Two holidays for the price of one; the art of the stopover...
It’s long made sense to slice the slog in half and recuperate along the way, but a stopover is also a great money saver. Often it doesn’t cost you any more to get off the aircraft for a day or two – aside from hotel and sightseeing expenses. Some airlines even offer discounted hotel rates to encourage you to stay, and either way a stopover lets you experience somewhere new for a fraction of the cost of a separate trip.
You can book stopover flights via websites with ‘multi-sector search engines’ but this is one of those times when a travel agent can really ease the passage. They can search out the best deals on more complex itineraries and help with hotels and tours, too.
Taking the long journey between Europe and Australia as an example, while the most popular places to break your journey in are Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and increasingly Dubai, there are actually at least 20 other stopovers destinations to choose from.
Aside from flying to Australia, it makes good sense to think about stopping off on the way on any long haul trip. On a holiday to Hong Kong it works like this. For a start, forget BA or Cathay Pacific who fly direct - where’s the fun in that? Think instead of all the places between the UK and where you’re going that you have always wanted to visit. If it’s Sri Lanka you’ve thought of, then Sri Lankan Airlines will happily oblige, if it was Dubai, then Emirates will be only too pleased, and if Istanbul, try Turkish Airlines. These are just three, but there are plenty more airlines out there, eager as anything to offer you a holiday on your way.
Just think of the benefits of two-holidays-in-one. You’ll save a packet compared to visiting both separately, squeeze more precious tanning time from your annual leave, and cause a dinner party plate-wobble when you say you’re off on a 10 day trip with a twist next week; “oh yes, for a spot of Safari in Kenya, and a dive or two in the Seychelles”.
Their haste might well land you in Vancouver, Mauritius or Istanbul; but instead of making a bee-line for the baggage carousel and the beach, you’ll be just changing planes there, probably nose-pressing the windows and daydreaming about what might have been.
Practicalitiles: Suss the weather in both places (there’s little point stopping off mid rainy season), check the waiting times at the stopover airport (you don’t want to be hanging around for half a day on the way home), beware of bank holidays and festivals that might make hotel rates skyrocket, and ask whether you’ll need a visa. Also, remember that it might make more sense to stop off on the way back – you might not feel like Hong Kong after a week on a Sri Lankan beach, but the other way round is perfect.
Stopover friendly airlines: airlines with specific stopover programemes - that will ensure you won't pay extra for stopping on the fare, and will sometimes help with cheaper hotel rates and excursions too - include Air China, Air France, Emirates, Etihad, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, Icelandair, Japan Air Lines, Singapore Airlines, TAP Air Portugal, and Turkish Airways.