It's not a hoax or a hack. It's a helpful hint that will change all my future travel plans.
I've said it a hundred times: The great thing about travel is how you're always learning. But today I'm not talking about learning history or geography or languages. Nope, I've been schooled in a whole new way and it changes EVERYTHING!
It all started with my friend Andrea, who blogs at WanderingiPhone. She's an all round lovely gal who appreciates a savvy bargain as much as the next person. Andrea was telling me about an amazing trip she took to South Africa, "hacking" her points to get free layovers and stopovers in Ethiopia, Israel, and Poland along the way (much like we did in 2013 - seriously, we flew around the world for $350.)
And then Andrea told me that Ethiopian Airlines gave her a free night's accommodation at a Hilton in Addis Ababa, plus meal vouchers and ground transportation. Uh, WHAT?!?!
Two trips for the price of one? It's not a scam! It's a layover and it's how we see the world.
Istanbul, New York, Singapore, San Francisco, Stockholm. We've seen all these cities (and more!) for free, thanks to flight layovers. Layovers happen when a plane touches down for less than 24 hours in one city while on route to another and embracing them has become a key part of our value travel philosophy.
Layovers allow us to explore new cities without spending any extra money to get there. In fact, sometimes we even save money! Most travelers avoid long layovers and indirect routes like the plague and thus these undesirable flights are often less expensive. Seeing more and playing less? We'll chose that option every time!
If you're ready to fall in love with layovers like we have, here are some practical considerations for getting the most from the experience.
Kangaroos and Koalas? What Could Be Better?
You don't have to be an outdoorsy person to fall in love with baby rescued animals! Even the most nature averse person can't help but melt when confronted with a small and cuddly critter! Our recent visit to Australia provided us with the chance to meet some of the most unusual animals we'd ever seen and we were grateful for the opportunity to see a different side of the country after spending so much time in Sydney.
Snorkeling and Exploring with EcoTreasures
If you're looking for an amazing day trip from Sydney, you couldn't ask for a more beautiful destination than Manly Beach. We're talking gorgeous blue waters, endless white beaches, and amazing views - plus a great food scene! But I must confess, my first glimpse of Manly Beach was not an encouraging sight.
On the day of my visit, the high winds and rough waters were pretty intimidating. I bet they were heaven for the crowd of seasoned surfers but as someone who was there for a snorkeling experience, I have to say I was feeling pretty nervous. I was concerned about getting in over my head (literally and otherwise) but I put on a brave face and continued on down the path. For I wasn't in the Manly area for an ordinary visit. I was scheduled to meet up with Damien from EcoTreasures for a guided nature walk and snorkel session at nearby Shelly Beach.
Sometimes a Chain Hotel is the Best Idea.
Singapore is home to some of the most gorgeous and unique hotel properties in the world. They offer stunning views, amazing roof top cocktail bars, and the chicest of design. So why on earth did we opt for the Holiday Inn Express on Orchard Road?
In short? We didn't think we'd be in any hotel long enough to appreciate any special features. Arriving late at night from Bangkok, we'd literally be in the room just long enough to sleep before heading out to explore early the next morning. We needed something that was centrally located, close to public transit, clean, safe, convenient, and EASY. It didn't exactly scream hip Singapore style, but it included free Wi-Fi, free breakfast, and rang in at around $150 - not our greatest deal ever, but still a respectable bargain for the city.