Yesterday I talked about how to book awards with layovers of up to 23 hours to see even more cities en route than would be allowable with normal stopover rules. Is it a good idea?
I’ll review two recent 23 hour layovers I had, which were actually eight hours in London and thirteen in Frankfurt.
In London, I had to fly into Gatwick and out of Heathrow to make sure I could get an en route stopover in Tampa on an AA award. (Why?) Since I knew I would have to leave the airport anyway, and since I thought I would arrive rested since I flew over in a bed, I decided to have an eight hour layover in London, from 8 AM to 4 PM.
When I arrived at Gatwick, I hustled out to the easyBus pick up point. easyBus is a cheap bus service from Luton, Stansted, and Gatwick to London, owned by the same people as easyJet. By purchasing the ticket online way in advance, I got my seat for £2.49. I picked a bus departure time 40 minutes after arrival, but I was at the stop 20 minutes early.
I expected there to be a hassle or fee to get on the bus that was waiting, but the driver let me on with my later ticket for free. It was a cramped hour to the city, but the price can’t be beaten, and I recommend the service.
Once in the city, I had about four hours to walk around. My first stop was my favorite British restaurant: Tesco.
With a boxed sandwich and pasta in hand, I headed for Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. I went for a nice walk and saw preparations for the Diamond Jubliee all around. Little kids prepping some routine and this horsemanship:
It wasn’t enough time to have new adventures in London, but it reminded me of my trip there last year as I walked through familiar places. It even reminded me of Love, Actually. “Wandsworth, the dodgy end.”
After about four hours in the city, I took the Tube to Heathrow for £5.50, so a total of four hours and £8 spent in London.
Considering that my alternative would have been a few extra hours in Paris, where I was spending a week on the trip, I would have rather spend the marginal few hours in London as I did. I consider it a successful “23 hour layover.”
Frankfurt was not my choice. There was simply no way to get from Kharkiv, Ukraine to Los Angeles without spending the night somewhere. And if I wanted a bed back to LA, I had to route through Frankfurt. But Frankfurt turned out to be a great place to visit.
Frankfurt is up there with Las Vegas in terms of easy accessibility from the airport to the city. From the train station in the airport to the central train station was only four euros and 11 minutes.
My hostel was right outside the central train station, which means it was in the heart of the red-light district. I checked in just in time to watch the nightly Euro Cup game and meet the other guests. After the game, we went out in Frankfurt until 3 AM.
Threes hours later, I was up and on a train back to the airport. I made the most of my thirteen hours in Frankfurt, walking several miles during the night, having some local brews, and meeting a few travelers and locals.
Considering my alternative to a night out in Frankfurt was an extra night in Kharkiv or LA, the night out in Frankfurt was a better option, so this layover was a success too.
Deciding whether to include a 23 hour layover
I think there are three things to consider when determining whether a 23 hour layover is right for your trip.
- Ease of access to the city- The easier and cheaper it is to get from the city to the airport, the better a 23 hour layover option is. Frankfurt scores well here, and London doesn’t. Research this before deciding on any 23 hour layover.
- How tired will you be- No layover will be worth it if you’re too miserable to function. I think this strongly suggests doing 23 hour layovers in Europe on the return trip since you will be arriving on short flights without any jet lag. The fact that I was not jet lagged when arriving in Frankfurt made it better than the London layover. But the London layover was still tolerable since I had just slept five hours on my bed on the flight.
- What’s your best alternative- If the layover cuts into a day that you’d rather spend elsewhere, don’t take a 23 hour layover. In my case, I felt like I had plenty of time planned everywhere I was going, so I was happy to spend a little time in the UK and Germany.
Any other considerations I’m forgetting? What are your best 23 hour layovers?