Sometimes when I have a long, international flight coming up – for pleasure, as I can’t afford the time on business – I like to break up the flight with a stopover. Not only does a stopover make each leg of the flight shorter, but it also gives me the chance to see and explore a new city. Unlike layovers, which only last a few hours, stopovers can last at least a day and sometimes as long as a week.
For example, say I’m planning a trip to Australia. Rather than flying directly from Toronto to Sydney, I might consider a stopover in Honolulu to check out Hawaii for a few days. As long as your airline of choice flies to all your intended cities, it shouldn’t be a problem. A few airlines even let you book stopovers using your earned miles without charging extra fees for the additional flights. The following are a few examples I’ve come across.
While many airlines don’t necessarily advertise their stopover programs – the option is hidden in the fine print – IcelandAir shouts from the rooftops about its stopover options, which have been around since the 1960s. Perhaps the most well-known stopover program, Icelandair encourages its passengers to spend a few days – up to a week – in Reykjavik, Iceland on their way to or from 18 destinations in the U.S. and 26 destinations in Europe, all for no additional airfare. Additionally, the Icelandair website even outlines recommended activities for your stopover, depending on whether it’s one day, two days, three days or five days.
Some suggestions include soaking in the Blue Lagoon and attending a show at the Harpa concert hall.
Looking to earn or redeem airline miles while planning your Icelandair stopover? IcelandAir’s loyalty program, Saga Club, offers members the chance to earn miles on flights and purchases from participating partners. A one-way flight can be redeemed for as low as 18,960 points. Not a Saga Club member? Icelandair also has a partnership with Alaska Airlines, enabling mileage plan members to earn and redeem miles on Icelandair flight. Flights from North America to Iceland start at 22,500 points, and flights from North America to Europe start at 27,500 points.
If you’re traveling through Europe, you might want to consider a stopover in Helsinki along the way. Finnair offers not one, but two free stopovers – one in each direction, in case you don’t get enough out of your original visit. With a stopover, you can stay in Helsinki for up to five nights on your journey between North America and Europe or Asia. Similar to Iceland Air’s recommended activities, Finnair links to a partner website with a variety of events and activities you can do during your stopover.
These include a guided run and sightseeing tour, a spa package, and a scenic bus tour. If you’re adventurous and willing to step away from Helsinki, another option is to go to the Northern region of Finland, where you can stay for two nights, have a meet and greet with a sled dog team, visit Santa’s Village, and more.
As a loyalty member of the Finnair Plus program, you can earn points and miles with each flight – stopover and otherwise. Earned points can then be used for travel class upgrades (from 7,500 points), extra services on board (from 7,500) award flights from 12,000 points and even award flights with other airlines in more than 800 destinations.
Passengers on Etihad Airways have the option to stay a maximum of two nights on a stopover free of charge. In addition to the complimentary flight stopover, Etihad Airways has several pre-set stopover packages for limited-time visitors. For example, passengers can book a two-night stay at one of more than 60 participating hotels in Abu Dhabi starting at $37 per night per person – and the second night is free. Another option is a round of golf in Abu Dhabi for as low as $40.
Etihad’s loyalty program, Etihad Guest, not only enables its members to earn and redeem miles on Etihad stopovers – and all flights – but also on flights to and from more than 400 destinations through its partner program. Its partners include Air New Zealand, American Airlines, Asiana Airlines, and Virgin, to name a few.