Long layovers offer a kind of two-for-one deal. If you leave the airport, they offer the chance to explore an extra country along the way, possibly one you’d never thought to visit. But without knowing up front what you’ll have to deal with and careful planning, you could end up missing your flight and your intended destination. Layover Guide breaks down layover time demands so that you can plan ahead:
Do I Need A Visa?
You will have to check ahead of time to see if you’ll need a visa to enter the destination that you’re arriving at. Check with your country to see what your entry requirement is into your layover country. Some require visas, even for very short visits, while others don’t. In addition, at certain countries you can pay for the visa when you arrive, but many destinations need to be planned ahead of arrival. For more in-depth information on How To Get A Travel Visa, click here.
No matter whether your flight is domestic or international, you’ll likely receive boarding passes for all legs of your journey at your first check-in, assuming you booked the entire flight at one time and through the same airline (or possibly even a partner airline). If you used a booking engine (i.e., Travelocity, Expedia, etc.) or your second flight isn’t operated by the same airline or its official partner, you may need to get your second boarding pass at the airline counter operating your second flight. Either way, allow plenty of time to get to your second gate. At large airports, it can take a hefty chunk of time to get to one end from the other, and may require shuttles—and time finding the shuttles.
Generally your luggage will be checked to your final destination on domestic flights, and you can always check with your airline to see if you can check your luggage through to your final destination on international flights. Many lengthy layovers up to 24 hours are considered a connection, so often times you can check your baggage all the way through on these flights as well. However, on many international flights — including those back into the U.S. or Canada — you may need to collect your luggage and re-check it.
If you need to pick up or hold onto your luggage during your layover, you can always leave it in the airport at a locker or Left Luggage facility. You can find out where these facilities are at the airport’s website, or on our individual airport Layover Guides. If the airport does not offer storage for luggage, you can always leave them in a hotel room while you explore the city.
Transit travelers are those not staying in the country or even leaving the airport. If there’s a “transit” area, you can head there and won’t have to go through customs. Some countries require visas of even transit travelers, so it’s best to check any visa requirements before visiting a country, even if you’re never leaving the airport.
For most layovers, you can leave the transit area (and airport) in between flights, as long as you have a visa (if necessary) and go through customs and immigration on the way out, and of course you’ll have to pass through security again on your way back into the airport. However, some tickets may not permit you to leave the airport. Always check beforehand with your airline to see if your ticket allows you to leave the transit area.
Customs & Immigration
Take into account that for many countries, you will have to go through Customs and Immigration upon your first point of entry into a new country, regardless of whether you’re connecting. Always budget extra time for this when deciding if you are going to leave the airport for your layover.
Unless you have to go to a different gate that’s outside the hub where your first flight arrives, domestic travelers are unlikely to have to go through security again. International travelers, though, most likely will have to pass security measures a second time.
About 30 years ago, most of the countries of the European Union, as well as a couple of additional countries, formed the Schengen Area to allow citizens and others to cross borders effortlessly, including for work, travel and living. What this means for travelers from the U.S. is that while you’ll need to go through border control at your first entry into the region, you won’t need to if you’re traveling on to another country encompassed by the Schengen Area.
Always check with the information desk about the best, or Layover Guide’s individual guide to each airport, to find the most reliable transportation option for leaving the airport and traveling around the city. If you are not familiar with the area, or the language, budget for plenty of extra time to get back to the airport, in case of delays or navigational errors. Also, take into account traffic, and distance when computing the time that you have to see the sights.
Additional FAQs & Resources:
There are lots of questions on what to do when planning your layover. Layover Guide listed all of our quick, helpful resources to navigating your layover:
Do I Have Enough Time To Leave The Airport?
This is a popular question, and the answer varies based on your layover location, and many other factors including whether you need to transfer currency, how far away downtown is, how reliable transportation is, whether you know the language, how much traffic is expected during when you’re commuting, etc. Here is more information on How Much Time Do I Need To Leave the Airport?
What Do I Need To Know (Or Do) For A Connecting Flight?
Connecting flights bring up lots of questions: Do I need to recheck my luggage? What Do I need to do for International connecting flights? Is there a difference if I buy two separate tickets on different airlines? Here is more information on Catching Connecting Flights to help break down what you need to know.
For Overnight Layovers, Does My Airline Provide a Hotel Room?
Many times, airlines do provide hotel rooms for travelers booked on a flight with an overnight airline. Call your airline and inquire beforehand. Here you can find lots of other Tips On Making The Most Of Your Layover.
What Do You Do If You Miss Your Layover Connecting Flight?
There are many reasons that you can miss your layover connection, and Layover Guide gives the lowdown on what happens if you miss your flight. You can find ways to avoid this from happening, as well as when the airline will cover the costs in our article, What To Do If You Miss Your Layover Flight.
How Can I Get Through Security Faster?
For those crunched for time, there are some great ways to expedite your security wait time, including getting approved for TSA PreCheck. For lots of great tips, visit our article on Tips for Getting Through Airport Security.
Additional Helpful Resources:
What To Pack On A Layover?
You have limited space, and limited time on your layover. What are the best things to pack? Here’s Layover Guide’s Ultimate Layover Packing List. And for those who are backpacking, here’s our Top Ten Backpacking Essentials.
What Luggage Is Best For A Layover?
The size, weight and dimensions of luggage is critically important for planning a layover. Will it fit as a carry on? Is it easy to move and wheel, or carry? Layover Guide breaks down the Best Layover Luggage, by traveler type.
Where Should I Stay During A Layover?
Layover Guide lists hotels you can stay in that are either close to your specific airport, or located in the main downtown area of each city. Check your specific Layover Guide to your specific city at Layover Guide A-Z.
Are There Tours I Can Do During My Layover?
Yes! Layover Guide is partnered with Viator, which provides organized tours in many different interests – from sightseeing tours, to private tours, and tours in specific interests. There are also night tours available at many destinations. Check your specific Layover Guide to your specific city at Layover Guide A-Z and you can find all the tour information under “things to do.”
I’m Traveling With My Pet. What Do I Need To Know?
Your pet is part of your family – so why wouldn’t you want to spend your trip with your best four-legged friend? What do you need to know when flying with your dog or cat? Layover Guide breaks down all the basics to airline travel with pets, including logistics, planning for layovers, here.
Have any other general layover questions that aren’t listed above? Leave a comment below!