You can make a layover the perfect one if you follow the steps. Picture:Bigstock
Having a layover in the middle of a long journey can be torture, although every flight out of South Africa will have one. The key to making it bearable is to manage it properly.  While some people like to get on and off a connecting flight as soon as humanly possible, others like to maximise their layover, thus adding an extra destination to their itinerary. Global travel and search platform Cheapflights.co.za shares the key to making the most of those dreaded layovers. 

Embrace it

A layover can add an interesting element to a holiday when planned right. Knowing where and for how long the layover is can make a huge difference to a trip, both practically and mentally. 

 “Allow the layover to work for you. In destinations like Dubai, a few airlines provide accommodation on long layovers and a transit visa too. Use this opportunity to check out places like the amazing Mall of the Emirates or the colossal Burj Khalifa, which are great places for the mandatory UAE selfie,” explains Phil Bloomfield, Global Head of Communications and PR at Cheapflights. 

Get pumped up for it. A 10 hour layover seems like a long time to be waiting around, but when using the layover to squeeze in some sight-seeing, it is a bit of an action packed run around. “South Africans should check whether they need an additional visa in order to leave the airport,” advises Bloomfield. “An EU visa, for example, won’t cover a layover in the UK”. In some rare cases a transit visa will be provided at passport control, so travellers should get some rest on the flight over, choose one or two nearby attractions, and hit it hard. Lost sleep can always be caught up on the next flight. 

What is too long and what is too short? 

On a long haul, for example from Cape Town to California, quick layovers can be an attractive option, but travellers need to be careful not to cut it too fine. Remember it takes time to disembark, walk through the terminals, and board the next flight, not to mention the fact that boarding gates can close up to 30 minutes before departure. A safe minimum layover would be three hours, and anything less than that may prove to be a bit of a rush. 

Making the wait bearable

If travellers aren’t able to include a 10 hour layover into a trip, get smart at the airport. International airports are like shopping malls, so travellers can shop until they drop. From Cosmic Candy to Louis Vuitton, they have it all. 

Never underestimate the power of sleep. Arriving at a final stop charged up and ready to go can make the world of difference. Get a few hours of sleep on the laid-back terminal chairs, in a ‘pay per hour’ sleeping pod or if needs be, next to a plug point along the wall. Depending on which airline and what class you are traveling with, there may be access travel lounges, and in some cases access can also be paid for.

Keep charged up. A cell phone is an essential tool when on the move in another country and power banks work like a charm to keep your phone charged up and connected.

iPads and android devices are powerful things and can keep children occupied for hours at a time. Listen to music, play Candy Crush, flick through Instagram or just surf the web. Without a local sim card, it can difficult to stay connected, but most airports now offer free Wi-Fi.

Times zones

 “Without a degree in logistics, planning a globe-trotting escapade can be quite the task to master. One of the most important things to remember when booking flights is that they are reflected in ‘local time’. This means that it is the time at the destination, and not where you are currently sitting,” says Bloomfield. Keep time differences in mind when estimating how much of a layover is needed. 

What day to fly on

Cheapflights’ research reveals that a Wednesday is the cheapest day to fly on, as are public holidays. This is based on the fact that they are the least popular days to depart on making them the most affordable. Booking in advance also helps and doing so 3-6 months in advance can save as much as 14% on airfares. 

Cheapest destination

Price will always be a leading factor when booking flights. Bloomfield explains that May and November are the cheapest months to travel for South Africans, and Dubai and Hong Kong are the cheapest destinations to travel to.  If these aren’t the final stops, let Dubai or Hong Kong be the layover destination to South East Asia or to the rest of the world. 

Layovers can be taxing, but with a little planning they can add an extra experience to travels. So plan ahead, be prepared and don’t complain.