Booking long distance travel can be stressful! Whether it's across the country, or across the world, attempting to purchase tickets that accommodate personal schedules, time changes, and budgets is tricky. I'm just going to go ahead and throw another variable into the mix: layovers. When you're booking long distance (or even short distance travel), you should ALWAYS try to book a long layover (two exceptions: this is debatable when you're traveling with kids and I definitely would never do this when traveling with a pet).
It's especially important when booking international travel! There are typically many flight options with different layover locations, unless you're traveling between two major cities with nonstop options. You can go to Paris AND New York in one trip! When we traveled to Thailand, we booked a long layover in Beijing, and got to see THE GREAT WALL OF FREAKIN CHINA!
When planning to book an international layover, it's important to keep a few things in mind:
- Is a visa required to enter the country? It may not be worth it, if the visa is expensive and/or doesn't last long. We were lucky when traveling, because China has a special layover visa for short stops - otherwise you'd have to pay the full visa fee, which is about $100!
- Is there anything near the airport? Some airports may not have anything worth visiting nearby, and if you don't check beforehand, you could just end up stuck in the airport for a few extra hours. We booked an inexpensive car service ahead of time so that we could get to the Great Wall and back with no hiccups.
- Do you have enough time? Consider local conditions - will you have to take the train or a taxi? Will you be there during rush hour? The last thing you want to do is get stuck in traffic and miss your flight!
- Is the weather going to be different? Thank goodness we remembered to check the average temperatures in Beijing prior to packing our clothes. It was FREEZING there, which the complete opposite of Bangkok. I doubt we would've even gotten out the taxi if we hadn't planned ahead and packed our winter outfits.
Long layovers are an excellent way to visit some destinations you may not otherwise see. Places, you wouldn't necessarily plan a whole trip just to visit. If you look at our itineraries, you'll notice we almost always do multi city trips when traveling internationally! If you're going to be spending a ton of money on a plane ticket, or spend a whole day traveling, why not diversify your trip a little and add in an additional city or two?