Layovers are one thing when en route to a destination--stopovers are another. Stopovers often involve staying a night (or more) in one location in order to catch the next plane on your journey the following day. Some people may see stopovers as a headache; they just want to get to their destination to enjoy their travels. However, stopovers are a prime opportunity to explore new places and do things you might not otherwise do.
There are three benefits to stopovers: cost, health, and fun.
Stopovers Save You Money
The reason for the lower cost of stopovers comes from split ticketing, where the price is much less by buying two tickets to one destination. For example, an economy ticket from Denver to Christchurch with a return flight is $2,500, but only $300 for Denver to LAX and $1,200 from LAX to Christchurch, also including return fare.
One example was my honeymoon to Patagonia. We went to New York first, had a day and night of fun there. The New York open jaw ticket into Buenos Aires and out of Santiago was much less, but we were also able to take advantage of a reduced price air pass, further reducing our expenses. Even with a night of fun in the Big Apple calculated into the total cost, our airfare on our honeymoon was reduced by half.
I always advise, and book for myself, an overnight stay for split ticketing to offset the risks. I personally want to see at least 10 hours between disconnected tickets, hopefully longer, barring any delays or unforeseen circumstances.
Stopovers Allow for a (Healthy) Break
Sometimes stopovers aren't optional. For the truly intrepid, there are simply many places on the earth you cannot get to without an overnight stay somewhere. Some flight schedules demand spending two nights in a row on an aircraft. Even in business class with lay-flat seats and showers in the lounge, this is arduous. If one is flying in economy, it’s painful.
Stopovers provide a break for your body amidst the multiple flights you need to take. Just adding one night in an actual bed with a few hours of mild physical activity can make a huge difference on very long journeys. You’ll feel more rested and feel more refreshed than spending back-to-back time seated on a flight.
If you are over 70 years old and cannot afford business class, then I suggest spending time instead of money and building long journeys with stops along the way.
Stopovers = More Fun!
The last reason for a stopover appeals to those with a sense of adventure--stopover cities can have a lot to offer! Sometimes you may find that you enjoyed your stopover more than your actual vacation; that happened to me with New Zealand on a trip to the South Pacific years ago.
There are also many trips that could benefit from specific stopovers. Heading to China as a lover of Asian Art and History? Take a stopover in Taiwan and see the very best items that Chiang Kai Shek took there. Heading to Sardinia for a beach break and love the opera? A stopover in Milan for La Scala is a win. Heading to Africa to be up at dawn to view lions and back after dusk to see hyenas? Spend a few days prior to your safari in Dubai where jet-lag recovery naps are no problem. As you can see from our latest video, we did this particular stopover en route to our last safari, and Dubai was a blast.
To me, the best strategy to dealing with an undesired stopover is to make it desirable. I’ve added concerts, football games, plays, and other activities I enjoy to cities I’ve had to pitstop in. If a stopover is used for financial reasons, then the cost saved should be enough to make the stop enjoyable or at least restful. In the case of my honeymoon, the money we saved by spending one night in New York translated to four more days in Patagonia. That… is travel value.
Downside to Stopovers
One disadvantage with stopovers is that splitting airfares can be risky. Let’s say a huge snowstorm moves into Denver on the day I was supposed to leave. If I had a single ticket from Denver to Buenos Aires then the airline would issue a weather exemption waiver, which would allow me to change or even refund my ticket from Denver.
If I had one ticket to NYC and another one from NYC to Buenos Aires, then the snowstorm in Denver means nothing for the carrier taking you to Argentina from New York. Same with any other kind of delay. This is why I always recommend having at least a 10 hour buffer between stopover flights--personally, I prefer closer to 24 hours to enjoy what the city has to offer, at least.
Here are a couple of other possible changes to be aware of if you’re looking into booking a stopover connection:
1. Schedule changes for airlines are common.
2. If a flight changes by more than 5 hours, then it usually can be refunded.
3. You have at least two different flights to consider.
Splitting airfares into a stopover arrangement can be a great plan to save money, incorporate recovery time between long flights, and find unexpected delights in a different city. Planning appropriately is the key to pulling it off for your maximum benefit… And I can help you with that.
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