How to plan an airline stopover

This past summer, Matt and I decided to be spontaneous and change our return flight itinerary from Scandinavia to include a stopover. Now what exactly is a stopover, you may ask? A stopover is when your flight’s layover is anywhere from 12 hours to even 5 days (depending on the airline), allowing you to see an extra city for no additional cost.
This is especially easy to do when you are traveling in Europe. Rather than having long and miserable flights, untimely layovers, and odd departure times, you can utilize the stopover option to get a good night’s sleep and enjoy a new city for several hours.
Furthermore, many airlines are utilizing this stopover option to attract customers, and are extending the typical 24 hour layover rule to up to 5 days! Not only do these airlines tend to be more affordable, but this option allows you to see a new country or city that you otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to visit on your trip. While Matt and I simply called United to have our stopover arranged for us, these options will give you a little more time in your stopover city, and you’ll end up saving some money in the process.

Airlines Specializing in Free Stopover Options:

TAP Portugal:

TAP Portugal is one of the most affordable airlines that you can travel internationally on. Seriously- go browse their best offers page, you can fly from New York to Madrid for $183! Even better, they allow you to arrange a free stopover in either Lisbon or Porto on your way to or from your final destination. Enjoy a weekend in two of the most beautiful and culture-filled cities in Europe in addition to the magical trip that you already have planned. A bonus is that TAP Portugal is a member of Star Alliance, so you can rack up some frequent flyer miles for use with United partners.


If you are flying through Helsinki, you may book a stopover of up to 5 days in length in Finland! This allows you more than adequate time to see the many sights that this Scandinavian country has to offer. During your time there, be sure to book a tour with FinlandTours who have a wide variety of tours to accommodate layovers of any duration.

Iceland Air:

Iceland Air arguably has the most popular stopover of the ones listed. Not only is the airline extremely affordable, but the website makes planning your trip incredibly easy, and Reykjavik is a good halfway point if you’re flying from the US to Europe. You can book your stopover for up to 7 nights in length, and can even arrange for a free Stopover Buddy as you explore the land of fire and ice!

Hawaiian Airlines:

International travelers are eligible for a free stopover in Honolulu- AND there is no limit to the number of days that you can spend in the US’s most exotic state. Book your flight here.

WOW Air:

For another option of a stopover in Iceland, fly with WOW Air! WOW already specializes in affordable travel, but this option allows you to add two destinations for the price of one for no additional cost.

Japan Airlines:

When you use the multicity booking tool, you can arrange a free stopover in Tokyo for no additional cost! Be sure you select the “make stopover” option when booking your flight. If you notice a price increase when booking your flight, just call a representative and they will assist you in making this stopover at no additional cost.

Turkish Airlines:

For passengers with layovers longer than 6 hours and shorter than 24 hours in length, TourIstanbul offers tours of the capital of the Ottoman Empire, and you are allowed to do this free of charge! Istanbul is a common connecting airport for those traveling to Asia or Africa, so be sure to take advantage of this tip on your next trip. Bonus: Turkish is a member of Star Alliance, so be sure to enter your ticket number into your United frequent flyer account to get those well deserved miles.


When you plan a stopover in Dubai, Emirates offers a free 36 hour visa. Though the planning on this particular stopover is a bit more arduous, visiting Dubai is certainly worth the trouble.  Once you book your flight, you’ll need to call a represetative to reserve your stopover package which includes hotel arrangements, a tour, and your visa. This will set you back $48 per person.

Copa Airlines:

When you fly with Panama’s airline, you can get a free stopover in Panama. Just be sure you’re specific when planning your flight, as this is not an option that can be added at a later date. Just like TAP Portugal and Turkish Airlines, Copa is a member of Star Alliance, so this is another great option to rack up those frequent flyer miles.
Have you taken advantage of a stopover? Where did you stay and how did you like it? Let me know in the comments.
Danielle Guy