Stopover flights or layover flights are common when you live in Australia and surviving them is getting harder than ever before. I love travelling and used to look forward to the flight. These days? Not so much. Way back when shoulder pads were fashionable, there was this thing called inflight service. This involved charming crew who weren’t rushed off their feet, tasty meals and complimentary pre-dinner drinks served with a swizzle stick. Yep, we’re talking economy here, not business class. Flight stopover tips weren’t so important back then.
Now, back to reality and the present day. Let’s say you’re booking an economy flight to LA. You’ve got 14 hours in an aluminum can to look forward to, sitting in a seat made for pygmies that was created by designers who enjoy nothing more than making passengers suffer. There’s one way to avoid this without paying for premium economy or business class. You can opt for a stopover instead of flying straight through to your destination. Here are 5 tips for a successful stopover from Australia.
1. Choose a stopover airline
Look for airlines with a hub at a handy halfway point. For example, travelling on Hawaiian Airlines on a nondirect flight to New York via Hawaii is about 10 hours to Honolulu then 9 hours onto New York. The bonus of the stopover is you get to visit Hawaii, pass through US customs more quickly and get over any jetlag at the beach. That’s a big win all round.
2. Stopover airport hotel tips
If you are travelling via a destination like Hawaii or Singapore, it makes sense to stopover for a few days or even longer to see the sights. Or you could enjoy a 48 hour stopover staycation at a fancy 5 star hotel instead and leave the sightseeing until next time. If your stopover is strictly for transit purposes, there is no need to choose a stopover city you want to visit. All you need is an airport with affordable airport hotels that are comfortable and easy to access.
3. Flights with a free stopover
Airlines which are national carriers such as Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific often offer free stopover deals. If you fly with Qatar Airways, you can stay at a 5-star hotel with free transfers to and from the hotel and no visa fee for around US$25. The aim of this is to encourage travellers to support the local tourism industry instead of flying straight through to their destination. It can be easier to book stopover fares via a travel agent or with airlines over the phone. These deals come and go so do some research when you’re ready to book or ask your travel agent what offers are currently available. Just make sure the travel agent doesn’t book a stopover deal of their own choosing in conjunction with your airfare. This isn’t the same and costs much more.
4. Stay at an airside airport hotel
If you have a layover of less than 24 hours, check into an ‘airside’ airport hotel. Airside hotels are located inside the airport. This means you don’t have to pass through customs, collect your luggage or check in again for your ongoing flight. Many airside hotels have everything you need for an enjoyable and relaxing short stay such as a plush club lounge, resort style swimming pool, gym and upmarket in-house dining options.
You can also opt for a cheap and cheerful airside hotel and feel equally happy and refreshed. We stayed at the Ambassador Airport Hotel in a family room while travelling to Vietnam from Brisbane. The room was fairly basic and consisted of little more than three single beds and an ensuite. However, it was exactly what we needed and the price was right. We had a 10 hour layover so we booked the hotel for 6 hours which was the smallest booking available. Hotels which are located airside usually charge an hourly rate in blocks. Offering bookings in blocks saves travellers money as they don’t need to pay for a 24 hour stay unless they need it. We got an additional 5 hours sleep on top of the naps we had on the plane to Singapore.
5. Pack a day bag for your layover
If you are staying at an airside hotel, make sure you travel with essentials like a change of clothes, underwear, deodorant (people have been thrown off planes for being stinky), medication, phone chargers, earplugs and an eye mask. Even if your final destination is somewhere chilly, remember to pack your swimmers if the airport hotel at your stopover destination has a pool. Going for a swim will help you sleep at the hotel or when you back on the plane.
6. Choose the right stopover flight
Shop around for the best flight deal. If you’re not flying straight through and staying at your destination for a few days, it can be cheaper to book your onward journey with a different carrier. However, don’t fly with different carriers if you’re doing a stopover at an airside hotel. If you book an airport airside hotel and fly with different carriers, say Scoot to Singapore and then Jetstar to Phuket, you’ll need to exit the terminal, collect your bag and check in for your next flight before you can return airside. If the check-in for your ongoing flight isn’t open yet – and it probably won’t be – you’re going to be in for a long wait.
7. Skip Premium Economy or Business Class
Cost can be a significant factor in choosing a stopover. You might be surprised how much cheaper a flight can be by doing one. Sure, you have to pay for a hotel, food, and transport if you choose to leave the airport, but this is much cheaper than flying premium economy or business class. Even if you are lucky enough to be flying business class, you’ll still get a better sleep during a stopover with no risk of crying babies or annoying passengers interrupting your beauty sleep.