“I love long layovers,” says Patricia Serrano, who writes the blog FreshTraveler. “I mean layovers that are 11 hours long or even longer. I want it to be long enough to get out of the airport and explore, even if you are laying over in a big city.”
Many international airlines are trying to reframe the inconvenient pause in air travel by offering extended layovers as perks to travelers. Iceland Air is the most famous example, with layovers for up to seven days for travelers from the U.S. who are passing through Iceland on their way to other destinations. Finnair, Royal Jordanian, TAP Portugal, and Turkish Airlines have similar programs for passengers touching down in their hub airports. Some airlines, like Emirates, even offer free or discounted hotel rooms depending on the length of your layover to entice passengers to spend more time in their home cities.
Turkish Airlines offers free tours of Istanbul to passengers with long layovers. You’ll see the city’s Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar. And several airports now offer free layover tours designed to get travelers into their cities. At Singapore’s Changi Airport, hop on a free City Sights tour that shows off the city-state’s stunning architecture in a 2.5-hour guided bus ride. From Qatar's Hamad International Airport, get into the capital of Doha with Qatar Airways' Discover Qatar tour and see the Museum of Islamic Art, among other sites. If you’re flying through Amsterdam, take a four-hour walking and canal tour of the city with Amsterdam Layovers that includes a stop at the Rembrandt windmill. It’s not free—it costs about $175—but it’s still cool. LA City Tours depart from LAX airport and hit a handful of iconic Southern California landmarks in just a few hours for less than $100.
Even if you don’t want to take a guided tour, you can make the most of your touch-and-go time if you have more than a few hours in a layover city. “Layovers aren’t long enough to just peruse a city aimlessly, but they can give you plenty of time to accomplish a single mission,” Serrano says. “Do some research and have a single museum exhibit or restaurant you want to hit during your layover. You absolutely should trek out of the airport for an amazing meal or piece of art.”