The next time you book an overseas trip, add a stopover to visit an extra destination for free or a typically low cost. Unlike layovers, which leave you stranded at an airport for several hours, stopovers allow you to take an extended break — usually one or two nights, but sometimes closer to a week — in a location between your beginning and final destination. You’ll need to cover hotel, transportation and recreational fees, but the flight itself often won’t cost extra.
Stopovers are offered by many airlines, but it may take a little work to book them at the lowest possible price. Christine Sarkis, senior editor at SmarterTravel.com, says that some airlines quote higher prices despite advertising their stopovers as free. If this happens to you, she suggests calling the airline directly. “You might have to push a little harder to get that free stopover,” she says. Another strategy is trying different flight and date combinations on airlines’ multi-city tools and being flexible with your travel destinations.
Here are our tips for securing free or low-cost stopovers all over the world.
Icelandair offers one of the most well-known free stopovers. Travelers journeying between the U.S. or Canada and Europe can spend up to seven nights in Reykjavik on either their inward or outward journey. If you decide to take a stopover between September 2016 and spring 2017, be sure to take advantage of Icelandair’s stopover buddy program. Tourists can submit requests to participate in the program, and if successful, they are matched with an Icelandair employee for a day of exploring the island. You can request buddies in several categories, including an adventure buddy to take you skiing, a lifestyle buddy to accompany you as you explore volcanoes, and a food buddy to help you indulge in Iceland’s unique cuisine. You’ll cover the costs of the activity, but it’s free to book a buddy.
You can request buddies in several categories, including an adventure buddy to take you skiing, a lifestyle buddy to accompany you as you explore volcanoes, and a food buddy to help you indulge in Iceland’s unique cuisine.
Hawaiian Airlines, which connects North America to Asia and the South Pacific, offers free Honolulu stopovers for those traveling to or from any of the airline’s 11 international destinations. You can take a stopover on both your inbound and outbound journey (that’s two free stopovers for the price of one round-trip), and there’s no limit on the number of days allowed in Honolulu. Make sure you give yourself enough time to experience Hawaii’s famed capital, from hiking the volcanic crater Diamond Head to participating in a traditional luau.
Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t explicitly advertise its free stopovers, but try booking online before contacting the airline directly. I inputted a September test flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, and with a three-day stopover in Honolulu, the price rose by $13. Since your stopover is guaranteed as free, call the airline if you receive a similar quote. The price difference you see may be from miscellaneous fees, but you can always ask for a price match.
If you find yourself on a FinnAir flight between North America and Europe or Asia, consider a stopover in Helsinki. Stopovers are free for most ticket types, but pricing depends on the route and booking class. When I tested a September economy class ticket from New York to Paris, a two-day stopover in Helsinki raised the ticket price from $974 to $1,023 (a difference of $49). A September trip from Washington, D.C. to Amsterdam cost $1,025 with a stopover versus $1,008 without (a difference of $17). Keep trying combinations on FinnAir’s multi-city stopover tool, and contact the airline directly to see what deals they can offer you.
Another option for your Helsinki trip is to purchase a stopover package. Offered as part of the StopOver Finland project, these packages range from a five-hour tour of Helsinki (starting at $84) to a five-day trip including visits to both Helsinki and the northern Lapland, where you can stay in a log cabin, hike, and enjoy the wilderness in summer’s 24-hour sunlight (starting at $1,523).
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Emirates Airlines, which flies to over 150 destinations worldwide, allows travelers to take stopovers in Dubai. The city features tourist sights like the Palm Islands, the world’s largest mall and championship golf courses. Stopovers are not free, but you can purchase trip packages starting at $48 per night. These packages typically include transfers to and from your hotel, a stay at one of over 90 accommodation choices, and competitive prices on activities such as scuba diving and a dinner safari in the desert. Note that all visitors to the UAE must have entry visas. You can purchase a 96-hour visa for $62 per person. You won’t be able to book your Dubai stopover online; instead, you’ll need to call a travel agent or local Emirates office.
Singapore Airlines, which flies to destinations including Melbourne, London, New York and Amsterdam, offers stopover packages in its hub city. A basic package starts at $48 per night and includes a one-night hotel stay plus airport-hotel transfers. Singapore Stopover Holiday packages start at $57 and include a one-night hotel stay, airport-hotel transfers, complimentary bus rides and 50 percent off the à la carte menu at your hotel. You will also receive admission to over 15 tourist attractions, including the National Gallery, Singapore River Cruise and Journey Walking Tours. The most exclusive stopover deal, the Singapore Stopover Premium package, starts at $238 and includes, amongst other offers, a one-night stay at a four or five-star hotel, plus private car transfers.
Turkish Airlines, which flies to over 200 destinations worldwide, doesn’t officially offer a stopover, but you can use the airline’s multi-city flight tool to create your own deal. For example, I searched for an early September flight from Washington, D.C. to Beijing. With a one-day stopover in Istanbul, the trip cost $819 versus $796 (a difference of $23). If your stopover happens to be less than 24 hours, you can take advantage of the free tour offered for travelers with extended connecting times. During the tour, you’ll visit historic sights like the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles covering its interior, and the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world.
Tokyo, London and beyond
These are just a few of the many airlines that offer stopovers. For example, Japan Airlines offers stopovers in Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya, and Virgin Atlantic allows free stopovers in London, although you will have to pay extra to cover Heathrow Airport fees. KLM lets passengers take stopovers in Amsterdam, with pricing varying from free to a higher fee depending on booking class. AirFrance may allow you to take a stopover in Paris during your connection, but it will depend on your trip’s fare rules. Play around with airlines’ multi-city tools online, and if that doesn’t yield promising results, call the airline directly. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to add an extra destination to your trip for free or a very reasonable price.
Note: This article has not been published previously.