Stopovers make trips better.
When traveling on around the world plane tickets some things are a given: frequent flyer miles, lower back pain, and stopovers at airports. Since all long flights can’t be non-stop, you’ll need to connect somewhere. Here are 8 places that’ll make the stop something to look forward to on your next big trip.
The trick to multi-city travel is to make your stopover work for you, not against you.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of options where a stop between major itinerary points will improve your itinerary, and make you wonder why you don’t stopover more often.
When they return price quotes, AirTreks Travel Consultants often suggest connection points where it’s possible to stop for added value. I always recommend people take advantage of this because what they’re getting, a chance to see a place they hadn’t expected, far outweighs what they’re not getting, a direct flight to their destination.
When planning an around the world trip, consider these places to stop on a long layover. Whether the stop is six hours or thirty-six, each have something special to offer for short stays. The following “layover highlights” offer options than can be easily accessed within an hour or two of the airport and definitely make for an enjoyable few hours away from the airport between flights:
One of the slickest and most accessible airports in all Asia, Hong Kong makes it easy to catch a glimpse of the rather surprising beauty of the thriving metropolis on the quick (it’s only 24 minutes to Hong Kong Island by train). Even better, just about all stopovers in Hong Kong don’t add a dime to the base price of your RTW ticket.
Hop Star Ferry for a ride across the harbor and take in mind-blowing views.
Get in sweeping panoramas of the city from Victoria Peak.
Tour around town on a double-decker tram ride – it’s been in operation since 1904.
BeijingIt’s a whole lot easier to take a quick couple days to see Beijing than it was in the past. While China is not known for their overly friendly visa policies, their visa-free stopover program allows transit passengers from 51 different countries a 72-hour stay in Beijing without the need to get a visa beforehand.
If you’ve ever wanted to catch a quick glimpse of the famed Chinese capital, now’s a good time to do it.
Beihai Park‘s the “oldest and most authentically preserved” set of imperial gardens in China. It’s a more than a millennium old!
Visit the Forbidden City to understand the mysterious nucleus of the Chinese mind across the ages.
Tiantan – translated “The Temple of Heaven” – there’s a Buddha that’s 112-feet tall that lives here.
ShanghaiNot long after Beijing decided to allow visa-free 72-hour stopovers, Shanghai jumped on that bandwagon. For a few years now, it’s been possible to check out this ultra-modern city with very little trouble on a long around-the-world trip layover.
Plus the Mag-lev train whisks you from the airport to the city center in 8 time-reversing and breathless minutes.
Walk the Bund for epic skyline views.
Explore Pudong, where the Jetsons would live in China.
Stroll the French Concession and gawk at the beautiful colonial architecture.
AmsterdamThe Dutch have made the city center incredibly accessible for folks coming in from the airport. Enjoy their truly authentic and quaint downtown experience in less time than it takes to decipher the train timetable — the very epicenter of Amsterdam’s concentric canal rings is just 17 minutes away from Schipol Airport.
From there, some of the best sights in the city are mere footsteps away.
Rent a Frederic Bike and pedal around the world’s most bike-friendly city.
Climb Westerkerk and put the city in perspective from its tallest church tower.
Dampkring Coffeeshop – The king of all Amsterdam coffeeshops is worth a visit, even if it’s just to check out what’s on the menu, (first-timers should be aware: cannabis, not coffee, is what’s really on offer).
SeoulMost of the flight connections passing through Seoul are set up with a half-day at the airport. It may be designed that way to force people, and their money, into the city (sneaky but smart!). Perhaps because of this, great perks abound for people connecting in Seoul.
A slew of half-day city tours accommodate passengers on long layovers and depart directly from the airport.
People watch in Myeongdong, Seoul’s number one shopping district.
Take the Namsan Cable Car to the Seoul N Tower for a birds-eye view of this megacity from the highest point in town.
Suva, FijiAlmost due north of New Zealand, Fiji remains a favorite stopover point on the way there. As many people make New Zealand the last stop on an eastbound around the world trip, Fiji just makes sense —stopover and spend a few days or weeks with nothing to do but relax in paradise may be just the thing after you’ve killed yourself navigating foreign lands for 3 months.
Fiji’s biggest attractions aren’t on Suva, where flights connect, but that shouldn’t stop you from laying over there for a night or 10.
Take a Day trip from Suva. If you’ve got more than an afternoon, get yourself on a boat and visit some outlying islands. Tours are bookable online.
Coral Coast is only 2 hours from Suva (no ferry necessary). Access the shoreline and dizzyingly beautiful beaches from Queens Highway.
Attend a firewalking ceremony – Vilavilairevo, literally “jumping into the earth oven” is a tad touristy, but where else can you watch this particular brand of insanity?
SingaporeA compact city plan, a population that speaks English and its central location between Australia, Indonesia and Southeast Asia, makes Singapore a great spot to extend a layover. Of course, with Changi consistently ranking as one of the top airports in the world, you may not even want to leave the complex.
At Gardens By The Bay get an eyeful of the 160-foot tall ultra-futurist Supertree-scape.
Check out the wildlife at Singapore Zoo – they’ve got white tigers!
Eat at Maxwell Road Food Center – locals’ top pick for the best food hawker center (a group of food stalls) in the city out of more than 120 with over 16,000 food stalls total.
ReykjavikIceland is hot right now. Obviously, I’m not talking temperature. They’ve got unreal scenery and a tourist infrastructure that needs to be experienced to be believed.
The national carrier Iceland Air is very generous with up to week-long free stopovers and with 8 North American gateways, from New York to Seattle and Toronto to Orlando, it’s super easy and quick to get to.
Bliss out in the warm waters at Blue Lagoon – you just can’t go to Iceland and not do the lagoon. Its mineral-rich water averages temps of 100.4° F! There are buses straight from the airport, too.
Browse local wares at Laugavegur Shopping – Icelanders wear some pretty outrageous fashions. This is where they get them.
Have a look around the Icelandic Phallological Museum, the world’s largest display of penises and penis-related art! Ahem.
San FranciscoWhat can I say, it’s home. Plus it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world for travelers to take an extended stop, no bias required. As walkable as any European city center, with hills that have views over a bay than can even make an 80s rockband sentimental, and hardcore Foodie-approved dining everywhere, San Francisco is hard to beat.
BART will take you downtown in 20 minutes, Muni will get you to any other neighborhood in an hour, tops.
Take in the views from Coit Tower, the seminal firehose nozzle landmark.
Dine at Weird Fish – at this hole-in-the wall Mission Street eatery, savor incredible and inexpensive SF fare. It’s a downright miracle.
Hang out and people watch at Dolores Park – the skinny jean center of the universe.
Most AirTreks around-the-world itineraries allow for layovers at no additional cost. Ask your personal travel consultant about staying for longer at any connection point.
Photo Credits: Shutterstock.com: leungchopan; r.nagy; chuyuss; dibrova; Dennis van de Water; helloseed; Sorin Colac; leungchopan; Tsuguliev