Most people look at stopovers as an inconvenience. After all, you’re stuck in the airport for hours, waiting for the next flight to leave. A well-kept secret is that extending your stopover can also bring a lot of benefits, such as allowing you to explore an additional city for free. Free stopovers are rarely advertised as a perk, so you will have to research each flight separately to find a suitable option.
Search for Country-Specific Airlines
Look for an airline based in the country where you want the stopover. Most free stopovers happen during connections in the airline’s home airport. Although you might find some local stopovers, most stops occur on international flights, where planes need to stop to refuel. For example, British Airlines will offer stopovers in London, Singapore Air in Singapore and Icelandair in Reykjavik. Most free stopovers are for 24 hours or less, but some airlines allow you to extend the stopover for a minimal fee. With short stopovers, however, you’re unlikely to be able to explore beyond the city.
Use Travel Websites
To find a stopover flight, start by searching for a flight using travel sites such as Orbitz or Expedia and see what options are offered. Usually, you’ll be given a nonstop flight option as well as a number of one-stop or two-stop flights. The cheapest flights tend to be the ones with the longest stopovers, because many people see this as an inconvenience. Stops of up to 10 hours are common on cheap flights, and in some cases that’s enough to do some exploring, as long as the airport is not too far from the city center.
Call the Airline
If there’s a flight you want that offers a stopover, but that stopover is too short, contact the airline directly. Ask about taking the following flight out, rather than the one scheduled on the offer. This will usually give you at least one additional day. Smaller airports might not have another flight for several days, giving you time to explore the area. When asking for long stopover flights, make sure you don’t need a visa to exit the airport and enter the country. This might be the case in some Asian and African countries.
Use a Travel Consolidator
Using a travel consolidator might be a good option if you’re having trouble locating free stopovers on your own. Consolidators are brokers who specialize in one-way tickets, so they arrange stops in multiple cities for the same price you would pay for a single ticket on your own. Because consolidators count each stop as a separate leg of the trip, these are not technically stopovers but work the same way. You also have the added advantage that you can come back using a different route, so you get an additional stop in a different city if you want.
Look for Extras
Always check the official websites of the airlines you’re considering to see if they have special offers. For example, Turkish Airlines has a special tour program for anyone who reaches Istanbul in a stopover. Their one-day tour, which is free, takes those on a stopover to see some of the major attractions in the city, including museums, famous landmarks and special views of the city.