booking a flight with layover
Layover at the airport doesn’t have to be boring – FatCamera (Canva)

Flights are the easiest, most hassle-less, and most economical means of transport to travel short as well as long distances. However, layovers are an integral part of most long-distance flights. It can be for a short duration or can be over 24 hours.

If you are traveling internationally, layovers are excellent opportunities to explore a new city. Many countries offer transit visas for travelers with long layovers. But then, many countries have restrictions too.

Let us have a detailed read about the layovers here so that you can skillfully plan your next trip.

What Is Layover and What Does It Entail?

Technically, a flight with a layover means you have a few hours between two flights. Your first flight de-boards you in an intermediary airport where you spend a few hours and then you board your next flight for your destination. This is also called a connecting flight.

Your whole itinerary involves two flights with some time to be spent in the airport. You don’t have to reclaim your luggage after getting off the first flight. Your carrier does that for you. For that, you need to have both flights on the same itinerary.

If you book different tickets, you will have to get your baggage first and then deposit it with the next airline.

On the other hand, stop-over involves days before you take your next flight. You get enough time to explore another city or country. You need to have a transit visa or a tourist visa to leave the airport and get into the new country. Be sure to check about this with your embassy or consulate.

Ideal Duration of Your Layover

International Flight

For international flights, make sure to have 2-4 hours layover because you have more to do in between. Each step might take more time than you think, especially if it’s a busy day.

If you booked your flights separately, you’ll need to take your luggage and recheck it on your next flight, which will take even more time. Ensure to have a minimum of 3 hours if this is the case.

Domestic Flight

You can get away with 1 – 1.5 hour layover with a domestic flight, especially because you’ll have fewer steps to do in between. Even if you miss your flight, you’ll have more options to fix the situation and get on the next flight with a fairly low additional cost.

Leaving the Airport during Layover: A Mini-Guide

Leaving the airport during the airport is allowed as per se. However, you need to take into consideration a few factors. Let us have a look:

1. The duration of layover

It’s recommended to do your security check-in a minimum of 3 hours before the scheduled flight for international journeys and 2 hours for domestic ones. This differs based on the destination country/city and airlines.

If you are traveling through a busy airport like Singapore, this might take more time. So, it is advisable to always have some spare time to avoid the last-minute rush.

2. Transit visa

Do you have a transit visa for visiting the city? Always check with your consulate or the embassy about the transit visa requirement. Citizens of many countries are exempted from having one in some countries and some also offer visas on arrival.

Always get yourself proper information regarding this. Otherwise, you might land in legal trouble. If you do not have it, never leave the transit area of the airport.

3. Communication channels

Not all countries/cities are active 24×7. While transportation channels are active during the day, you may find it difficult to travel back to airport after the sunset. Always know about the transportation means before leaving the airport.

If it takes long hours to travel back to the airport, drop the plan to leave the airport. It is not worth missing your flight.

What You Can Do During a Layover

Layovers can be pretty boring. Killing time in duty-free shops or being engrossed in your phone/laptop can get a tad monotonous. But do you know, airports are more than just flight terminals?

Nowadays, airports are a city in themselves and your layover is an opportunity to explore more.

Let us see how you can utilize this time and create incredible memories:

1. Explore the city

Whether it is a domestic or an international layover, you always have a window for exploring a new city. Just make sure that you have enough time to check-in back to the airport.

If you are an international traveler, you will need to do customs and immigration both before leaving and entering the airport. Also, you need to ensure that you have a transit visa.

Once you leave the airport, you can always head to the town square, museum, cultural center, and art galleries, or go on a shopping spree. A few international airports like Dubai, Singapore, Istanbul, etc. are quite famous among travelers.

2. Brush off travel fatigue in premium lounges

Airports have premium lounges that offer lip-smacking delicacies, sleeping areas, entertainment units, and a lot more.

You can also get on to a massage chair, a fish pedicure, shower or just chill with a glass of wine. It is a great way to relax before boarding your next flight.

You don’t have to be in business class to gain access to a lounge as sometimes premium economy passengers can get it as well. Here’s our article on business class vs premium economy for you to consider.

3. Use spa/sauna in hotels

If the layover period is more than 9 hours, airlines usually provide a hotel stay. You can use that to enjoy a spa or sauna or gym or swimming pool of the hotel. This way you will feel re-energized for your next leg of travel.

If you don’t get a hotel, here’s our list of the 10 best airport hotels in the US. Check it out!

4. Get a sound sleep in a hotel room/nap pods in the airport

Traveling can be draining. You can rejuvenate yourself with a warm shower and then a good nap in your hotel room. If you do not wish to leave the airport, you can use the airport’s shower room and use the nap pod to get some power nap.

5. Shop

Well, airports are known for their duty-free shops. You can get your favorite wine, chocolates, memorabilia, and whatnot at highly discounted prices.

Designing Your Layover If You Want to Explore the City

Travel enthusiasts all over the world often sync their flights with a layover to easily get to see a place. The most common way is to separately book the first and the second flight. It is an awesome way to save some extra bucks too. Not to mention the perks of getting to see a new place.

But how long should the layover be? Let us calculate the time required at the airport for different procedures:

1. Airport entry/security check-in

It is advisable to do this at least 3 hours before departure time. And once you give away your luggage and do the security-check in, you are ready to board the flight. Depending on the time and airport, both these steps can be time consuming. It can take up to 2 hours on the busiest days.

2. Custom and immigration

The time taken here is variable. It depends on the number of passengers, the city, and the procedure. You have to go through immigration every time you land in a new country.

For example, if you are traveling from NYC to Zurich, you will have to go through immigration.  But at the same time, it does have exceptions. You don’t need to do this if you are traveling within the Schengen region. So, you don’t need to go through immigration if you are traveling from Oslo to Geneva.  The whole process is time-consuming.

So, let us say for the safe side, 1 hour.

Also, if you are a transfer passenger, you must check in again at the airport, unlike the transit passengers. This too can take some time depending on the footfall.

3. Luggage reclaim

If you have a single itinerary for both flights, the airline will transfer your baggage to the next flight. But if you have two different bookings, then you will need to collect your baggage first and then deposit it to the next one.

This too can take considerable time, say about 1 hour. Nevertheless, if you need your baggage during a layover, either in 1 or 2 bookings, check our article on how to do that.

So if you leave the airport to go sightseeing in the city as an international traveler, you need around 8-10 hours layover to be safe. This will give you about 4-6 hours to tour the city depending on the airport location in relation to the city.

Short Layovers and the Risks

Flights can be unpredictable. Sometimes, they are delayed or canceled. If you are having a layover, this can become a problem if you miss your next flight. Let us see how to deal with that.

*we’ve compiled a list of things to do if either happens: flight gets delayed or flight gets canceled. Check them out.

Missing the connecting flight when you buy both in the same itinerary:

Airline’s Fault

If you miss the connecting flight because of the fault of the airline (delay on the first flight caused you to miss the connecting flight), then you can claim benefits such as:

  1. The airline has to re-accommodate you on the next flight
  2. You can also claim compensation
  3. You can cancel the flight if it is delayed for more than 5 hours.
  4. If the flight is delayed for 24 hours, the airline is obliged to get you into an accommodation. Also, your transportation to and from the hotel to the airport will be on the airline.

Remember that some of these are completely voluntary on the part of the airline.

Other Factors Beyond Control

If you miss the flight because of something beyond the control of the airline like political unrest or a bird hitting the airline, you will not get any of the above benefits.

Your Fault

If you miss because of your fault like arriving at the airport late or missing the boarding announcement, then also, the airline is not obliged to get you onto the next flight or get you any accommodation or compensate for the loss.

Missing the connecting flight for separately bought tickets:

If you have booked tickets with different carriers for both legs of the journey, no airline will compensate you if you miss the next flight.

Remember that if it does happen, don’t panic. Here’s our list of things you should immediately do if you miss your flight. Doing these would hopefully help you to salvage the situation. Check them out.

How to Avoid Missing the Connecting Flight?

Always have enough time on hand.

Never book tickets with a very short layover. Have about 2-4 hours gap. This will ensure that you get enough time to arrive at the airport and complete all the formalities.

When you are booking separate flights, you will have to do additional work like collecting the baggage from the first flight and getting it through the next one. Also, if you are an international flyer, you will have to go through customs and immigration. Depending on the business of the airport, this can be a lengthy affair.

Spare generous time if you plan to explore the city

If you are planning to visit the transit city, it is advisable to have a gap of 24 hours or more to avoid missing the next flight.

Get travel insurance

Have travel insurance to help you cover the costs of missed flights and other expenses.

Now that you know everything about layover, it’s your decision to book flights according to your need. Here are the best 12 sites to book your flight. Check them out.

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