THE LAYCATION: HOW TO TURN YOUR LAYOVER INTO A VACATION
Direct flights are generally more expensive, hence most of us have been through layovers. For years, layovers have been accepted as an unwanted inconvenience of air travel. Internationally, a trip from San Francisco to Saigon may involve a stop in both Beijing and Bangkok, especially if you’re on a budget and searching for the lowest fare between these two cities.
What many travelers don’t know is that you can arrange for a few days (I’ve stayed up to 12 days) in your ‘layover’ city. Some airlines may let you stay up to a year. Let’s call it a laycation. Instead of having a cup of coffee in London, have a pint at The Mayflower.
So, how can you find and arrange it? Using www.kayak.com, which I use for my international flights, I can click and open up the “details” box of the flight itinerary, which displays for me the flight number, schedule- and most importantly- the stopover, or “connection” city. Automatically, it will offer me the next available flight to or towards my final destination. However, if I find an appealing layover city from the flights offered up, I can determine whether the diversion is worthwhile.
Once I have found my preferred itinerary, I close Kayak and go directly to the airline. I must call China Eastern Air and work my magic on the phone.
Online, it’s not possible to fatten up that layover and explore the layover city through your booking. However, if you give the airline a call and speak to an agent, you will find that they are generally flexible and will hook you up with a flight a few days, or a week or two, later. American airlines such as United and Continental have been particularly accommodating for me. If you are flying on a budget airline such as AirAsia, you can book all the legs of the trip individually, so check out the route map and mix-n-match your itinerary stopping off in whatever hubs you would like and choosing your flight dates.
When I fly from Asia to see my family in Ohio, which I’ve done four times over the past few years, I generally will arrange for a week-long stopover in San Francisco to see my amazing friends there. On Kayak, I will keep searching for a flight until I find one that stops in San Francisco. Then, I will write down the details and call the airline and book the ticket over the phone, after negotiating my lengthened layover. A few weeks later, I’m sipping some viognier in Lodi, enjoying my totally-free trip to California.
Some airlines may charge a fee (about $25) to book over the phone, but it’s well-worth it if you enjoy hopping around and would like to check out international hubs such as Tokyo or Dubai at no extra cost. Particularly, I have met many travelers that went between North America and Europe on Iceland Air and were able to arrange a couple of days in Reykjavik at no additional travel charge. In fact, their site encourages it:
So, get out of the airport and spend a few days in an unexpected city.