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Most of the time I despise layovers. Like most travelers, I just want to have a non-stop flight to wherever I’m going. But when you’re going overseas that’s rarely possible. It just can’t always work out like that.

This isn’t about sitting on your phone in the airport, waiting out for your next flight. Take advantage of your layover time. Don’t spend it in the airport if you don’t have to.

When I’m looking at flights, I always use Skyscanner.com. For any overseas traveler chances are you have heard of this site. If not, Skyscanner is currently the most able flight search engine on the internet. You are able to search the most broad travel options in order to discover the cheapest flight. For example, you can select an entire month for arrival & departure date, then search by country, not just city. That means you can find flights from the cheapest city in the US on the cheapest dates. I have seen flights for $10.

When I search, my first choice is of course non-stop. When that’s out, I’m searching for a 1-stop with a short layover. And if that’s unavailable, it’s going to be a long travel day. Exhausting, with 2-3 layovers and usually 1 of those stops are hours of waiting.

So after 1-stops are out, I click the ‘Duration’ option on the sort list. I get the order of trip time switched to high to low.

What I do on this list at this point is search for the 1-2 layover options with the longest total trip time. Why do this? It’s the perfect way to get a free city added to your vacation list. If the layover is long enough, I head into the city.

I have seen total travel times up to 56 hours. Some are 1 layover, some are 3. I can remember spotting a choice for a 29 hour layover in Zurich some months back.

I start noting which cities the layovers are, and how long each one lasts. An 8 hour layover in a foreign country I consider minimum, but usually enough to get into that city and explore.

I compare cities. Which are highest on my list to see, ease of transportation, which are safest, which has the most prominent landmarks, etc.

Also I account the layover time in each option. I don’t want to be rushed around unless the layover city is worth it. One of my layovers lasted 7.5 hours in Paris, and after all the forum research of people doubting that time to be enough to get back to the airport and through customs, I took the challenge and did it. Quite successfully. Plus that train is 70 minutes into the city 1 way.

Since then I’ve had another layover in Paris, 23 hours. It gave me the chance to see more that time around. I was going from Cairo to Portugal, so Paris was just an added bonus.

Another free trip was on my way to Brazil. I chose the longest flight, which connected me in Morocco. A free 22 hours in Casablanca. Why. Not.

It’s gets exciting when you have aconfirmed destination in mind, and see the option to work in a day layover in a unique place like Casablanca or Paris. You just have to be willing to go on not much rest, since it’ll be tiring getting to and from an airport along with some tourist activities all in 24 hours or less.

Do your research. When an attractive connecting city pops up, google “Layovers in ______”. You should search for these key questions:

  • Can it be done in time?
  • Is it a safe city?
  • Do I need a tourist visa?
  • Do I have appropriate clothes packed?

Just another big perk to traveling around the world.