Stop and Go: Extend your next layover and find savings and adventure

For a digital nomad like me, life is lived on planes, trains, and automobiles. In the two years I have lived in Israel, I’ve done my fair share of traveling back and forth to the U.S.

Usually, when you book international air travel, you try to book the shortest route as cheaply as possible. Many times this results in a stressful traveling experience, with a tight layover that finds you running through the airport at breakneck speeds. Or an expensive one, as you overpay for direct flights.

But by booking creatively you can use layovers to create mini-vacations. You’ll save money on your tickets, while also seeing new places and creating new memories.

Explore a whole new city, for free

Booking flights with an extended layover is nothing new, but not enough people seem to take advantage of it. In trying to be super time-efficient, sometimes we miss opportunities to stop and smell the roses. Or in my case, to spend a full day exploring downtown Amsterdam!

On a trip from Boston to Tel Aviv, I added a 12-hour layover, which effectively gave me about 7-8 hours to explore the city. The time constraint gave more meaning to my time there that day, and the whole visit felt like a bonus.

It began with a red-eye flight, landing in the Netherlands at 6:30 am. I hustled through security and checked my luggage at the airport, only bringing a backpack with my camera. After hopping on the first train, I was in the center of Amsterdam by 8:00 am, just in time to see the glittering sunrise on an incredibly clear and cold day.

I set out to challenge myself, planning the layover so that I could shoot photos and explore the nooks and crannies of this famed city on my own terms. When I arrived, the city was silent. With few cars, bicycles, or people on the streets, I was able to experience a perfect moment of morning serenity. As the sun rose over the still canal water, I found beautiful reflections and refractions on its surface.

Not all who wander are lost

I took my time, weaving in and out of the narrow streets and ducking into alleyways that caught my attention. If you don’t have any expectations of what you might find, then anything can lead to a moment of unbridled joy.

There is a power in the anonymity of travel. That feeling of being anybody I want to be today. Beholden to no one besides the clock. Plus, the kicker was I saved almost $200 on my total fare by choosing this 12-hour layover.

Never underestimate your ability to navigate your way into a one-day adventure. All you need to do is book it. Pro tip: make sure your layover begins in the morning, giving you maximum time to explore in the daylight!