Five frequent fliers’ tips for making the most of airport stopovers
There’s no need to dread long airport stopovers. With planning, you can spend time between flights sightseeing. Frequent travellers share some strategies
Explore the local scene
Kisha Mays, CEO of Just Fearless, a Hong Kong-based business development consulting firm, looks forward to long stopovers and likes getting local recommendations on what to see. A favourite memory was in Dubai, where she didn’t go for “the skyscrapers and luxury you see typically”. Instead, she was directed to a working-class neighbourhood where she found “the best dried fruits, the best nuts, and the experience of dining there, where they treated me like family”.
The only risk is running late for a flight if you’re having a good time, you don’t want to leave, and you don’t realise how far out you are, Mays says. “It does make me nervous, but it doesn’t stop me. I want to explore.”
Make the best of delays
Even when flights are delayed by emergencies such as weather or strikes, you can turn those stressful hours into something pleasant. Jennifer Tombaugh, president of the Tauck luxury tour and cruise company, once faced a 10-hour stopover in London while travelling with her family to Italy because of an impromptu strike at Rome’s airport. “We beelined into London, saw Westminster Abbey, Parliament, rode on the London Eye, ate at the Sherlock Holmes pub, walked back through St. James Park and took the train back from Paddington before making our evening flight.”
Favourite stopover destinations
Carol Margolis actually tries to get stopovers in Amsterdam, an easy airport to fly through for KLM or Delta flights in Europe. With six to eight hours to kill, she stows luggage in a Schiphol airport locker and goes into Amsterdam by train for “lunch along a canal, shopping and people-watching”. Margolis refined her stopover strategies over 30 years as a business traveller, first as a consultant for Deloitte and Oracle, now on her own as a business travel consultant at smartwomentravelers.com.
Margolis’ other suggestions include taking organised group tours from the Istanbul airport, designed for stopovers of six hours or more (istanbulinhours.com).
Beware of travel time on the ground
One thing to consider is how long it takes to get to and from the airport. Taxi rides from New York’s airports, for example, can take forever given the traffic, and the city’s bus and train options can also be slow. Mark Aselstine, who runs a San Francisco-based online wine club, says airports with public transportation are usually more reliable than ground transport, but travellers should check schedules so they don’t miss a flight.
Rent a car and relax
Peter Lombard rented a car for his 11-hour stopover in Frankfurt, Germany, and spent an evening catching up with old friends over dinner. “I didn’t make it a scenic runaround being a tourist,” said Lombard, who was waiting for a connecting flight to South Africa for a convention. Lombard is CEO of Insouciance Abroad, which organises travel for large groups. He rents cars so often, he’s got it down to a science, always opting for the rental company to fill the tank rather than looking for a service station, and using GoogleMaps and his phone to navigate.