Would you rather book a direct flight or a flight that involves a layover? According to Business Insider, most people prefer flights without any stops - yet non-stop flights are usually more expensive. What should you choose when you’re considering options that include the two?
You might be surprised to learn that there are plenty of pros and cons to both options. A direct flight to a destination can be fast and (literally) straightforward, but book the wrong seat or forget certain packing essentials and it might end up feeling stifled and long. A flight to the same destination with a layover will come along with the stress of deplaning and boarding again and again, but it can also give you totally unique opportunities and experiences! It’s all about what you want to get out of your trip. Never underestimate the amount of preparation that you and your adventures deserve!
If you’re somebody who loves to travel, your choices can help you make the most of every flight you embark upon. All it takes is the right insider knowledge, some creativity, and a little bit of research. By reading this article, you're already on your way! We'll help you understand exactly how to improve your experiences on both direct and layover flights. Whether you're into saving money, upgrading your life, taking it easy, or staying open to new adventures, read on.
Here are ten hacks for handling direct flights, followed by ten MORE hacks for dealing with flights that have layovers:
20 Choose Your Airline Wisely (Direct)
Direct flights SHOULD be smoother and easier to handle than flights with layovers, right? You’d think that being able to just settle into your seat and hold tight until landing would always be more comfortable than the airport-hopping that layovers require. Unfortunately, direct flights can be tough if you’re stuck on a bad flight the whole time. That’s why researching your airline is key before flying.
Look to websites like AirlineQuality.com and SeatGuru.com for useful details about everything from legroom to washroom quality and more. You can even ask friends about their experiences with different airlines for a firsthand perspective. An informed choice can get you ready to relax and enjoy your trip, not just to endure it.
19 Clear Your Cache While You Book (Direct)
Direct flights are in-demand! Why wouldn’t you want to get somewhere in one, unbroken trip if you had the choice? Because of this, direct flights tend to be more expensive than flights of similar distances with transfer options. Do yourself a favour and continuously clear your cache (aka ‘delete cookies’) while you’re searching for a ticket.
Ticket prices are set by demand, so refreshing your window over and over again trying to see updates prices might not make a flight appear cheaper. According to FlightNetwork.com, that may actually cause the price to go up. “This is the art of dynamic pricing,” the site explains. Take every chance you can to save your money!
18 Research In-Flight Entertainment (Direct)
Did you know you can actually find out what movies are going to be available on your flight before you ever board? Most airlines have that information on their websites, and they update it regularly along with the films they acquire for playing onboard. Peek at Singapore Airlines and Air Canada’s options, for example.
By checking to see which films they’re showing, you can better prepare yourself for the trip ahead! It can help you decide whether it’s worth it to download a series onto your phone or laptop to watch during the trip, or if you can afford to save the space and put your trust in the in-flight options.
17 Dress for the Long Haul (Direct)
On direct flights, there’s no break on land where you can find a nice private washroom stall and change into pajamas or whatever the next leg of your trip requires. Unless you’re willing to change head-to-toe in the tiny airport bathroom (or unless you have a lovely first class sleeper car), what you wear is what you wear.
Be kind to your feet and choose comfy shoes, or pack fluffy flight socks into your carry-on. Wear pants you’d be comfortable both sleeping and being seen in, like yoga pants, track pants, leggings, or similar athleisure options. Layer up in case of in-flight temperature changes, and you’re ready for everything you could possibly experience on a direct flight.
16 Sleep Aids Are Your Friends (Direct)
We’re talking neck pillows, eye masks, you know the drill! Blankets are bulky to pack, but you won’t need one if you make clever use of your jacket or sweater. With a good set of noise cancelling headphones, your ears are covered, too. All this makes it easier to endure a long (and possibly loud) direct flight.
You can even opt for a natural sleep enhancer like the supplement melatonin. It doesn’t induce sleep like a sleeping pill, it just improves your quality of sleep once you’re actually snoozing. And as a bonus on a direct flight, there’s no risk of sleeping through your transfer. You can lie back and rest all the way until you reach your chosen destination.
15 Get the Veggie Meal Option (Direct)
Direct flights are more likely to have meals than trips with layovers, which tend to be shorter. If you’re new to the #TravelLife, you might not know that vegetarian meals (along with most of the other specialized diet meals on planes) are pretty much guaranteed to taste better than the standard fare they offer to everyone.
Most planes that serve meals are stocked with a few vegetarian options. Even if you’re not vegetarian, asking for a veggie meal will likely give you a fresher and more lightweight option (think: salad) to keep you feeling good while you fly. Compliment it with a few snacks you pack yourself for a healthy trip with a low risk of upsetting your stomach.
14 Buy an Upgrade at Check-In (Direct)
Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a higher quality seat right at your gate. If you use some of your time before boarding to approach the flight attendant at your gate desk and inquire about buying an upgrade, they may even give you one for free. Either way this is one simple way to improve your flight experience fast.
Airlines prefer to fill an empty seat with an upgrade than let it stay empty, especially when economy class sections are overbooked. You may get lucky and be able to secure yourself a nice comfortable business class seat for $30 or less, whereas buying a business class seat to start with could cost you much more overall.
13 Use Airport Washrooms Strategically (Direct)
If you’re flying direct to an exotic or luxurious destination, you’re going to need to use the decidedly un-glamorous airplane washroom before you get there. That’s just a fact of life. But you can be smart about it, and minimize the amount of times you actually need to visit said bathroom. Maybe you can make it a whole direct flight with just one trip. A girl can dream!
The bathroom at the airport is generally much cleaner than the bathroom of a plane, which research shows to be the germiest place in an aircraft. If you wait to use the airport washroom until shortly before your departure, your bladder might not refill until you land post-flight! Try it yourself.
12 Set Your Own Pace (Direct)
One great thing about flying on a direct flight is that you can set your own schedule in ways that you can’t on a trip that has layovers. Your time on the plane is YOUR TIME. You get to decide when to sleep, when to stretch, and when to eat, with virtually no restrictions.
“I like to eat the salad and main dish when the tray arrives,” traveler Cynthia Drescher tells The Independent, “but remove the dessert and save the coffee cup so I can pretend I’m getting a separate service later on – maybe as I’m watching my fourth film.” Try it yourself!
11 Fill Your Carry-On with ‘Refreshers’ (Direct)
A hand mirror, makeup wipes and fresh makeup, a change of clothes, and even a change of shoes can be smart choices when packing your carry-on for a direct flight. On a non-stop flight, you don’t need to worry as much about losing your bags as you might when your flight has multiple connections. This means your carry-on can be more free to include specifically what you need for the day at hand.
Planning on hitting the ground running post-flight, by going out with friends or touring a city for a while before checking into your accommodations? With some deodorant, a fresh face, and the right change of shoes, you can do just that.
10 Maximize Your Savings (Layovers)
Choosing layover over direct will already save you money. Your choice of where to spend your layover (or how long to make your stop) can determine exactly how much money you save. This can involve a lot of strategic planning, but fear not! Some sites are set up to help you choose the layover that gives you the deepest discount.
Our fave is CleverLayover.com, where you can input your starting point and final destination in their layover search engine. It will generate several options for you to browse through, offering a variety of layover stop destinations. They also advertise big discounts on flights with layovers on their home page. 30% off on a trip to Venice? Yes please.
9 Modify Your Flight Search Engine (Layovers)
When you're searching for the perfect flight, you might be limiting yourself without even knowing it.
"Search engines are programmed to display inbound flights leaving from decently close airports," says traveler Adrien Perazzi, "let’s say 100km radius from where you are, or at least, the same country."
Be bold and set your inbound or outbound option to the most flexible setting, or specify a particular country or airport that isn't automatically being offered as an option. You never know! This can show you flight options that are not necessarily the fastest, but still reasonably priced and definitely daring. If you're going to have a layover anyway, why not take it somewhere interesting?
8 Make a Layover Itinerary (Layovers)
If you're hoping to experience some part of the city you're landing in, you'll want to look up what to do there. That can be overwhelming. Layovers can be too short to go deeply into a place, but long enough to see a few key places within it. Make it easy by reading a few key city-specific articles about what to see and what to skip.
We have a bunch here on TheTravel that cover plenty of the most visited cities of 2018. If your layover is about to happen in New York, London, or Istanbul, for example, click those links. It'll save you time and give you a good primer on what to expect when you get there.
7 Get a Drink in Your Airline's Lounge (Layovers)
A layover can also be a great time to just kick back and relax. Depending on the airport, most major airlines offer exclusive lounges to first class passengers or to flyers with specific credit cards/point plans. We have a few hacks to get you in otherwise.
Your first option is to ask someone if you can enter as their guest. Each first class passenger is allowed to bring one guest into the lounge, but few actually do that. If you're friendly enough, you could be one of the lucky ones. You could also buy a refundable first-class ticket just for the time you need to spend at the airport. Some airlines also offer one-day lounge passes. Your cash, your call!
6 Sleep Smart in the Airport (Layovers)
If you're a bad plane sleeper, a layover gives you the opportunity to catch up on sleep on solid ground. Find a quiet area like an empty gate or a designated rest space, set a few alarms and timers on your phone so you don't oversleep, and have yourself a good rest. The right place in the airport will make all the difference here.
Sometimes layovers mean missed connections, so if worse comes to worse and you need to stay overnight, be sure to tell an airline service member about your situation. Most airports store cots and blankets for weary travelers to borrow! Just be sure to ask politely.
5 Stop Somewhere You Want to See (Layovers)
Even if you just end up touching down and transferring planes on your layover, you may as well choose to do it in someplace you like. Views flying into and out of a place are sometimes the most spectacular thing you’ll see on your entire vacation!
Maybe a quick layover can help you cross a whole country off your bucket list. If you have the option of spending a layover in a place you've been many times or in a new place, we vote that you choose the new place. Who knows? You might discover somewhere that becomes a personal fave.
4 Research Airport Reviews (Layovers)
Looking up what other people think of airports can help you make the right choice for your layover option. For example, what would you choose if you had researched the following TripAdvisor reviews:
"They lost my luggage and I wasn't the only one." - a reviewer of Aegean Airlines.
"They are professional and the flights were on time. On board crew were nice." - a reviewer of Aerolineas Argentinas.
When layovers (read: more connecting flights) increase your risk of having lost luggage and delays, choosing a good airline matters. Take your time, weigh your options, and make an informed choice!
3 Download Airline Apps (Layovers)
Does the airline you're flying with have an app? If it does, download it ASAP. Airline apps vary in quality, but most are designed to tell you about flight details, and offer countdown features to keep you on time. This is super helpful when you have to catch connecting flights.
"You can see your seat number, and you can have your boarding pass on your phone," explains travel vlogger Brogan Tate. "I love having that convenience of it being on my phone so when I’m running around the airport I can just go into the app, I can see if there’s any delays, I can see everything right there."
2 Avoid Excess Baggage (Layovers)
If you’re trip includes a layover (especially if it includes multiple layovers) you’d be smart to pack as light as possible. More layovers means more chances for luggage to get delayed or misplaced in transfer. If your checked bags happen to move through the airports slower than you do, you’ll have a problem when you reach your destination.
Packing as light as possible can help you avoid lost luggage. First, pack your carry-on, like a purse or backpack, with everything you need while in transit. LINK Then consider if you can fit everything you need for your trip into your hand luggage. Most flights can accommodate both onboard within reason. No checked luggage, no lost luggage.
1 Turn Your Stop Into Another Adventure (Layovers)
We’re not kidding! By planning to stop-over in a city on the way to your destination for a night or two, you’ll get a fantastic breather away from the hustle and bustle of the airport in a whole new place that you may not have visited otherwise.
Some dreamy long and free layover options include Reykjavik on the way to the UK from North America, LA on the way to Sydney, and Frankfurt on the way to Thailand. Including a lengthy stopover in one trip itinerary is amazing value for money. It’s like getting two trips in one! Who wouldn’t love that?
References: Business Insider, The Telegraph, Healthline, Time, TheIndependent