Oh, we’ve got a serious winner for you today.
Once you get into the travel ticking thing, you’re going to want to make as efficient use of your limited travel time as possible; and the first sign of that is that as soon as you have a reason to go someplace, your immediate reaction is to look for stopovers along the way.
Level 1: Oneways via Hub
Go to some flight metasearch engine (working for Priceline Group currently, of course we recommend Kayak.com or momondo.com, but hey whatever’s handy) and do a price search. You’ll probably notice that the cheapest flights include a good selection of connections.
So instead of booking one through ticket, book two oneways; one to the connection city, and one a couple days later to your actual destination. Quite often you’ll find that this is actually cheaper overall, since there’s likely to be more competition on each individual leg from a hub city than between two far-flung destinations.
Level 2: Airline-bookable
The more clever airlines have noticed people at Level 1 and decided hey why don’t we make this into a marketing feature? For all our Dear North American Readers, the #1 at this level you should be aware of is the Icelandair Stopover, because Iceland’s a pretty cool place, and that works with all popular European destinations. And for another example, Turkish Airlines, well they’ve raised layovers to a fine art with Touristanbul.
(Terminology note: “Layover”: < 24 hours. “Stopover”: > 24 hours.)
There’s lots more like that to find — similar to the Level 1 recommendation, do a metasearch to find out what airlines provide a reasonably priced connection to your final destination then go check them out directly to find out what your options might be.
UPDATE: Here’s a list of current free stopover offering airlines:
- Qatar Airways: Doha (with free visa and hotel!)
- Emirates: Dubai and Milan
- Singapore Airlines: Singapore
- China Southern: Beijing, Guangzhou, or Shanghai (72-hour visa free)
- Air China: Beijing, Shanghai (72-hour visa free)
- Etihad: Abu Dhabi
- Finnair: Helsinki (twice!)
- Icelandair: Reykjavik
- Hawaiian Airlines: Honolulu
- Japan Airlines: Tokyo or Osaka
- Turkish Airlines: Istanbul (with free hotel!)
- TAP: Porto and Lisbon
- Royal Air Maroc: Casablanca
Level 3: Madness
OK, we kid, we kid. But there are people who go to quite extreme lengths to figure out the longest possible layovers and stopovers given a certain budget — the canonical example of that is what’s referred to as Aeroplan’s Mini-RTW points redemption, where people go to ridiculous lengths to figure out just how many places they can fit into the rules (10 segments with unlimited layovers + 2 stopover/open jaws whilst staying with 5% of Maximum Permitted Mileage), like this example we pulled off the end of that FlyerTalk thread just now:
I have just booked two business class tickets;
That’s… a pretty darn good trip out of Montréal actually!
Any-ways, that’s getting downright esoteric, that kind of thing is, and since Aeroplan is going away might as well not bother getting into that particular example at this point…
… although when we burn our last batch of Aeroplan miles, we’ll do our best to come up with a masterpiece of routing exploiting all loopholes to their fullest for you to marvel at!
So, up until today, we would have finished our Stopovers 101 lesson at this point; but we’ve stumbled across something that, apparently, renders all this puttering about darn near completely obsolete. And that is
LEVEL 9000: AirWander.com
The search engine, Airwander, allows users to input their departure airport and final destination. Users can then either choose a specific city for their stopover or let Airwander recommend one. It’s also possible to search for one-way, round-trip, multi-city, or world tour flights.
Airwander will not only recommend add-on destinations that could save money, it will recommend the most advantageous itinerary for your trip. For example, the site will tell you if it’s better to book four separate one-way tickets with different airlines. Previously, this kind of itinerary would have taken lots of patience and many flight searches to find…
Yes. Yes, it would. Let’s give it a shot with one we recently did ourselves, figuring out how to work someplace new into a trip back to see the parents for Christmas, shall we?
OK, well that’s a straightforward interface, let’s hit that big red + and see what it comes up with …
… O. M. G. That’s … that’s … beautiful. Every destination we’d have searched ourselves is here, and dozens that would never have occurred to us!
And it’s recursive even: Select one here and go back to the main page, and it lets you insert another stopover in each leg if you want!
Alright, we’re nothing short of flabbergasted, and we assure you trolls do not flabbergast easily. We’d spend, literally, months to come up with less options than a minute’s search did there, and we flatter ourselves by thinking we’re pretty good at this travel hacking thing.
So yeah, Airwander.com? Straight to the bookmarks where it’s just become our new goto site to start planning any break longer than a weekend!
(And hey, if you’re reading this, Airwander guys, I don’t see an Airwander app in the App Store. You want one? When I’m not trying to start up a travel blog, I do iOS apps, let’s talk!)
One last note here, from their FAQ:
AirWander automated a multi-booking method. This is based on a savvy travelers flight booking method. It involves a lot of guessing and excel sheets, and time searching.
This technique is well described on SavoredJourneys blog post “How to Book a Free Stopover”.
Check that post out too, it’s basically the same as our approach outlined above but they go into more details using Skyscanner as an example, which will no doubt be helpful if you thought our explanation hurried along a little quickly!