Why You Should Consider a Stopover on Your Next International Vacation

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If you have some flexibility in your vacation schedule, you might want to consider a layover. An extra day in Istanbul, Lisbon or Reykjavík, Iceland might cost you little or nothing.

Airline stopover programs designed to lure tourists to international airline hub cities are gaining popularity with travelers looking to explore new places. Airlines change their fare rules to allow for an extended layover and sometimes even offer a free or discounted hotel room.

The best-known stopover option, Turkish Airlines’ stopover accommodation service, recently restarted its schedule after a pandemic hiatus. Other programs operated by Emirates, Icelandair and TAP Air Portugal are also operational.

Jessy Hamel, a travel consultant from Manheim, Pennsylvania, just returned from Amsterdam via Lisbon. It was a slight detour, but TAP Air Portugal offered him two nights in Lisbon before flying to New York.

“I spent both nights in a corner room with a wraparound balcony in a four-star hotel with breakfast and a welcome drink for around $300,” she says. “I would highly recommend doing two or more nights. It just gives you a better and less rushed experience. I have recommended it to many of my clients and would definitely do it again myself.”

For Hamel, the two-day stopover was like a second vacation. She wandered the cobblestone streets of the old town, visited the Belém Tower, rode the Santa Justa lift, and attended a fado performance while in town.

Anthony Berklich is a frequent user of airline stopover programs. He enjoyed stops in Lisbon, Istanbul and Reykjavík. He says he wouldn’t have visited these destinations so often without the program.

“In Istanbul, I was able to admire some of the cultural wonders like Hagia Sophia and a cruise on the Bosphorus,” he recalls.

Berklich, who edits a luxury travel blog, also liked the price. Turkish Airlines does not charge any additional costs for accommodation.

“My only additional cost for stopping at each location was food,” he says. “The amazing thing about these programs is that you have the flexibility to add extra days to your itinerary and see a whole new destination without worrying about extra flight costs.”

Ahmet Olmuştur, director of marketing and sales at Turkish Airlines, says that’s exactly what the program is designed for.

“Our layover program not only gives travelers the chance to slow down, relax and get the most out of their layover in Istanbul, but also offers a unique opportunity to tick multiple countries off their to-do list at the same time. time,” he said.

Stopover programs include some small print. For example, the Turkish Airlines offer only applies to certain destinations and hotels. If you are traveling from the United States, you are eligible if you are going to Africa, Eastern or Southern Europe and India, among others. If you are traveling in economy class, you will have one night in a four-star economy hotel such as the Hilton Garden Inn Istanbul Golden Horn or the Grand Yavuz Hotel Sultanahmet. Business class passengers get two nights in a five-star establishment such as the Sheraton Istanbul Ataköy Hotel or the Renaissance Polat Istanbul Hotel.

You should also carefully plan your layover. Hotels are subject to availability with the Turkish program. To register, you must inform Turkish Airlines at least 72 hours before your first flight. Note that if you are stranded in Istanbul with a mechanical delay, the layover program does not apply.

The TAP program is valid for up to five stopover days. It does not include a hotel, but the airline offers discounted fares for passengers who want to stay a few extra days. To find out if your fare is eligible, enter your origin and destination on their website.

How long should you plan to quit? This is a common question for air travelers with longer connections. Generally, experts advise allowing at least one night. It is not worth leaving the airport for just a few hours to visit a destination. And besides, airport hubs such as Dubai and Istanbul are virtual malls that are tourist attractions in their own right.

Most formal programs have a time limit for layovers, so you can’t stay more than a few days.

The programs are a timely reminder to make the most of stopovers, voluntary or not. Take Shaun Eli Breidbart’s recent flight from New York to Paris, for example. Delta Air Lines does not have an official stopover schedule. But an airline representative asked him if he wanted to change planes somewhere else – maybe in Budapest?

“She said I could stay as long as I wanted,” says Breidbart, a comedian from Scarsdale, NY. “I didn’t really want to see Hungary. But if I’m already there, why not? I spent three days in Budapest and I’m glad I went.

As a bonus, he also got three minutes of new material from the adventure.