Managing Stopovers / transit
making the most of stopover opportunities
Stopovers can be forced upon you while traveling or chosen to split a long trip. Either way, they present a unique opportunity to expeience something as a family – whether this simply be a nice hotel or a visit to something in the city. Most of our stopovers were to break long journeys – just catch some sleep and perhaps some sites. Making stopovers enjoyable however requires some planning and generally a few additional dollars – but is well worth it!
Often if you are traveling for any great distance you will be forced to have some transits. These can be challenging times but also can be refreshing, breaking the trip for the onward journey. In our ‘Planning Your Trip’ section we discuss how to select your best flights and stopover / transit options. Of most importance is the maximum travel window, where if your travel will exceed more than your maximum hours, you will break the trip – for us this was 28 hours door to door! If you are starting to push the envelope too much, turn your transit into a full stop-over, of at least 8-10 hours.
Transits are normally occasions where you are changing planes or at least stopping for refuelling and you are not leaving the airport. Generally you do not need to do anything with Immigration, although some countries insist that people traveling on some passports must have a transit visa, most times this is not required. For example, if you are traveling through Australia, some countries do require a transit visa – please check all countries requirements as part of your initial planning!
A transit may consist of anything from about 1 hour up to 6-8 hours. They can be challenging in that you are forced to amuse yourself and the family within the confines of the airport. Please also be aware that generally you will need to pass through security and some countries are strict on what you can bring through – amount of liquid, alcohol or not, tobacco products and perfumes in particular.
Below is a list of ideas and advice for a good transit experience:
- Ensure you check out the countries immigration requirements prior to traveling
- Be aware of security requirements and that yo may need to brave the queues after a long flight
- Know your onward travel details and monitor your timings in case of delays. If you are getting late for your next flight, talk with the cabin crew and discuss options.
- When you exit the aircraft, take careful note of where transit passengers are to go – as it is different from those who have this as their final destination.
- Look for a hand luggage trolley and / or airport stroller as it saves you carrying all your kids and bags for kilometres around an airport!
- If you are a frequent flyer, check out the lounge. The airline may have different rules for different airports and also for you and your family. If you can access a lounge, it makes transits a whole lot easier. We have plenty of experience with both options!
- Check out if there is a kids / family room at the airport. This can be a great haven to get away from the hustle & bustle of the airport crowds. Some airports may surprise – for example Nairobi has always had a great kids room but Dubai has very little.
- Be prepared to camp out at a location like a café or fast food outlet for some time to provide some comfort and refreshments for the family.
- Take turns shopping if required and perhaps take some children to give them a walk around.
- Re-pack and re-stock the vital supplies as required
- Use the time (if you have any) to change clothes, nappies and generally spuce up and feel a little more comfortable once again – if possible.
One of the advantages of traveling with young children is you should have enforced stops if you are flying long distances. This provides the opportunities of some wonderful additional experiences, albeit for a little extra money. The key is in your planning – look for the natural breaks in your schedule, dependent on length of flights and the time of the flight arrivals / departures. You may also just have somewhere you really want to visit.
Stopovers may be primarily for the health and well-being of all or for the main benefit of being a tourist! These will have differing outcomes and costs.
If you are stopping primarily for health and well-being, your priority is to minimise any additional travel in buses, trains, taxis etc and to maximise the time for rest. Some tips are:
- Ensure your stop-over is long enough to make it worthwhile
- Consider airport hotels to maximise rest and recuperation time
- Are there options with the hotel to still be in transit?
- Do the hotels have transport or do you need to take taxis?
- Can you check your luggage through and have your boarding pass for your onwards journey but still leave the airport with just your hand luggage? This means no waiting for bags or check-in for the next flight – just security and immigration and to the boarding gate? If you do this, ensure you have what you need in your hand luggage!
- If there is no airport hotel, get something that is suitable and as close as possible. Use a website such as our favourite www.booking.com to score extra good deals. There are plenty of others also. We have stayed in some remarkable places for great prices at times.
If your aim is to be a tourist for a day or two, then your approach is very different. Your aim now is to find the best activities, most suitable accommodation and make the most of the time you have, while also having sufficient rest so you can successfully complete the rest of your journey. Some ideas are:
- Search the web for the type of activities you want to do in your stop-over location and once you have a short-list, try to get accommodation reasonable closeby. Tripadvisor.com rank activities from their users in destinations and is a great placeto start your search.
- Book your accommodation as early as possible as family rooms can get expensive once the deals have been used. We often book apartment style so we can self-cater for breakfast and other meals as required to keep costs down. Sometimes of course a bed and breakfast option can be good.
- Look carefully at aspects of the accommodation such as internet availability, swimming pools, kids playgrounds and other activities.
- Plan your schedule to take account of jetlag, recovery time and the activities you wish to undertake.
- When you pack your bags, pack one suitcase that is for your stop-over supplies so you are not having to search through multiple suitcases to find what you need. Include enough supplies in your luggage so you have sufficient snacks for the kids, new nappies etc as sometimes it can be very hard to find suitable items when you first get to a new destination.
- If you are taking a different airline for your next flight, ensure you pack according to their requirements.