Get Cheap Flight Alerts
What is a Layover: A Complete Traveler's Guide

What is a Layover: A Complete Traveler’s Guide

Are you one of those travelers who see layovers as boring breaks before the final destination? Let’s change that and make it exciting! Imagine layovers as unexpected fun moments that make your trip even better. We’re here to show you how to make the most of these times, turning dull waits into awesome experiences. 

Explore new places, try different foods, or relax in a comfy airport lounge—this is your passport to mastering the art of the layover, turning those in-between moments into opportunities for exploration, relaxation, and unexpected joy.

What is a Layover

Before we dive deep into flights and layovers, let’s get the main question out of the way: what is a layover? 

Layovers are brief stops during air travel where passengers change planes to reach their final destination and don’t leave the airport. They typically last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

Longer layovers, also known as stopovers, actually offer unexpected benefits. They allow travelers to explore layover cities without extra flights or expenses. Additionally, passengers can relax, stretch, and dine in airport lounges, reducing travel fatigue. 

Logistics of Layovers

During a layover, passengers leave the plane in order to board their next flight. To make this transition as smooth as possible, make sure you’ve already checked in and have your boarding pass nearby. This way, you’ll move around the airport with ease. If this is your first layover flight, feel free to ask the airplane or airport crew for assistance, they’ll be happy to help you.

To further streamline the process and save money, Matt’s Flights will provide you with hot travel deals you don’t want to miss by subscribing to our email alerts. 

Customs and Immigration Procedures for International Layovers

During international flights, travelers undergo customs and immigration procedures, varying by country. On a domestic flight, passengers must clear Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including immigration and customs checks. This involves disembarking, passport checks, baggage collection, customs declaration, and possibly rechecking baggage. 

Layovers in other countries may have different processes, with some offering transit zones exempt from customs and immigration unless leaving the airport. Check the local laws of the country you’re landing in, in order to prevent delays or missing a flight.

Image source

Baggage Handling During Layovers

During layovers, handling checked baggage varies based on airline policies, layover duration, and airport facilities. In short layovers with confirmed connecting flights, baggage is automatically transferred to the final destination. However, during extended layovers or stopovers, passengers may reclaim their baggage for access or storage. 

Some airports offer a secure space for baggage so that people can go and explore the city without dragging a suitcase with them. However, know that retrieving your baggage may involve customs and immigration procedures, requiring you to get back sooner so that you have plenty of time to go through checks before boarding again.

Security Protocols During Layovers

Security procedures during layovers ensure passenger and aircraft safety. While most layovers keep passengers within secure airport areas, some require re-entering security. Factors include terminal layout, destination rules, customs, immigration, and security threat levels.

For instance, transferring between terminals with different security protocols or from international to domestic flights may prompt re-screening. Additionally, certain countries mandate extra screening for specific passengers. Be prepared for security checks and allow ample time for smooth layover transitions.

Leaving the Airport During Stopovers

The possibility of leaving the airport to check out nearby cities hinges on a few considerations. Firstly, you’ll need a lengthier stopover if you’re planning to explore. Be aware of the visa requirements for your destination, as you might need one even just to step outside the airport. Always prioritize your safety and choose destinations close enough to the airport to ensure you can return in time for your next flight.

To make sure you don’t miss your connecting flight while exploring, it’s important to leave ample time between flights. Generally, plan for a 1-2 hour buffer for domestic connections and 2-3 hours for international ones. This timing should take into account the airport’s size and layout, the time needed for immigration procedures, and the boarding process.

Image source

Hidden-City Ticketing

Hidden-city ticketing is the strategy of booking a flight that includes a stopover at your actual desired destination, and then exiting the plane at that stopover city rather than continuing to the final ticketed destination. For instance, if you book a flight from New York to Chicago with a stop in Atlanta, but your real goal is to stay in Atlanta. Airlines forbid this and it may come with consequences ranging from losing your airline points to financial penalties.

Image source

Booking Longer Stopovers for Sightseeing

For mini vacations during your trip, here are some quick tips:

  • Research: Look into stopover cities for attractions and safety. Check how close they are to the airport, and what you’ll need regarding transportation and visas.
  • Multi-City Booking: Opt for flights with airport stopovers in cities you want to visit. This can give you flexibility and possibly save money.
  • Airline Stopover Programs: Some airlines offer programs that allow for longer stopovers at no extra cost, sometimes with free accommodations.
  • Plan Activities: Have a list of what you want to see and do, and consider booking some tours or excursions ahead of time.
  • Time Management: Make sure you book a long stopover flight. 24-48 hours is a good range for exploring.
  • Pack Smart: Bring essentials like comfortable footwear, appropriate clothes, chargers, and important documents. Keep your baggage light.


Stopovers provide passengers with the perfect opportunity to go sightseeing. Now that you’ve read the blog post, you have a solid idea of how to navigate your next layover and how to perfectly plan out up to a few mini vacations before reaching your final destination. You can visit multiple places in one go on your next trip, all it takes is some strategic planning and organization!

Stop overpaying for travel!

Get cheap flight deals emailed straight to your inbox and save up to 90% on your next trip.