-country-every-day traveling for long periods of time, but for 2-3 days here and there it can be a lot of fun.
You can also do it on a smaller scale, turning an otherwise unavoidable layover into a longer, better one. When Leo and I flew to China last month we had a nine hour layover in Vancouver, so we rented a car, bought some golf clubs at a used sporting goods store, and then headed to Stanley Park to play pitch and putt.
The best starting point to book a trip like this is to just put in your starting point and destination and see where the natural layovers are. For example, if I want to fly from LA to Barcelona, maybe that flight would connect in London.
Most travel search engines will try to minimize stopover length and duration, so you'll have to scroll down the page a bit sometimes to see the trips that have stopovers. The stopovers will be short, but you'll often see two different options for times. Maybe one has a stopover from 1-3pm in London and another from 8-9pm.
If you find a pair like that, you've probably got a good stopover on your hands. Most airlines will allow stopovers of under 24 hours for free, so now you go to that airline's web site and search do a multi-destination search. In this case you would put in LAX - LHR (London) as leg one, and LHR - BCN as leg two.
You'll probably find a pair of nonstop flights that you can book as a pair to have a nice long layover in London. The price will probably be exactly the same as having a short layover. However, if you look at each of those legs, you'll see that there are some that have layovers, probably shown at the bottom of the page. From there you can repeat, searching for a multi-destination flight that has even more legs. You can repeat as necessary, until you have the amount of long stops you want.
Sometimes, like I had to do this trip, you'll end up having to take legs with stopovers that you can't use, just to get the timing right. Many times 8-11 hour layovers will be overnight, which isn't much fun, so you'll have to take a less direct route just to get the timing right.
This strategy works exceptionally well when booking award flights. Sometimes booking paid flights is a little trickier because the rules of different fares prohibit or limit layovers or connecting cities. It doesn't always work, but when it does it's awesome to have little miniature adventures, visit people you may otherwise not get to see, and get a preview of other countries that you may then become interested in for longer travel.
Photo is a swan on the lake in Zurich. These guys were awesome and not scared of me at all. Cruise starts tomorrow, so I'm going to write a couple posts on cruises.
This only applies to Iceland but if you book a flight through Iceland Air with a stopover in Iceland they will let you extend your stopover for up to seven nights for free. Even if you're only stopping over for a half day you can still go relax in the Blue Lagoon! Iceland is awesome and if you've never been I highly recommend traveling there whether as a stopover or your final destination.
I'm on a pointless quest to see all 34 Vermeers
hilariously awesome. TIL about Vermeer!
Qantas allows free multi-day stopovers in their major hubs in Australia as well, so for instance if you go from LA to New Zealand, you could stopover in Sydney (for up to a week, I think) on the way back, similar to Icelandair.
Amazing! I've fallen into this kind of thing by pure chance a couple times, but I've always wondered how people do it intentionally.
Did you once say something about also calling the airlines to ask for longer free extensions?
This is a great travel/adventure tip! You can do the same thing with train trips - it doesn't cost any more to stopover at a town (or even a different country) on the way when taking a train journey in Europe. You may need to make separate reservations for each segment to get a seat, especially on those long distance high speed trains.
Swans are not scared of anything :D
I also found Zurich a bit 'Industrial' but would go back in a heartbeat. Loved Lucern a LOT.
Standby flying has always been a bit of a mystery to me, as I've heard stories of people flying standby to foreign countries for half the cost of a reserved ticket, but never seen a way to do it. Even after interviewing a few ticket agents, it seems impossible to do this these days, but I do have a standby trick you can use to make flying cheaper and more flexible.
Vegas is a lot of fun for a few days, and grows tiresome beyond that. When I played low limit poker I could easily play for a dozen hours a day for a solid week, but as I've crept up the ladder, I find the game more intense and draining. After six days in Vegas, Christophe and I were ready to take our winnings and stop playing. The only problem is that we had a 10pm flight, and we'd had our fill of food and poker by 1pm. For us, there's not much to do in Vegas besides eat and gamble.
Most people don't know that a guaranteed ticket for a day also allows you, at the airline's discretion, to take any other flight they have that day to the same destination. If we had paid for a 6am flight and skipped it, we could have tried to get on later flights for free, but having the last flight of the day made it easy for us to try for earlier flights. We just showed up, got on the standby list, and took the 6:10pm flight in time to eat at Gracias Madre in SF for dinner.
To a lot of people, Aberdeen has always been associated with oil and ice cold temperatures. When I was growing up in southern Nigeria in the early 1990s, Aberdeen came up in conversations between my dad and his friends. At the time, I had never thought of Aberdeen as a holiday destination, but rather, a place where older people worked on oil fields with a lot of equipment, walkie-talkies and hard hats.
I once remember pulling an old suitcase and laptop bag out somewhere between work and my university for a flight from London to Aberdeen. Once I arrived at the airport in Aberdeen, roughly seven miles from the city, I jumped into a taxi and headed straight to to Union street.
Along the ride, two things began to make me wonder:
1) Scottish people [or scots as they're called] were really friendly
2) all of the buildings were grey.