3 Reasons to intentionally book a long layover for your family
Why do it?
What?! More time in an airport? Hear me out. There’s an art to planning a long layover, and if done well, you could actually enjoy it as much as your vacation. It could also end up saving you money! Ah, now I have your attention.
1/Do something big
Recently, my family and I flew through Auckland, New Zealand. We had a 6-hour layover scheduled at Auckland Airport, which is about a 30-minute drive from downtown. What to do, what to do? Sit in the airport lounge? That seemed like a waste, since we’d never been to New Zealand. Instead, we scheduled a Skywalk at the Skytower, the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere, located in downtown. We had enough time to hop in a cab, drive to the Skytower, strap on safety harnesses, and take a leisurely stroll at 576 feet up - no railing. Yep, my sons, ages 10 and 13, loved it! My youngest especially enjoyed the challenges that the guide presented, like leaning face first over the edge! We also took in the breathtaking views of Auckland and instantly decided that we’d need to return for a proper vacation. After our walk, we hopped back in a cab and made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.
Obviously, we didn’t embark on this excursion on a whim. If you’re going to leave the airport, you need to do a little research in advance:
What are the driving distances? Will you be traveling during rush hour? If you have unchecked luggage with you, how will you manage your bags? Do you need a Visa to set foot outside the airport?
And be sure to make any needed reservations in advance with enough wiggle room to accommodate any flight delay.
2/Travel on someone else's dime
The more I travel, the more I realize that international airlines really do have a leg up on American carriers when it comes to amenities. Case in point: Turkish Airlines, one of the Star Alliance partners.
If you find yourself in Istanbul, one of the most fascinating cities in the world, on a layover of at least six hours, Turkish Airlines will take you on an English-speaking guided tour of the city. Visit the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Grand Bazaar, and more. The tour includes transportation, entrance fees, and meals (breakfast/lunch). And it’s all covered by Turkish Airlines! Yes, it’s free! It’s worth booking an extra long layover on purpose to accommodate the tour schedule. I know, you don’t believe me. Watch the video here!
Alternatively, you could stay in free daytime airport hotel accommodations or enjoy the Turkish Airlines Flagship C.I.P. Lounge (available to business class passengers, plus Miles & Smiles Elite, Elite Plus, and Star Alliance Gold card holders), which KidTripster has named “World’s Best Airport Lounge.” Read more here.
3/Discover where you don't want to go
Exploring on a long layover is a great way to get a feel for a place. As was the case in Auckland, it convinced my family and I to return; but our long layover in Sao Paulo, Brazil, convinced us of the exact opposite. With a 13-hour stop, we booked a city-beach tour with a private tour operator, who picked us up at the airport. Sao Paulo is not our kind of place. However, the tour wasn’t a complete bust; we did enjoy our conversation with the guide, who really gave us a good perspective on the Sao Paulo way of life. My point here: the tour price was a lot less than a potential vacation to a destination that we don't love.
Editor Shellie Bailey-Shah travels with her husband and two sons. Their Auckland stop was part of a 72-day trip around the world.