A stopover can be the kind of pain for a traveller that’s equivalent to a form of Game of Thrones style torture. Similarly, long haul flights in economy class are dreaded by travellers everywhere. It’s like taking the most awful kind of bus to a location far away where you’re stacked in tight with strangers. You’re expected to get some sleep in the most uncomfortable seat you’ve ever had the pleasure to sit in and entertain yourself with movies that appear in a device in the headrest of the seat in front of you. Sadly, the food is one of life’s cruel tricks; it sounds nice but then just isn’t what you expected and can leave you feeling like you’ve just eaten a deep fried stick of butter instead of a meal that would actually be beneficial to consume.
When you live in the South Pacific region you’re limited when it comes to options to get around the world. You can visit beautiful Pacific islands, parts of Asia, Australia and New Zealand in a small number of hours however, should you wish to go anywhere else you’re in for the long haul. This means that generally you’ll need to stop in a central location in order to catch another flight to get to your desired destination or simply for the aircraft to refuel and pick up more people.
I know after you’ve been on a flight for a long period a stopover doesn’t sound that great but there are redeeming qualities to this situation that every traveller will undoubtedly encounter. Stopovers mean time to recuperate and have some fun! There are two kinds of stopover – a layover which is really just spending a short amount of time in the airport until your next flight and a stopover which gives you the opportunity to leave the airport and discover a new place entirely.
Layovers are often more of a chore for travellers, when heading to a destination and full of excitement it’s a bit of a downer to get off a long flight and have to wait for what could be hours in an airport to catch your next flight. The airlines tend to fly to ‘hub’ airports and then distribute their flights to specific locations via the hub airport venue. The airports have become places travellers use to catch up on some sleep, charge their devices and do the most obvious thing; get ready for their next flight. Many of these airports have however started to transform into places that cater for this kind of traveller. No longer are there uncomfortable rows of plastic chairs and vending machines full of Doritos and Coke but vast lounges and shopping opportunities, entertainment options and gourmet catering. The airports have actually become a place that you would want to visit – making your transit time much more appealing.
I recommend making the most of your layover in three ways; Use an airport lounge to unwind, Explore all the airport has to offer and hit the shops for items you want.
Singapore – Explore
Singapore is a popular stopover location for trips through to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Often with short transit times but enough to visit the copious attractions of Singapore’s Changi Airport. The award winning airport offers a number of options for transit passengers and includes some amazing attractions so it’s the perfect place to make the most of your layover by exploring the amazing things the airport has to offer.
To make the most of a Singapore Airport layover;
- Check your bags.
Although you’ll most likely be wandering around with just your carry on, if you have a small suitcase or simply things you don’t want to walk around with you’re able to check your bags into storage at Changi Airport for a small fee.
- There’s a rooftop pool and jacuzzi.
I can’t think of anything more relaxing in the middle of of a long haul trip than going for a swim and chilling in the jacuzzi at the airport. Amazing.
- Visit the gardens or Koi pond.
The cactus garden, the enchanted garden, the butterfly garden, the water lily grade are all currently offering endless options to explore…don’t miss the koi pond. Perfect for travel with children or if you want to go some place quiet to read.
- Be entertained.
Play some Xbox or go to the movies, there’s limitless entertainment options.
- Have some fun.
Changi Airport has the world’s tallest slide in an airport located in T3, perfect for some family fun.
- Tour Singapore.
If you’re in the airport for more than 5 hours a free guided tour of Singapore might be right up your alley. The tours are 2.5 hours and you can register at the airport.
Los Angeles – Unwind
I have this habit, it’s not a good habit and it’s in no way intentional. It might be a reflection of the way I travel – cautious and selective. Whenever I’m booking flights I have an unfortunate habit of leaving too much time in between, in my mind I have a thousand ‘what if’ thoughts before I click the button and part with my credit card information; what if we get held up in customs, what if it takes us a long time to change terminals. What if.
This habit has left me sitting at airports for extended periods of time over the years. Over time I’ve improved and refined this practise but I’ve spent many an hour hanging out at LAX waiting for my next flight. I’m a huge advocate of airport lounge memberships, they give you the perfect opportunity to have something to eat, relax with a couple of drinks and even shower and change before your next flight.
I get it – lounge memberships can be expensive but there are ways in which you can visit the lounges without holding a full membership. Day passes are available to many of the lounges attached to airlines and sometimes if you hold a particular credit card you can gain entry into specific lounges. Check the loungebuddy app you can book access to lounges and see what’s available, lounge ratings and comments from other travellers. There’s also the Lounger app where you can gain entry through people who hold memberships, this is usually only good for solo travellers as most of the time people can only bring one guest. Also, keep in mind you’re someones guest so you’ll need to be polite and be nice to someone – keep them company; they’re giving you free food and a comfortable place to sit.
Dubai – Shopping
Dubai airport, like the rest of Dubai is so impressive. There’s a lot going on, people going in all directions even more so than other airports. However, unlike Changi airport in Singapore the airport itself isn’t the entertainment, things to do hub you might expect. The shopping in Dubai airport was the absolute highlight for me. If you have a layover in Dubai Airport – focus on Shopping.
My highlights were;
- Jo Malone Duty Free space, although if you’re going to the UK it will be cheaper there so keep that in mind.
- The Lindt chocolatier, I don’t need to buy chocolate to appreciate the art that it truely is.
- Dates as a delicacy; you can get some beautiful dates from the airport which make great gifts.
I walked out of Dubai airport with packages after every visit.
A layover isn’t a great part of travelling. You can make the most of it however, why not turn a layover into a stopover! Many airlines will offer free stopovers when you’re stopping at their hub airports and it gives you the opportunity to see another destination, lay off the jet lag and relax in the middle of a long journey.
Many people see these destinations as not really worth it, I had a number of people ask me why I wanted to spend three days in Dubai when I could be seeing another destination in Europe. Additionally, I’ve noticed a similar sentiment when talking to people about Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. It only takes a 5 minute search on Pinterest, YouTube or Instagram to realise that these places are amazing destinations and a stopover opportunity shouldn’t be missed.
Make the most of your stopover;
- Plan accordingly.
I chose to stopover on the way back home to break up the flights and hopefully be less exhausted when I returned home,
- Treat your stopover as part of your trip.
Don’t make the mistake of treating your stopover like it’s just transit time in a hotel, get out and see the sights.
- Enjoy the contrast.
Your stopover destination will often be quite different from your planned holiday vacation, embrace it!
I guess although long haul flights are painful and we all wish travel could be a cross between getting on a plane in first class and the DeLorean from Back to the Future where you’re just suddenly there the sad reality for is it takes time to fly around the world. So, there’s nothing wrong with doing some great things along the way!
What do you like to do on Layovers and Stopovers?