Frequent travelers have their voyage down to an artform—they pack light; download their airline’s app; have a pen on-hand for customs forms; avoid tear-jerking films on crowded flights. And often, this travel-savvy informs how they book their trip in the first place. They know the best connected airports and stopover flights to extend their travels, even just by 24 hours. While some travelers see connecting flights as a timely inconvenience, veteran travelers see an opportunity: a chance to add another city to their itinerary under one airfare.
Sure, stopovers prolong your time in transit, but when they grant you the chance to connect to a new place, they can be infinitely more rewarding than a grueling red-eye. In the spirit of seizing opportunity, here are some of the best stopover options travelers can tack onto their next journey.
“...visitors keen to connect with Hong Kong’s bustling streets can jump off at any of [The Central – Mid-Levels Escalator] exits and explore various levels of the tiered city.”
Hong Kong / HKG
Hailed by some as the “perfect stopover city”, Hong Kong makes it exceedingly easy for travelers to stretch their legs between continents. Not only is the dense city easy to navigate on foot, Hong Kong International (HKG) has an innovative—and free—in-town check-in service, so travelers can drop off their bags and check into their flight the day of their departure right in the city center.
A city of dramatic inclines, Hong Kong offers more genius solutions in the form of The Central – Mid-Levels Escalator system, a series of 20 escalators and three inclined moving walkways. The system bisects 14 roads; visitors keen to connect with Hong Kong’s bustling streets can jump off at any of its exits and explore various levels of the tiered city. For even greater immersion, do like the locals and enjoy the slow ambiance at a traditional Hong Kong–style café while indulging in pineapple buns and milk tea.
photo by Richard Lee
“The island nation of Iceland is known in equal measure for its stunning geographical landscape and politically-progressive society.”
Reykjavik / KEF
Heading to or from Europe? Add a day in “The Land of Fire and Ice” as you cross the Atlantic. The island nation of Iceland is known in equal measure for its stunning geographical landscape and politically-progressive society. While its Nordic culture is largely isolated from continental Europe, both Icelandair and WOW air make it easy for travelers to book up to a week-long stopover at no extra fare.
Venture into Reykjavik to take in the city’s charming neighborhoods—bright, primary colors are the norm for residential homes and businesses—and sample seafood delicacies by the moored boats in the Old Harbor. The famous Blue Lagoon thermal bath-spa is only 20 minutes from Keflavík International Airport—so if you only have time for an afternoon layover, you can still spend your time soaking (quite literally) in the lagoon’s volcanic landscape. This will require some extra planning, as booking in advance is required.
photo by Jeff Sheldon
San Francisco / SFO
San Francisco is a city of many things. Cable cars, rolling hills, iconic landmarks, clement weather, social activism, tech giants. It’s also one of the best American cities to find yourself on an extended stopover; San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is close enough to downtown that you can quickly escape the confines of the airport.
Most first-timers will be keen to see the Golden Gate Bridge. If you only have one full day to spare, do this first; you’ll be grateful for the morning light and thinner crowds. To avoid the groups of tourists altogether, hike the shoreline trails of the Lands End, where you’ll find more private views of the bridge. If you’d rather spend your time sampling San Francisco's many food options, consider a trip to the Soma StrEat Food Park (be sure to stop in at one of the area’s many microbreweries along the way). When it’s time to catch your connecting flight, the BART can get you back to SFO safely and cheaply. Just don’t slip up and call the city “Frisco” or “San Fran”, both dead giveaways of your visitor status.
“One of the largest transportation hubs in Southeast Asia, SIN is a worthy destination in-and-of itself, featuring all the amenities a weary traveler may need and then some…”
Singapore / SIN
Those traveling to or from the South Pacific would be wise to stopover in Singapore via Singapore Changi Airport (SIN). One of the largest transportation hubs in Southeast Asia, SIN is a worthy destination in-and-of itself, featuring all the amenities a weary traveler may need and then some (a rooftop garden home to more than 100 species of cacti and arid plants; a movie theater; a Balinese-themed swimming pool). Conveniently, the airport offers 24/7 baggage storage, so travelers heading into city center can do so luggage-free.
Well-connected thanks to the Mass Rapid Transit, or MRT, the city-state is easy to move through and offers the chance to engage not only with local Singaporean culture but a number of expat communities, too. The shophouses of Little India serve up fresh curry and roti; famished travelers can also visit a number of Singapore’s acclaimed hawker centers (food courts) for a variety of cuisines. Attractions are endless, but to connect with the locals, consider wandering through the quieter streets of Tiong Bahru, characterized by art-deco architecture and independent shops.
photo by Grahame Jenkins
It can be easy to get caught up in the pace of travel and want to rush to your final destination. But when a chance to maximize your route presents itself, consider taking it. A stopover will feel like a bonus to your main trip, and may just be the part you remember most once you’ve unpacked your things back home.
Written by Brittany McGillivray