Choosing An Airport For A Stopover

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Some airports are just better for stopover than others, both in terms of lowering your airfare costs, and adding to your overall comfort and convenience. (And some airports should simply be avoided altogether, if possible.) When I had a couple hours to kill at Honolulu's airport, for example, I was able to relax in their tropical garden (shown above) rather than a crowded waiting area or forgettable airport bar.

Granted, not every trip you book will give you multiple stopover options — and it may not be worth spending the energy on planning and research if the stopover is under three hours — but if you do have a choice, here's what you should think about before booking.

Consider the Standard Factors

Before diving into the what makes an airport ideal for a stopover, consider standard factors first:

  • Airfare cost: Obviously, you'll see this when you're searching for flights.

  • Customer service of the airlines you'd take: Trip Advisor has decent reviews you can read to get an idea of this.

  • Weather patterns for each airport: For example, flying through the US northeast in winter can cause weather-related delays.

  • Flight delay rates for each airline: The Australian government has info on airline performance.

If you have several options after thinking through the above factors, then you can dig into which airport is going to give you the best stopover experience. Sometimes, the above factors might be close, for example, two flights might have a $50 difference, which could be low enough that picking the slightly more expensive airport is worth it if it offers a better stopover experience.

Figure Out How You'll Spend Your Time

Sure, sitting in an airport bar can be a fine way to pass the hours waiting for your plane to board. If that's not how you want to spend your stopover, you should see what other options the airport offers. Some possibilities to start with:

  • Cultural displays: Art or historic displays spread throughout the airport that you can tour to learn more about local artists, history, or culture.

  • Exercise: There may be a gym, yoga room, or other spot that you can get your blood pumping before you're stuck sitting on a plane.

  • Outdoor spaces: As I mentioned above, some airports have lovely spaces where you can enjoy being surrounded by plants and small creatures rather than stale airport air.

  • Great eats: Some airports have well known local restaurants, which you can give a try without having to go back through security.

  • Venture outside: If your stopover is long enough, you might consider a "city tour" and head outside the airport to soak in the sights.

  • Activities for kids: If you're travelling with your kids, some airport are friendly than others. You might find ones that have play grounds or other spots to keep your kids entertained.

Find these details for airports you're considering by checking out their website and looking at reviews (other flyers are your friend!).

Check for Comfort

Besides having a couple ways to pass the time, you want to be comfortable during your stopover. Decide what two or three things related to comfort are most important to you so that you can see if an airport will fulfil them. A few examples:

  • Lounge access (you might be able to get in for free)

  • Wi-Fi connectivity

  • Work stations and power outlet access

  • Airport layout

  • Quiet areas

You should keep notes for future trips, even if you just jot down a quick 1-5 rating, so that you quickly know if you should spend a stopover in that airport again.


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