Layovers are so much more than just crossing another city off your list...
Seeing two cities for the price of one? That's the beauty of a flight layover and it's a key strategy in how we see the world for less. In a recent post, we shared our best logistical tips and tricks for making the most of your layover time - and hopefully inspired some of you to embrace a layover on your next trip. But the 'two in one' concept is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why we're in love with layovers. If you're still a bit hesitant about embracing them, if you're still not sure that it's worth the planning and preparation, I hope we can convince you otherwise!
It's a great introduction to a region.
It can be a bit daunting to commit thousands of dollars and precious weeks of vacation time to a new region when you're not entirely sure if the area's culture and cuisine are the best fit for your interests. Everyone has places they love more than others and there's nothing wrong wanting to get a sneak peak of an area before you commit further.
One of the reasons we were so excited to visit Stockholm on a layover is that we were always interested in visiting Scandinavia but we were a bit hesitant because of the high price point. But 20 or so hours in Stockholm convinced us that it is possible to enjoy the region at a lower price point. It might not be easy, but it IS possible!
It can stop a bad first impression in its tracks.
Sometimes a gal and a city start off on the wrong foot and that was the case for me and Istanbul. I try to be pretty upbeat on the blog and I tried to find a silver lining to write about. The truth is that I basically HATED my first visit to Istanbul. There were a few concrete bad experiences (like a substandard tour) but it was more than that. I just couldn't see what everyone else was so enamored with.
When we boarded our plane to Bangkok after that less-than-impressive day, I breathed a sigh of relief. That day just wasn't a great travel day. Hey, it happens. But you'd be wrong to think that a bad first impression had deterred future visits.
Instead, I was glad that an end had come to a disagreeable first day, as a longer visit would have aggravated me even more. I needed time to process my experience and adjust my expectations. And instead of being turned off, I was motivated to return to discover a different side of the city. And a year and a half later, I did!
You'd be surprised by how much you can see.
It might take a bit of planning but you can actually see quite a bit during a layover. Sometimes planning this kind of trip feels a bit like organizing a jigsaw puzzle. You know the picture will be beautiful in the end - you just need to figure out how to fit all the pieces together.
We try to visit popular sites at a time when there's an extra incentive to do so - such as coordinating a visit to the Louvre to correspond with a guided tour of its main exhibits. Having a guide means there's a pro leading us through the crowds (itself a major time savor) and it allows us to see the highlights in an efficient manner, leaving us extra time to revisit favourite pieces or discover more on our own.
When you hope to see a lot in a short amount of time, it's critical that you embrace convenience over cost. I'm not talking about spending a fortune - I'm talking about buying your museum passes online and paying a pesky 'service fee" so you can save an hour waiting in line. Or asking your hotel if you can advance purchase a packed lunch to eat on the go. Or paying to ride the elevator or funicular instead of taking the stairs (like you can at the Eiffel Tower). As a value loving traveler, I usually reject these fees and embrace the extra walking but a layover is one occasion when a little extra spending can go a long way.
You see things other travelers might miss.
There aren't that many museums in Amsterdam that are open at 9:00 am, especially on a Sunday, but the National Maritime Museum is one of them. It might not be everyone's first choice of museum and many short term visitors take a pass in favor of more popular attractions. But if you're visiting Amsterdam on a layover and you have to catch a morning train back to the airport, it might just be the perfect choice for you.
Speaking of Amsterdam's popular attractions, a lot of visitors don't know that the Anne Frank House is open to 9:00 pm in the high season (and 10:00 pm on Saturdays). This is a triple treat for anyone visiting on a layover. You have the chance to visit a special site when most other attractions are closed. You can do so without the epic lines you'll see mid-day. And by choosing to visit at night, you free up some time during the day to fit in another attraction.
Slow travel on a short layover? It's awesome!
If you think you'd hate layovers because you prefer a slow travel style, I promise you that you can embrace slow travel principles on these short visits. We've spent hours meandering around Singapore's Botanical Garden and even more walking around Stockholm's historic GamlaStan island to take photos. In San Francisco, we did just one thing - a tour of Alcatraz Island - and enjoyed some time to rest. Yes, you CAN fit in a lot of things into a layover, but that doesn't mean you have to. See the world at your pace.
And layovers even slay jet lag!
Remember when I turned down the chance for an overnight layover in Belgrade? In that particular case, the layover would make little sense - I'd just be seeing the inside of a hotel room, not the city. But there are times when this kind of layover can pay huge dividends in terms of slaying jet lag.
We recently had an overnight layover in Calgary while on route to Hawaii. We literally just went from the airport to the hotel for 8 hours, before returning back to the airport. We saw nothing of Calgary - not the downtown skyline, not a pizza delivery guy, nothing. And that was okay.
The layover let us break up a very, very long journey into two manageable chunks. We had a solid night's sleep and had a bit of an advanced start when it came to adjusting to the huge time change. It was a much happier and healthier experience to have two 7 hour travel days with a 10 hour break in the middle instead of the alternative - one 20 hour travel day.
We've got big love for these tiny trips
Don't get me wrong - we love long, leisurely trips but there's just something about the short and sweet layover that always wins us over. And I think it will win you over too!
Have you ever had a flight layover? What did you enjoy about it?
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