How I Learned to Love Layovers

Key Idea: Layovers can be an amazing opportunity to see one more place on your vacation.

After paying $1,000 for two Covid tests in order to enter Egypt and Germany, we had a whole day before our flight would leave from Houston to Frankfurt, Germany. We decided to see the downtown and visit the museum of natural history. We called an Uber. This was my second Uber ride. The Uber driver offered us water and said, “You can call me Tex.” I asked him if we could do a slight detour and see the downtown our way to the Natural History Museum. He said, “I have never had anyone ask me that before, but I would be happy to do that. I have lived here all my life, and I can tell you all about it.” We enjoyed a nice tour of the downtown, a wonderful visit to the natural history museum, and quiet time in a beautiful park nearby shortly after.

This introduced to me to an important idea. You can use your layovers to see and experience more places. You don’t have to just wait in the airport. You can see something amazing, like the Eiffel Tower.

As I planned our second trip to Egypt, I purchased a flight that was extremely short by standards of flights to Egypt. It would go through Rome, have only a one and a half hour layover, and then arrive in Cairo after only 17 hours. I thought it was amazing.

Then, Alitalia went bankrupt, and that flight was cancelled. They put us on another flight. This flight went through Paris. It was much longer, not only because of the distance but also because of an 8 hour layover in Paris both ways! But here was an opportunity! We had two options for starting our trip: spend 8 hours in Charles De Gaulle airport or go see the Eiffel Tower. Is that even a question?

I looked into various options, and I was a little nervous about being able to do it in the time allotted. One thing I learned later, though, was that once you have checked in and checked any bags you have, you don’t need nearly as much time to get back to your gate. You don’t need the traditional 3 hours for an international flight and 2 for a domestic flight.

The key question for sightseeing during layovers is this: what do you do with your carry-on bags? On this trip, I decided to hire a driver and van to take us there and back. I was hopeful that they would keep our luggage, but I wasn’t sure.

Later, I discovered that there are other options for this. There are numerous places where you can pay $5 or so to store your luggage for a day while you walk around a town. You can use the web site Bounce to see what places are available and how much they are. I used this service in Madrid. We arrived by train, stored our luggage in a hotel, and then explored the downtown before we went to our hotel near the airport. It cost us about $10 a piece and saved us a couple of hours of driving around.

We arrived in Paris on a beautiful, crisp fall morning. We made our way to the gate, full of anticipation. As we neared the gate to exit, we heard a loud bang like a gun going off! I thought to myself, “Wow. This is it. I am in the midst of a terrorist attack.”

Shortly thereafter, someone came by and told us. “It’s nothing to worry about. The French police just blew up a bag that was left alone.” So, if you are traveling through Paris, make sure you don’t leave your bag alone. The French police may blow it up.

We met our driver, and drove through Paris. We arrived and saw the Seine river and all the buildings around it. We went up the Eiffel Tower, and we saw the wonder of Paris on a beautiful clear day. Our daughters were enraptured by the city. It was a perfect and magical day and a total success.

The layover on the return was not as great, but it still worked. We had an 8 hour layover in Paris and then a 5 hour layover in Boston. We did not go into Paris again because everybody was too tired. But we did go into Boston. We ended up walking a long way and enjoying it, but everyone was cold after spending two weeks in Egypt. I am glad we did it, but, with all due respect to Boston, Paris is a hard act to follow.

I took this idea and kept it in mind. When we went to the Dominican Republic in January 2023, my original flight was perfect. But . . . they cancelled it. Once again, they offered me a flight that was very different. I saw one that featured a 16 hour layover in Newark, New Jersey. It seemed like a lot, but I thought, “Here is an opportunity.” I took it, and my daughter and I spent the night in Times Square, once again getting to see an amazing part of the world for which we did not have to take an extra trip.

When I am picking out flights, I consider very seriously those with long layovers because I love them. They give you an opportunity to see one more place without paying for another plane ticket.

Thanks for taking time to read this post. Have you had a layover you enjoyed? I would love to hear about it in the comments below. I hope to see you again. Please share or subscribe below!