How to Stretch Out Layovers (and Why You Should Do It)

Jun, 07, 2022

People often ask us how we are able to see so many countries. One of my most savvy recommendations is to think about your layovers. Here’s what I mean.

Our years of traveling have taken us to some really cool places. From places like Bangladesh to Brazil, we’ve managed to wind up in some really cool parts of the globe. However, one thing that we have learned along the way is the value of layovers, and how they can actually add so much value to a trip.

This post is going to break down exactly what I mean when I say that, despite their bad reputation, layovers can actually greatly enhance your trip.

What Is a Layover?

A layover is a stop along your flight route. While you can often find direct flights from point A to point B, sometimes you will need to stop somewhere along the way to get to your destination. This is due to route logistics, as flying between two small cities usually doesn’t draw enough passengers to make a direct route profitable for the airlines.

As a result, flying from a small city like Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, usually will require a layover in a larger city like Detroit or New York before heading to your ultimate destination.

When you fly internationally, layovers are even more common. Airlines have international partnerships, and usually, these partnerships dictate what the flight route will look like.

For example, Delta partners with Air France, and Air France runs a lot of flights to Africa. So, if you want to fly on Delta to Africa, there is a good chance you will connect through Paris.

What Does It Mean to Stretch Out a Layover?

When you go to book your flight, the airline or booking engine assumes that you want the quickest route possible. So, if you are flying from the United States to Morocco on Delta, they will usually recommend the flights that have the shortest possible layover in Paris.

This is normally just a couple of hours. It makes sense that they would do this, too, as your destination is Morocco and not France. In some occasions, you have enough time to drop your things at a luggage storage facility and explore for a few hours, but not enough time to really get to see the city.

When I use the phrase “stretching out a layover,” I am referring to the idea of seeing where your layover naturally would be and making it longer. So on this hypothetical route from Atlanta to Marrakech passing through Paris, I would look at staying in Paris for a couple of days before continuing on to Morocco.

Stretching out layovers gives you the opportunity to see a new place without having to deviate from your route in the slightest.

I mentioned earlier that some of our favorite trips have been to Bangladesh and Brazil, but what I didn’t mention is that the reason we enjoyed these trips so much was because of the layovers we enjoyed on either end.

Spending a month in Brazil was an awesome experience, but tacking on a week in Panama City on the front end made it even better. Going to a wedding in Bangladesh was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but spending a long weekend in Moscow on the front end and celebrating New Years in Dubai on the back end is what really elevated this trip to a different level.

This trick has allowed us to visit Panama City, Bangladesh, Dubai, and more cities that we otherwise never would have been able to visit.

How Do You Stretch Out Your Layovers?

Extending your layovers is a very easy process. If you’ve read my post on finding cheap airfare, you’ll see how much I love flight booking tools.

These aggregators pull together the cheapest airfare options, and they present you with choices from many different airlines at the same time. As you get to see all of the potential routes, you can see where the potential layovers for those routes are.

So, if you are flying from Miami to Abu Dhabi, you might see that Qatar Airways stops in Doha, Lufthansa stops in Frankfurt, Turkish Airlines stops in Istanbul, and Air Canada stops in Montreal. If the prices are all comparable and the timing works for you, you now can pick which layover city sounds the most appealing to you.

Let’s say that you decide that Istanbul sounds like the coolest layover out of those options. What you would then do is go directly to Turkish Airlines’ website and select “multi-city” instead of “one-way” or “round-trip.”

The multi-city option, also known as an open-jaw flight, allows you to split your flight leg into two segments. So instead of flying from Miami, “laying over in Istanbul,” and winding up in Abu Dhabi, you will fly from Miami to Istanbul, then separately a couple of days later from Istanbul to Abu Dhabi.

Does Extending Your Layovers Cost More Money?

As we are talking about changing flight details, you’re likely wondering if extending your layover costs a ton of extra cash. After all, splitting things up and flying on two separate flight routes instead of one should be more expensive, right?

…Not necessarily.

I would be lying if I told you that you can extend your layovers 100% of the time at no extra cost. That is just not factual. Sometimes you can, but definitely not always.

However, what I can say is that if you use the method I explained above and try it on a couple of different airlines/routes, you are very likely to find a layover that you can extend for your route without paying much extra if any at all.

Man and woman on yacht in Dubai marina with city skyline in the background
We took a city cruise in our layover in Dubai
catholic married couple on mountain holding an ultrasound for a pregnancy announcement
We hiked in Central American jungles (and also took our pregnancy announcement photo!) during our layover in Panama City

Here’s the inside scoop: flight prices vary by day, but only once there have been enough seats booked on the flight to where the airlines can accurately predict demand. If you book far enough out – say, a year if you’re flying during the peak season or 6 months if you’re flying during a lower season – airfare is usually all the same price, regardless of the day.

If you book far enough in advance, you can get a cheap flight before demand raises the price.

We recently booked round-trip flights from Washington, D.C. to New Delhi 8 months in advance, and the airfare was the exact same price over a 3-week span regardless of which day we flew on. As long as we flew on the same flight (i.e. airline and time of day), the actual day of travel did not affect the price.

With this logic in mind, booking your extended layover far in advance should also hardly alter the price, if at all. While every airline prices things differently, most airlines price open-jaw flights very similarly to round-trip flights. As long as your layover is where the stop would have naturally been, the airline doesn’t really care if you fly on Tuesday or Friday, as long as you book so far in advance.

man and woman in winter jackets standing in front of main church in moscow
One of the most EPIC layovers we took was when we took a pitstop in Moscow Russia for 4 days over the Christmas season. It was one of the best decisions of our lives.

The flight from Washington D.C. to Delhi stopped in London for 4 hours. I double-checked, and to stay in London for 3 days instead of 4 hours cost no extra money. It was the exact same price!

On our trip from New York to Chittagong, Bangladesh, when we stopped in Moscow and Dubai on either end of the trip, we paid no extra money at all to extend the layover. We stayed for a total of 10 extra days during these extended layovers, and the flight price was identical.

Flying from Mexico City to Sao Paulo with a connection in Panama City was only $20 cheaper per person than stopping in Panama City for 5 days.

While I can’t promise that you will always see such savings, it doesn’t hurt to try! By using this method, we were able to knock off some of our top bucket list destinations without paying a fortune to get there.

Rather than paying $1,000 per person a couple of years later to visit Dubai and another $1,000 per person a year later to visit Moscow, we were able to tie them both into a trip to Bangladesh for no additional cost. Talk about bang for your buck!

Hopefully, this post answered any questions you have about stretching out layovers. Frankly, looking at the layovers is one of the most exciting parts of booking flights, in my opinion, because it opens up the possibility of seeing a new place. I’ll take any chance I can get to see a new part of the world, and being able to do it for free or for just a small fee makes the opportunity unbeatable.

Even if the cost is more than just a small fee – say, $150 – that still means you get to visit a new city and pay just $150 in airfare to do it. If you ask me, that is well worth the sticker price.

If you have any questions about booking extended layovers, don’t hesitate to reach out. I live for this stuff. Drop a comment below and I’ll respond as soon as possible!


Hi, I'm Greg. I'm an avid traveler who has traveled to over 50 countries all around the world with my wife and kids. I've lived in Italy, Mexico, China, and the United States, and I dream of moving abroad again in the future. With this blog, I provide my audience with detailed destination guides to my favorite places and pro-tips to make travel as stress-free as possible.

1 Comment

  1. Reply

    Prateek Garg

    March 23, 2024

    I want to book a flight from delhi to dubai I have one option via Riyadh but i want the extended layover for three days ho cani do this.

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Meet The Author - Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. I'm an avid traveler who has traveled to over 50 countries all around the world with my wife and kids. I've lived in Italy, Mexico, China, and the United States, and I dream of moving abroad again in the future. With this blog, I provide my audience with detailed destination guides to my favorite places and pro-tips to make travel as stress-free as possible.