How to Add a Stopover Package to Your Next Trip

Stopover programs are an easy way to visit another destination without paying extra airfare. Brussels, Swiss and Ethiopian Airlines have three of the newest stopover packages to consider.

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October 02, 2019

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Stop and Stay a While

Stopover programs are an easy way to experience another destination without paying extra airfare. More than a dozen airlines offer this option, allowing you to spend anywhere from a day to more than a week in a hub city. But not all stopover programs are created equal. The best deals include free — or greatly reduced — hotel rooms, local transportation and entertainment options. We picked 10 of the best stopover programs, chosen for booking ease, airline quality and deals offered. Just make sure to research visa requirements beforehand.

Brussels Airlines

Brussels Airlines launched Belgium Stopover in 2018, encouraging travelers to take a break in Belgium for up to five days. While there, you can choose from at least 50 free activities in cities across the country, from bike and city tours to museums and attractions. Since Belgium is one of the smallest European countries, all of the participating cities are within two hours of the airport by train, leaving little excuse to venture further afield to Arlon or Ypres. Booking is pretty simple; just choose how many days you want to stopover, and on which leg, while selecting your round-trip tickets.

Ethiopian Airlines

If your layover in Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines is anywhere between eight and 24 hours, you qualify for a free transit visa and one hotel night thanks to its new 2018 stopover program. Don’t worry about advance booking; simply head to the Interline Desk on the first floor to make arrangements, which include round-trip airport transportation. However, do consider arranging a tour beforehand with partner site Ethiopian Holidays in order to maximize sightseeing and navigate the chaotic streets. Try to experience a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony since coffee is thought to have originated here. More day tours are available on Ethiopian Holidays’ site, such as visiting scenic Wonchi Crater Lake.

Swiss Airlines

Switzerland is one of the most expensive European countries, so taking advantage of a new stopover program on Swiss Airlines, launched in 2018, is one way to experience the country without going broke. Choose from one of 11 packages, all of which cover lodging and free public transportation. Depending on the exchange rate, the cheapest option starts at about $180 and includes two nights in Zurich. This deal includes hotel, unlimited transportation in Zurich (even short boat trips), plus free museum passes and other discounts. Other packages allow you to stay up to four nights and visit popular places like Lucerne and Interlaken. You can also explore less touristy spots, such as vineyard-laden Montreux on Lake Geneva. However, the Best of Switzerland package is a favorite pick: For about $783 you can spend five days visiting Lucerne, Engleberg Titlis in the Alps (home to the world’s first revolving cable car and a glacier cave), plus Interlaken and Zurich. The package is hard to beat considering that it also provides a six-hour train ride to Jungfraujoch; perched at an elevation of 11,000 feet, it’s the highest train station in all of Europe. Swiss Airlines makes booking a no-brainer: Simply enter your itinerary, choose which leg you wish to stopover and then pick your package.

BOOK NOW: Booking.com, Starting at $101/a night

Qatar Airways

The Skytrax World Airline Awards picked Qatar Airways as the World’s Best Airline in 2019 — for the fifth time. Its stopover program in Doha doesn’t disappoint either, giving passengers the opportunity to stay up to four nights in four- or five-star hotels, starting at a measly $23 for one night in a four-star hotel. Even staying four nights in a five-star hotel will only run $210 total. A visa waiver further incentivizes the offer. So what to do in the capital city? Well, besides mega malls, there’s the acclaimed Museum of Islamic Art, designed by famed architect I.M. Pei. Souq Waqif is the city’s oldest bazaar and a good bet for restaurants and souvenir shopping. At Souq Waqif there’s even a section for buying falcons, since falconry, along with camel racing, is popular here.

Icelandair

Icelandair’s stopover program is one of the best known, considering it launched in the '60s. It’s also a great deal since Iceland, like Switzerland, is among the most expensive European countries, so at least you’re saving on airfare. The stopover offerings have changed throughout the years, but visitors can currently stay for up to a week. One day is enough time to visit capital city Reykjavík and the tourist-heavy Blue Lagoon, although the latter attraction recently added the five-star The Retreat. Three days is enough time to rent a car and explore the popular Golden Circle route, home to Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir’s hot springs and Thingvellir National Park. And those staying more than three days can fly north (at extra cost) to the northern city of Akureyri to avoid crowds.

BOOK NOW: Hotels.com, The Retreat/Starting at $1,170 per night

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is currently ranked the second best airline in the world by Skytrax, and Singapore Changi Airport is a destination in its own right. Add to this the airline’s stopover program, granting those with at least 24 hours in between flights a room starting at about $30 a night for the basic package. The next level starts at about $46 a night and includes free round-trip airport transfers and hop-on, hop-off bus rides. The deal also comes with complimentary admission to more than 20 attractions, such as Gardens by the Bay, a futuristic-style botanical garden. Plus, those staying at least two nights get free access to Universal Studios Singapore. Note that it’s possible to spend up to 10 days in Singapore on a stopover. To book, opt for the multi-city option when selecting flights in order to access the stopover deal. You’ll be able to pick your hotel after choosing seats, with options ranging from three to five stars.

TAP Air Portugal

TAP Air Portugal allows you to spend up to five nights in either Lisbon or Porto during a stopover. How to choose? As the capital, Lisbon is known for its sophisticated scene, fado music and historic architecture, but it’s compact enough to explore in a few days. Porto is the second largest city and known for Port wine (Port originated in the nearby Douro Valley, making for an ideal day trip). There’s even the Portugal Stopover app to facilitate planning, from hotel booking to suggested itineraries. As an added benefit, a Stopover card offering discounts, like free wine at participating restaurants, is part of the app. Note that hotel costs aren’t covered in the stopover program, but Portugal is one the cheapest countries in Western Europe.

See More Photos: 23 Must-See Sights in Lisbon

Turkish Airlines

Istanbul is the only city in the world that encompasses Europe and Asia, and this ancient empire is certainly a destination on its own. At the very least, don't overlook Turkish Airlines' stopover program, which allows passengers one free night in a four-star hotel if traveling economy and two free nights in a five-star hotel if traveling business. Booking is a bit tricky; your layover (in either direction) must be at least 20 hours between flights. If so, then email freehotelusa@thy.com at least 72 hours before your initial flight, and include your name, phone, email, reservation code, date(s) you’ll need a room and desired room type. Note that the stopover program doesn’t cover other costs, so be prepared to pay for local transportation and visa fees. On the plus side, Turkey makes it easy to apply for an e-Visa online.

See More Photos: Go Cold Turkey: 10 Terrific Ways to Experience Turkey in Winter

Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways offers one of the best stopover deals around by providing two free nights in Abu Dhabi. Select the multi-city option when booking your flights, then choose your hotel. Five-star hotels like the InterContinental Abu Dhabi and the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi are among the choices, depending on your dates. Just know that visas aren’t included but can be bought online. You can also enjoy discounts, like 20 percent off the newish Louvre Abu Dhabi. Similar discounts are offered for Ferrari World Abu Dhabi (a Ferrari-inspired theme park) and Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, featuring all things related to DC Comic characters, Looney Toons and more.

BOOK NOW: IHG, Intercontinental Abu Dhabi/Starting at $119/night

Finnair

Top-rated Finnair offers the ability to spend up to five days in Finland’s capital of Helsinki and beyond. Pick your dates and which way you’d like to stopover, then consider adding a package deal for an additional fee. (Hotels are also your responsibility.) You can visit reindeer at Nuuksio Reindeer Park, experience ice fishing in a frozen lake or simply tour Helsinki. Not as heavily visited as other Nordic cities, Helsinki isn't lacking in culture or activities. You’ll find Michelin-starred restaurants, design-forward stores and striking architecture. Visiting in winter also means a chance of spotting the Northern Lights in Lapland, deciding on your favorite sauna and partaking in all things hygge.

BOOK NOW: Helsinki hotels | Booking.com, Starting at $83/night

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