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Turning Layovers into Adventures: A Guide to Airline Stopovers for Families

Imagine this: you're booked on a long-haul flight with the family, dreading the seemingly endless hours stuck in your airplane seats. But what if that long layover could be transformed into an exciting adventure? Enter the world of airline stopovers, a travel hack that can turn a potentially monotonous journey into a two-for-one vacation extravaganza!


So, what exactly is a stopover? 


Unlike a layover, which is a brief connection time between flights, a stopover allows you to intentionally extend your layover for a day or more in a different city, often the airline's hub. This means you can disembark, explore the city, and even stay overnight before continuing on to your final destination.


Why are stopovers perfect for families?

  • Double the Destination, Double the Fun: Kids (and adults!) get a break from the monotony of long flights with an exciting stopover city to explore. Imagine splashing in Iceland's geothermal pools or visiting Dubai's desert sands before heading to your final beach getaway.

  • Budget-Friendly Bonus: Many airlines offer stopovers for free, essentially giving you two vacations for the price of one flight! This can be a huge win for families, especially those looking to stretch their travel budget.

  • Educational Adventures: Stopovers can be fantastic learning experiences. Immerse yourselves in a new culture, explore historical landmarks, or try a different cuisine. It's a chance to broaden your family's horizons and create lasting memories.

  • Break Up the Journey: Long flights with young children can be a recipe for meltdowns. Stopovers provide a much-needed opportunity to stretch your legs, recharge, and avoid cabin fever.

Airlines Offering Stopover Programs:

Several airlines have embraced the stopover concept, making it easier than ever for families to explore new destinations. Here are a few popular options:



Stopover City: Reykjavik

Explore Iceland's dramatic landscapes on a budget-friendly stopover with Icelandair. Break up your transatlantic flight to Europe with a few days in Iceland, adding a unique adventure to your trip for no additional airfare. Icelandair's stopover program allows you to stay in Iceland for up to a week, letting you experience glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, and the geothermal Blue Lagoon.

Family-friendly activities abound in Iceland, from whale watching tours to horseback riding adventures and even exploring man-made ice caves.  With its safe environment, stunning natural beauty, and welcoming locals, Iceland is a fantastic destination for families to create lasting memories together.


Qatar Airways

Stopover City: Doha

Planning a trip further east? Consider a stopover in Doha, Qatar, with Qatar Airways' stopover program. This program allows you to break up your journey for up to four nights on eligible itineraries, at minimal cost. Explore Qatar's vibrant capital city, Doha, with its modern museums, traditional souks (marketplaces), and stunning desert landscapes.

Highlights include:

  • Cultural Experiences: Immerse yourself in Qatari culture at the Museum of Islamic Art or explore the Souq Waqif, a traditional marketplace.

  • Desert Adventures: Embark on a thrilling desert safari or explore the Inland Sea, a unique inland body of water.

  • Luxury Relaxation: Unwind at world-class spas or soak up the sun on pristine beaches.

With a variety of accommodation options and visa-free entry for many nationalities, a Qatar stopover can be a budget-friendly way to add a unique experience to your trip.  Check Qatar Airways' website for details and eligibility requirements.



Stopover City: Dubai

Traveling with Emirates Airlines? Take advantage of their stopover program to discover Dubai, the dazzling metropolis of the United Arab Emirates. This program allows you to extend your layover at minimal cost.  Experience the city's iconic landmarks like the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, explore the bustling souks, or dune bash your way into the desert for a nighttime BBQ.

Depending on your travel dates, you may be eligible for special discounts and offers during your stopover.  This program is a great way to break up your journey and add an exciting city stopover to your trip. 


TAP Portugal 

Stopover City: Lisbon

Flying to Europe or beyond with TAP Air Portugal? Consider adding a Portugal stopover to your trip! This program allows you to break up your journey and explore Portugal for up to ten days, at no additional cost for the flight segment within Portugal.  Immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of Lisbon, Porto, or other charming Portuguese destinations.

Highlights include:

  • Explore Historic Cities: Discover medieval castles, grand cathedrals, and vibrant cultural scenes in Lisbon, Porto, or other captivating cities.

  • Relax on the Coast: Unwind on pristine beaches, explore charming coastal towns, and experience the laid-back atmosphere of the Algarve region.

  • Foodie Delights: Savor delicious Portuguese cuisine, from fresh seafood to traditional pastries like Pastel de Nata.

TAP Air Portugal also offers discounts on domestic flights within Portugal and special partner deals for hotels and activities.  This program can be a budget-friendly way to extend your trip and experience the beauty of Portugal.


Etihad Airways

Stopover City: Abu Dhabi

Ethiad's stopover program allows you to extend your journey for up to two nights at minimal cost on eligible itineraries. Explore the city's modern marvels and rich cultural heritage.

Highlights include:

  • Cultural Gems:  Immerse yourself in the Emirati culture at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world, or explore the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a museum showcasing global art and artifacts.

  • Thrilling Adventures:  Experience the adrenaline rush at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the world's first Ferrari-themed park, or visit Yas Waterworld for a day of splashtastic fun.

  • Desert Delights:  Embark on a thrilling desert safari and experience the vastness of the Arabian desert under a starlit sky.

With a variety of accommodation options and visa-free entry for many nationalities, an Abu Dhabi stopover can be a budget-friendly way to add a unique cultural experience to your trip.  


Turkish Airlines

Stopover City: Istanbul

Break up your long-haul journey with a stopover in Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. This program allows you to extend your layover for up to two nights at minimal cost, adding a fascinating cultural experience to your trip.  Immerse yourselves in the rich history and vibrant energy of Istanbul, a city where East meets West.

Highlights include:

  • Hagia Sophia: Explore this architectural marvel, once a church, mosque, and now a museum, showcasing stunning mosaics and Byzantine art.

  • Topkapi Palace: Step back in time and wander the opulent halls of this Ottoman palace, once the center of a vast empire.

  • Grand Bazaar: Lose yourselves in the labyrinthine alleys of this historic market, filled with colorful spices, handcrafted souvenirs, and local delights.

  • Bosphorus Cruise: Enjoy breathtaking views of the city skyline and iconic landmarks like Dolmabahce Palace on a scenic Bosphorus Strait cruise.

With its mix of historical sites, bustling bazaars, and delicious Turkish cuisine, Istanbul offers something for everyone.


Singapore Airlines

Stopover City: Singapore

Break up your journey for up to three days at minimal cost and explore the vibrant city-state of Singapore.  This program even allows you to experience the world-renowned attractions at Singapore Changi Airport, consistently ranked among the best airports globally.

Highlights include:

  • Gardens by the Bay: Immerse yourselves in futuristic Supertrees and explore themed gardens featuring diverse plant life.

  • Sentosa Island:  Unwind on pristine beaches, experience thrilling theme parks like Universal Studios Singapore, or explore S.E.A Aquarium, one of the world's largest aquariums.

  • Chinatown, Little India, and Kampong Glam:  Delve into Singapore's rich multicultural heritage by exploring vibrant ethnic districts filled with delicious cuisine, unique shops, and colorful architecture.

  • Singapore Changi Airport:  Enjoy the airport's award-winning amenities, including a butterfly garden, rooftop pool, and movie theaters, during your stopover.


Alaska Airlines

Stopover City: Many Destinations

Flying on Alaska Airlines and looking to maximize your mileage plan benefits?  Consider taking advantage of their generous stopover program, especially for award tickets! Unlike many airlines, Alaska Mileage Plan allows a free one-way stopover on each direction of your international award itinerary.

This means you can essentially turn your single award ticket into a two-destination adventure, exploring an extra city at no additional mileage cost.  For instance, you could fly Seattle to London with a stopover in Iceland to experience glaciers and waterfalls before continuing your journey.  Check Alaska Airlines' website for details and eligibility requirements, and unlock the endless world of possibilities with their stopover program.


Tips for Planning a Stopover with Your Family:

  • Plan Your Itinerary: While a stopover offers flexibility, having a loose plan helps maximize your time. Research must-see attractions, family-friendly restaurants, and suitable transportation options.


  • Pack Light for Exploring: Remember, you'll be carrying your luggage during your stopover. Pack versatile clothing suitable for your final destination and the stopover city's climate.


  • Consider Visa Requirements: Some countries may require visas for layovers exceeding a certain duration. Research visa requirements well in advance to avoid any last-minute hiccups.




Round the World Tickets: The Ultimate Stopover Adventure


For the truly adventurous family, consider a round-the-world (RTW) ticket. These multi-stop tickets allow you to create a customized itinerary with multiple stopovers across different continents. Imagine a family adventure that starts in Europe, includes a stopover in Asia, continues to Australia, and then winds its way back home via North America.

While RTW tickets typically require more planning and are pricier than single-destination flights, they offer unmatched flexibility and the chance to create a truly unique family vacation experience.


Turning a layover into an adventure with a stopover program can add a whole new dimension to your family vacation. By planning strategically and choosing the right stopover destination, you can create lasting memories and transform a long journey into an exciting multi-destination vacation!


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