How to make the most of your layover or stopover

Anyone prefers a direct flight to that family holiday destination but unfortunately, that’s not always an option. In some cases you have to settle for a layover or stopover in between connecting flights. This scenario is dreaded by most parents and often the reason why they prefer to stay closer to home. Sounds familiar? If it does, then you’re missing out on so many amazing destinations! But don’t panic, let us show you how to turn that layover or stopover into a moment of family fun!

Concept image of a flight booking window with an ocean sunset in the background

Layover or stopover: What’s in a name?

A layover is the correct term for an airport transfer that consists of maximum 24 hours in between international flights or maximum 4 hours of national flights.

A stopover is the correct term for an airport transfer that consists of over 24 hours in between international flights or over 4 hours of national flights.

Make the most of a layover

A layover allows you to stretch your legs, grab a bite and escape the dry cabin air. That’s the general idea. But much more options exist to make the most of a layover:

  1. Explore the airport facilities

Most parents are thrilled to find complementary strollers and a play area in an airport. But those facilities are nothing compared to these advanced options:

Enchanted Garden at Singapore's Changi airport, the ideal place to pass your time during a layover or stopover
Source: Changi Airport
  • Singapore’s Changi Airport: This must be the coolest airport in the world! Terminal 1 features cactus and water lily gardens as well as a rooftop swimming pool with jacuzzi. In Terminal 2 you can enjoy an orchid garden, an enchanted garden and a sunflower garden with twinkling display. Then in Terminal 3, in the lounge on level 2, you can find a tropical butterfly garden with a waterfall. But it also features a koi pond and a pretty cool slide. Did I forget to mention the movie theatre?
  • Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport: This airport features Japanese, Chinese and Hawaiian Cultural Gardens with goldfish ponds, pavilions, bridges, coconut trees and nightly luau torches.
  • Doha Hamad International Airport: Relax in the Vitality Wellbeing & Fitness Centre (with an indoor swimming pool, hydrotherapy tub, gym and squash courts) while your spouse and kids enjoy the activity nodes or get comfortable in the family rooms. Traveling with a baby? Then head to the parents’ rooms where you will find milk warmers and diaper changing stations.
  • Seoul’s Incheon International AirportFollow the walking and biking trails in the Sky Garden, located outside the terminal, or admire the azaleas in spring. 
  • Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport: Enjoy the aeroponic Urban Garden, in between Terminals 2 and 3, which herbs and produce are used in airport restaurant kitchens. But this airport also features a yoga room, a gym and a mother’s room.
  • Dubai Airports: While your partner takes the kids to the play area with climbing frame, you can indulge at the spa or take a dip in the swimming pool after a quick work-out. If you want to relax as a family, you could also head to the Zen Garden or book a soundproof SnoozeCube.

Who knew airports could be so much fun, right?

  1. Go lounge

Who said that airport lounges can not be child friendly? Of course, the policy differs per lounge but some are well equipped to cater to families, quiet families that is. That way you can enjoy a meal, have a shower or a rest. Some lounges even have dedicated family rooms where you can be more at ease with the kids. Or why not let them play under the supervision of a qualified nanny while you go for a haircut or spa-treatment? Try it out in the Etihad lounges’ family rooms!

Family room in one of Etihad's lounges, the perfect way to have sum fun during a layover or stopover
Source: Etihad

Don’t worry if you’re not flying first or business or if you don’t have airline status. You can pay your way in too, with prices starting at $25 or €21! You might be better off paying it here for some all-inclusive amenities than spending it on an overpriced snack in the terminal. Just ask the receptionist for a one-time entrance. Or better yet, arrange your access beforehand via the LoungeBuddy app. There is an icon indicating the presence of kids rooms and the child policy is indicated for every lounge.

Screenshot from the LoungeBuddy app amenities list, because enjoying the amenities of a lounge is a great idea during a layover or stopover
Screenshot from the LoungeBuddy app, because enjoying the amenities of a lounge is a great idea during a layover or stopover
Screenshot from the LoungeBuddy app child policy, because enjoying the amenities of a lounge is a great idea during a layover or stopover

By using my referral code when signing up you earn a $10 or €8,5 discount on your first reservation! (Disclosure: $10 will also be credited to our account.) Sign up for LoungeBuddy by following these steps!

  • Download the app via this link for iOS (not available on Android).
  • Sign up.
  • Head to “settings”, “credits” and insert this referral code jumD4F653C
  1. Explore the city

What do you do with this much time on your hands? Go explore! See it as a mini-vacation for free or at a very small cost! Check it out these amazing deals, totally for free, with a pick up from and drop off at the airport:

Screenshot of Turkish Airlines's layover program organized by TourIstanbul
Source: Touristanbul
  1. Airport scavenger hunt

An yes, once in a while you’re stuck in an incredibly boring airport. No decent lounge, no family facilities… Chin up because we’ve got you covered! What about an airport scavenger hunt? Plenty of templates can be found on Pinterest. And while you’re at it, thanks for following our account too. 🙂

Make the most of a stopover

But what do you do if you have even more time to spare? That’s an easy one, you simply explore even more! And airlines make it easy for passengers taking an intercontinental trip with special packages. That way you can stay in a luxury hotel for a heavily reduced rate, enjoy extra services such as free breakfast or take city tours free of charge. How do you like the sound of that? These airlines have got you covered in their airport hub (the list may be non-exhaustive).

Screenshot of Qatar Airways' stopover program
Source: Qatar Airways

Sounds great, doesn’t it? So if you’re flights only include a layover, why not purposely choose to have a stopover? It’s easy, just click the ‘multiple destinations’ link in your booking window and split up your flights in different segments. For example, should you fly from Amsterdam to Sydney via Singapore, then select Amsterdam-Singapore as a first leg and Singapore-Sydney as a second leg.

What about your luggage during a layover or stopover?

Whenever you face a layover or stopover, consult with the airline staff. With a layover, the luggage should automatically be labeled to the final destination. If you have a stopover, this is usually not the case.

Big pile of traveler's luggage bags about to be loaded into a jet plane, indicating the importance to know how you're luggage is labeled in case of a layover or stopoverTherefore you should always talk things through with the check-in agent whether or not you wish to pick up your luggage and to double check the luggage labels, just in case. You could for example pack a smaller suitcase for the occasion or just maximize your hand luggage allowance.

Also take into account the country-specific formalities such as passport check and required visa.

Your turn to plan a layover or stopover

Have you already had a stopover or layover? Or have you had the chance to enjoy some of the amazing airport facilities mentioned here? If you haven’t, that’s okay. I’m pretty sure that, from reading this post, you are now a pro when it comes to figuring out your layover or stopover options. So keep us in the loop on your airport transfer adventures!

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