I’m a firm believer in spending enough time in a locale to better understand the culture and feel a sense of routine. Nothing beats waking up in the morning to order the same coffee from the same barista around the corner who already knows your order after a week or more in a new city. Imagine days spent where boredom or catching up on life is not only feasible, but preferred, and the hectic nature associated with blitzes through cities fades away.
Yet regardless of one’s travel style and preferences, everyone inevitably finds themselves in a new city with minimal time on their hands. From justifiably heading to a nearby city for cheaper airfare or simply getting stuck with a long layover, people aren’t always afforded the luxury of multiple days to explore. Some cities might not even be worth the extended time, but knowing what resources to use and how to plan for a short trip is a value-added skill set for those still wanting to get the most out of a long layover or day trip.
Trip Itinerary Options for Long Layovers
Trip Advisor is more than a resource for travel reviews and also offers a host of travel articles sourced and updated by a community of travelers. While less useful than WikiTravel as a cohesive and organized city or country guide resource, Trip Advisor’s more informal site structure for articles enables wanderlusts to pen advice on more specific topics like layovers and devote an entire article with sub-sections, links, threads, and so forth.
Consider Trip Advisor’s detailed article on layovers in Amsterdam. The page is constantly updated by travelers to account for discrepancies in prices, times, etc., and offers links to city-specific websites—in this case a layover guide on Why Go Amsterdam.
Though currently limited to a handful of cities in Europe and the United States, I find the website 12 Hours to be an intriguing for planning a quick trip itinerary and scalable to include cities all over the world as the site grows in popularity. The main focus of 12 Hours is (unsurprisingly) 12-hour itineraries that emphasize design, food, and fashion. What I find much better about their approach—as opposed to the New York Times “36 Hours” series—is the fact the destinations follow a coordinated path.
For instance, the advice goes something like, “Hey, on your way from Point A to Point B, you’ll walk through this cool park.” In addition to genuinely being a guide one can efficiently use in limited amounts of time, I find 12 hours much more realistic for a specific, scheduled trip itinerary than the 36 or 48-hours typically used for other guides. The thought also applies to those half-day layovers in a city where it makes perfect sense to escape the airport, but efficiency is required to get a basic feel of the locale and make it back to the airport in time.
Catch Up On R&RFor times when sleep and/or productivity trumps scrambling around Many hotels offer day-use rates of their rooms for a cut-rate price to get work done or sleep. Consider allocating money for an “in case s—- happens fund” to not feel guilty if and when the time comes.
Stay in the Airport with Lounge Buddy
Airport lounges are pricey for budget travelers without top-notch frequent flyer status, certain credit cards, or access to a complementary pass. Yet a confirmed long layover or lengthy delay often means hours, if not a half day or more, to spend at an airport if traveling to the city isn’t feasible or desirable. The $30-50 spent for a day pass at low and moderately-priced airport lounges quickly becomes justifiable when you consider that many offer free food, beverages, and (more rarely) shower facilities. The noise levels and distractions in these lounges are also kept to a minimum compared to the overbearing activity in 99% of airport locations.
Lounge Buddy is a great app to survey the scene at any airport—even in advance—to check out amenities and prices of each lounge. A limited number of lounge passes may also be purchased directly in the app and I’ve found it to be useful as a research tool at the very least. It’s always nice to have the option and be able to consider the multiple lounges available at an airport before making a decision to leave for the city center when the timeframe doesn’t quite make sense. Sometimes, the cost of a few nights in a hostel pays for sustenance, peace of mind and body, and a chance to be productive or rest—it sure beats hours on end dealing with crowds and loud announcements.