How to Master a European Layover
The Art of the European Layover
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Obviously, timing is everything. If you are on a time crunch, I would suggest spending more for a direct flight, but if you have some flexibility in your schedule, look that the options for a long layover. You should do a little research on the city and transportation from the airport to the city centre before you book though and make sure you have enough time.
I would consider your arrival time and how customs may be, the public transportation options, and what is open during the hours you will be in town. Also check to see if the airport has a luggage storage option. Most in Europe will let you check your bags so you don’t have to lug them around and can actually enjoy your time. Planning ahead takes away the unsuspected surprises and makes the adventure way more fun!
What to do with your time
Depending on if you have an overnight layover or daytime, figure out what you want to do in each city. For example, we just had an overnight layover in Lisbon. We knew time was limited and we would probably get a dinner and a few drinks out of our evening. We asked a friend for a recommendation, got a cheap airbnb and off we went for a whirlwind 18 hours in Lisbon.
Maybe you have an overnight layover but not long enough to actually make getting a hotel worthwhile. In a city like Dublin, the luggage storage closes at midnight so you have until then to check your bags and then hop on the bus into the city for a quick craic before your morning flight.
A daytime layover is whole different ballgame. If you can squeeze about 12 hours in a city during the middle of the day I would say you are golden. This really allows you to experience the culture of the city. You can check out a museum, hit a lunch & a happy hour spot, walk around and just see what there is to offer. I say a 12 hour layover because that’s ideal to have time to get out, explore, and get back to the airport without feeling stressed but you can do less time as well.
When we flew to Rome last year we went through Oslo, and while I had a sleep deprived, anxiety driven man with me who needed to sleep once we got there, some people we met on the plane told us they spent the 4 hours we had before the next flight going into the city to have lunch and visit the waterfront. They were out and back with a taste of Oslo in no time and had plenty of spare time for our flight.
This would be my recommendation if you are flying an airline that offers a ‘Stopover.’ Some of these airlines are working with tourism boards to get more visitors to their home countries. They offer usually up to 5 days of a stopover in the city without a change in price for your airfare. Icelandair is the most well-known for this idea but I recently flew Air Portugal and they offer the same option. While Icelandair gives you a layover in Reykjavik, Air Portugal gives you an option whether you want your stopover to be in Lisbon or Porto.
Maybe you’re like me and say, “Oh but the stopover is free we have to go! It’s a free trip!” I am famous for not considering the ‘land fees’ when traveling. If the airfare and the accommodations are cheap, I’m in. So I would really consider your budget too and figure out if the stopover will take away from your originally planned trip. If you can only swing a day, I would do it though. You would be amazed at what you can see in a day in a city.
Overall, a quick layover I think is a fabulous idea. Explore a new culture, get a new passport stamp, and make some new memories all without breaking the bank!