Split the trip: Why a stopover makes sense for your journey

Yes, there are fast ways to travel. But going at a slower pace, it turns out, has some pretty fine advantages.

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I’ve taken many long flights, the longest involving four flights between Sydney and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, via Honolulu, Seattle and Toronto – and all I can say is that making all connections left me frazzled, with nothing to break up the grinding tedium of the long haul, wedged in a teeny seat. So, on my last trip, I took it slow, making a stopover to spend a few hours in each airport between flights. I enjoyed quality meals, had a massage, even a swim. It took longer to get there, but there was no stress, no jet lag and I felt much more refreshed when I arrived.

Allow time to get there

Travelling becomes trickier the more far-flung the destinations are that you go to, as you cross multiple time zones or the international date line.

If the journey involves several connecting flights, try to book with one carrier, or at least their code share partners to maximise your chances of making connections if delays occur. If you’re booked on a tour or cruise, plan to arrive at your destination at least one day beforehand, since flights can be delayed or even cancelled.

Before booking your flights, check out the airports where you’ll be transiting, and estimate the time needed to connect with your onward flight. Allow time to clear airport security, check if the flight departs in the same or a different terminal, and if you’re entering a country to connect with a domestic flight, you’ll need to clear customs and immigration first.

In transit

While Singapore’s Changi Airport leads the way with a staggering array of attractions to keep transit passengers entertained – including the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, many airports have also upped the ante, offering a wide range of shopping and dining options, spas, short stay hotels, pay-as-you-enter lounges and airline lounges.

Changi Airport T2 Gourmet Garden
Changi International Airport

Pay-as-you-enter lounges are great value, often with variable prices to suit – so if you’re after just a shower, entry is often much less.

Airline lounges restrict entry to members, those holding a loyalty pass, guests of members, or business and first-class passengers.

If the airline offers you the chance to bid for an upgrade prior to departure, you could end up at the pointy end for a fraction of the fare, with lounge entry thrown in. When my recent Garuda Indonesia flight was delayed, I continued to relax by snacking and reading the lounge’s magazines.

While airports are pleasant enough, longer layovers call for more options. For example, at Singapore’s Changi Airport, for passengers with a layover of between 5.5 and 24 hours, a complimentary tour is provided. Several airports provide complimentary tours to allow you to briefly visit cities of interest nearby, including Seoul and Tokyo.

T2 Dreamscape
Changi International Airport

Or book your own tour. Faced with 11 hours between flights in Bali, I booked a tour with Intrepid Urban Adventures, that offers day tours in many destinations around the world. I was met on arrival with my name on a sign, whisked around with a driver and guide for scenic sightseeing, photo stops, shopping, a swim, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset cocktail on the beach. It worked a treat and was such an amazing way to end my trip.

Enjoy a stopover

As a way of enticing passengers to fly, some airlines provide packages designed in collaboration with local tourism authorities to showcase the region and provide memorable experiences. Seek out those airlines that offer great incentives for a stopover, with a choice of free or heavily discounted hotels, and savings on sightseeing tours, tourist attractions, gallery and museum entry fees. Taking advantage of such stopovers is one of the best ways to stretch your travel budget. For example, Etihad offers a stopover package in Abu Dhabi, UAE, that includes transfers and accommodation.

Etihad celebrating Zayed International Airport
Zayed International Airport

A stopover can also be a great way to end an overseas trip. Instead of flying Australia direct to the United States, consider flying with Fiji Airways or Hawaiian Airlines and spend a few days on a tropical beach on your return home. Suggested destinations for a great stopover include Singapore, Bangkok, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Hong Kong, Honolulu and Nadi.

It’s also a great way experience destinations that you may not have otherwise thought to visit at minimal cost, and allows you to sample them to decide if you’d like to return to explore in greater detail. For a trip to Egypt, for example, I enjoyed a stopover in Abu Dhabi, and enjoyed it so much, I later returned for a 10-night cruise of the Middle East to experience the culture, sights, and cuisine in greater depth.

Or if the destination is renowned for great shopping, such as Hong Kong or Singapore, a stopover will provide the opportunity to seek out shopping bargains.

Yes, there are fast ways to travel. But going at a slower pace, it turns out, has some pretty fine advantages.

READ MORE: One flight away from Australia: Top 5 holiday spots

Petra ONeill
Petra ONeill
After growing up in Australia's outback she enjoys visiting remote destinations in Australia for the wildlife, vast open spaces and brilliant night sky and travelling overseas to exotic destinations to experience different cultures. Her bag is always packed and ready for the next trip

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