FREE Stopovers: How To Visit More Countries For Less
We all like to get something for nothing, which is probably why you’re here! One of the travel world’s ultimate freebies is the stopover. Including a stopover in your itinerary en route to your final destination is a chance to cross off another place on your bucket list without actually paying to travel there. It’s almost like getting two trips for the price of one!
A stopover can also make your airfare cheaper. Have you ever noticed that adding a stop to your journey often lowers the overall price of the ticket? It’s strange but true — flying direct is usually more expensive than a connecting flight.
Now, before we get started, it’s important to clarify what a stopover is exactly.
It’s NOT one of those short breaks between flights, where you’re stuck spending several hours in the cramped seating area by the gate, bored out of your mind. A stopover is a gap in your journey en route to or from your destination that lasts for more than 24 hours on international routes, or more than 4 hours on domestic ones. Anything less is considered a layover. In most cases, a stopover doesn’t magically appear in your itinerary. There’s an extra little step in the booking process which we cover later in details.
Be aware that not all airlines allow free stopovers and others do not allow stopovers. But luckily for you, we’ve done the homework for you and compiled this handy (but not exhaustive) list of our favorite airlines offering FREE stopovers on most international routes and fares.
Emirates allows you free stopovers when flying through Dubai or Milan.
Imagine you are booking a trip from New York to Bangkok. Why not do add a free stopover in Milan on the way to Thailand and another one in Dubai coming back home? This was you will split that long trip and see more cool places gratis!
Singapore Airlines allows stopovers on your journey through Singapore, in both directions. Singapore is compact and easy to get around using the ultra-modern metro system, making it an ideal stopover destination. It’s also a multicultural foodie paradise, so stop by for a steaming plate of mouth-watering chili crab!
China Southern allows a visa-free stopover for up to 72 hours when flying through Beijing, Guangzhou, or Shanghai. That’s a free stopover plus you save on the visa fees!
Air China allows a visa-free stopover for up to 72 hours when flying through Beijing or Shanghai. That’s a free stopover plus you save on the visa fees!
Etihad allows a free stopover when flying through Abu Dhabi. If you book a stopover package for two nights or more, your first night’s accommodation is free! Don’t miss Abu Dhabi’s iconic landmarks: Emirates Palace, Sheikh Zayed Mosque, and Ferrari World.
Finnair allows up to two free stopovers meaning that you can stay in Helsinki on both ways up to 5 days. If you get bored in the capital (Finland is named the safest country in the world by the World Economic Forum), just jump on to ferry to Tallinn or join an expedition to see the Northern Lights in Lapland.
Icelandair offers free stopovers when you fly between USA/Canada and 26 European destinations.
You could stop in beautiful Iceland for up to 7 days so you’ll have enough time to check out Reykjavik, the geothermal baths at the famous Blue Lagoon, and even catch the spectacular northern lights if you will get lucky.
Hawaiian Airlines allows free stopovers in Honolulu when you travel on international routes to/from North America, Asia, and the South Pacific. There is no limit on the number of days allowed for a stopover.
Japan Airline allows up to two stopovers on your journey through Tokyo or Osaka.
Turkish Airlines will not only give you free stopovers, but they’ll put you up in a hotel room for free if they don’t have a connecting flight to your destination within 10 hours of your arrival in Istanbul. For travel in business class, even 7 hours layover will qualify for free hotel and a transfer.
TAP allows you to stay in Porto and Lisbon for up to 3 days at no extra airfare cost. Portugal’s largest cities are very budget friendly and full of old world charm. If you still need a reason for a stopover in Portugal, time your visit to coincide with one of the many exciting festivals and events taking place throughout the year. The free stopover is valid on long-haul flights between the US, Africa, and European countries.
One of the world’s 4-star airline allows you to have unlimited stopovers in Casablanca when you fly from New York (JFK) to many cities in Europe. Here is the special deal from Flystein with this cool stopover!
How to book a trip with a free stopover
- Just fly with an airline that offers free stopovers in their hubs, and you’re ready to go! The trick here is to use the “multi-city” search option when booking flights.
- Another way is to mix and match airlines buying separate tickets for each leg of your trip. For example, if you’re planning a trip to Asia from the US, you can break up your trip by buying one ticket from the US to Tokyo, and the other from Tokyo to your final destination in Asia. This way you’re also more likely to get a great deal by combining different airlines that might not otherwise work together. You see, when you put all your flights on one ticket, then you have to fly with one airline, or with its partners (usually within the same alliance) leaving all competing airlines are out of the picture. But what if an airline from another alliance is offering dirt cheap fares for part of your route? Then you have to split your journey into multiple segments. In this scenario, it’s a good idea to leave a few days between flights anyway, so that if there are any delays or cancellations, then you’ll have a buffer time between the flights. Keep in mind that if your first flight is delayed, and you wind up missing your next flight, then the airline won’t reimburse you and have no obligation to get you to your final destination since the two flights aren’t on the same ticket.
- You can also get free stopovers on award flights using your hard earned frequent flyer points. But bear in mind that it’s not as straightforward as a regular booking. Depending on the bonus program:
– A free stopover may only be available on round-trip journeys.
– Free stopovers may not be available at all. In this case, it might be a good idea to try to split your flights into separate bookings (see the “mix and match” tip above).
Award rules change every few months, so contact the airline for the latest information.