How Long Should a Layover Be to Leave the Airport?
Yes, it's possible to leave the airport on your layover. Here's how you can make your connecting flight and explore a new place.
Time is of the essence
Successfully boarding your flight is the end of the airport journey for most travelers. However, if you booked a connecting flight, then making that flight is just the first hurdle to work through. Is there enough time in between to make your next flight? And what if you have a long layover and plan on leaving the airport to check out a city—would that even be possible? In short, it depends. Avoiding the final flight of the day, selecting the best seat, and using the same airline are a few tips on how to avoid missing your connecting flight.
How much time do you need to make a connecting flight?
Domestic airlines don’t have a standard minimum connection time, so it’s up to you as the passenger to gauge how much time you need to make your connecting flight. Your connecting flight could still leave without you if you’re not there, so it’s best to leave more than enough time. In general, according to SmarterTravel, in order to make a connecting flight at a U.S. airport, you should allow 60 to 90 minutes to make your flight. That includes the time needed to disembark the plane and gate. If the worst-case scenario happens and you miss your flight, this is exactly what you should do next.
What if you want to leave the airport?
It’s tempting to book airfare that has a long layover so you can take advantage of your time in a new city. However, it’s important to keep in mind that timing is a crucial factor. “It’s tough to visit most American cities on a short layover, but the time involved will vary greatly by destination,” Scott’s Cheap Flights flight searcher Darci Valiente told Reader’s Digest. “I would want a minimum of eight hours in most cities in order to leave the airport, take transit into the city and return in time to re-clear security before boarding my flight. Make sure that you return to the airport as early as you would typically arrive to check-in for a flight so that you aren’t snarled by unexpected traffic or long security lines.” If you’re really cutting it close, this is how to cut the security line when you’re about to miss your flight.
Where do you put your bags?
Sometimes it’s worth packing only carry-on bags, like how this traveler packed for a two-week international trip with only carry-on bags. If you opt to bring your bags with you on the plane, make sure you avoid the worst spot on the plane for your carry-on bag. However, it’s good to know there are times it’s smarter to check your luggage. If you’re concerned about where to place your luggage before a long layover, Valiente says there’s “less to worry about if your bags are checked, but most airports (especially internationally) have luggage lockers so you can stash your carry-on bags while you explore during your layover.”
Is it worth it to leave the airport and explore a new place?
What’s the difference between a layover and a stopover?
Do you have to go through security again to make your connecting flight?
Are there airports to avoid?
What to know about international layovers
While it’s tempting to book a layover in a new city in a new country, it’s important to know if there are any additional requirements. “While there are many destinations that you can layover visa-free internationally, there are destinations that require visas even for short visits,” says Valiente. “Depending on the visa process, it may not be worth the hassle depending on the length of your layover. It’s also always a good idea to stay on top of local situations, for example, transportation strikes, holiday closures, or political unrest can greatly impact your layover/stopover.” Next, make sure you know these 68 travel tips that can help you have a stress-free trip.