In our most recent poll, 73 percent of you said you’re spending more time than ever in airports, chasing connections or killing time. But layovers don’t have to drag down your trip. You told us your favorite international cities to explore during a layover, so here’s how—and where—to take control and embrace the layover trend. For a few hours in these hubs, you’ll be turning down direct flights any chance you get.
Three ways to book an (intentional!) international layover
1. When shopping at an online travel agency, don’t automatically choose the route with the shortest travel time: keep scrolling! One recent search turned up a cheaper ticket if you stopped in Paris for nine hours rather than two hours. Plenty of time for some brie and baguettes, sans l’aeroport.
2. Perform a test search online to find out where layovers for your route most commonly occur, and then plug that city into a multi-stop search rather than a round-trip search. For example, if you see that a New York-Nairobi flight requires a layover in London, search for a New York-London-Nairobi-New York ticket for more time in London—sometimes for less money. The same trick works for domestic trips.
3. For an extended (or even overnight) diversion, look for airlines offering free stopovers. Icelandair often offers a Reykjavik stopover as part of a US-Europe ticket, and Air New Zealand commonly allows stopovers in Australia at no extra charge.
Your top 10 cities for layovers—and what to do when crunched for time
Airport-city transport: Heathrow has three London Underground stations for service to London in under an hour. Gatwick has a 30-minute non-stop train to London’s Victoria Station.
With a morning, see: British Museum
With a day, see: Tower of London
Find more London layover tips
Airport-city transport: Schiphol’s train station, located below the airport, connects to Amsterdam with a 15-minute train ride. For your return journey, the airport is even accessible by rented bicycle on a trip that takes about an hour.
With a morning, see: Anne Frank Museum
With a day, see: Canal Tour
Find more Amsterdam layover tips
Airport-city transport: From Changi International Airport, it’s 27 minutes to Singapore on the MRT train. The airport also offers 2-hour sightseeing tours of Singapore—“colonial” or “cultural”—leaving from three terminals.
With a morning, see: Chinatown
With a day, see: Singapore Zoo
Find more Singapore layover tips
Airport-city transport: The RER regional train links Charles de Gaulle to central Paris, an easy 35-minute trip.
With a morning, see: Nôtre-Dame
With a day, see: Eiffel Tower
Find more Paris layover tips
Airport-city transport: S-Bahn streetcars leave from Frankfurt Airport’s Terminal 1 for a 10- to 15-minute ride to the central city. Alternately, a city bus leaves for Frankfurt every 30 minutes.
With a morning, see: Römerberg
With a day, see: Museumsufer
Find more Frankfurt layover tips
Airport-city transport: Six trains an hour run from Zurich Airport to the center city, a 10-minute ride.
With a morning, see: Churches of Zurich
With a day, see: Uetliberg
Find more Zurich layover tips
7. San Juan
Airport-city transport: There are two bus stops at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport; alternately, a taxi ride to Old San Juan takes about 15 minutes. Several tour companies offer hours-long tours with pick-up and drop-off at the airport.
With a morning, see: El Morro
With a day, see: El Yunque
Find more San Juan layover tips
Airport-city transport: A Leonardo Express train makes the 35-minute trip from Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport to Rome’s Termini Station every 30 minutes.
With a morning, see: Colosseum
With a day, see: St. Peter’s Square
Find more Rome layover tips
Airport-city transport: Madrid Barajas Airport has subway stops in Terminals 2 and 4; it takes about 15 minutes to reach central Madrid.
With a morning, see: Plaza Mayor
With a day, see: Museo del Prado
Find more Madrid layover tips
10. Hong Kong
Airport-city transport: The Airport Express train leaves every 12 minutes for the 24-minute ride to central Hong Kong.
With a morning, see: Victoria Peak
With a day, see: Kowloon via the Star Ferry
Find more Hong Kong layover tips
Poll respondents also told tales of taking in mariachi on a Mexico City layover, beaches in Waikiki, the Mall of America in Minneapolis, and a complimentary buffet in Dubai—proving the potential value of a layover no matter where in the world you connect.