Many of us look at those one-day stopovers as an inconvenience on our travel journey but perhaps more of us should be thinking of them as an opportunity; an opportunity to explore a whole new location and pack in as much as we can.
Yes, you might be tired and you might just want to get to your final destination, but you’re a travel fan, and that means embracing every opportunity that comes your way.
I often try to extend my stopovers from just a few hours to a whole day so that I can get out and explore a little. For me it tends to be in Singapore or Dubai as I leave Australia for Europe or Asia.
My next trip will see me spending 23 hours in Singapore so that I can get out and enjoy the city while breaking up my flight.
I’ll choose one “thing to do” and squeeze in all the delicious food I can eat (how many hawker centres is it possible to fit in 23 hours?).
With that in mind, here are some top tips for making the most of every stopover you have.
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1. Luggage Storage: Your Best Mate
First things first, if it hasn’t been checked through to your final destination, ditch the luggage. You don’t want to be lugging your suitcase around when you are trying to fit in as much as you can.
Look for luggage storage options – many airports and train stations offer them. It’s like babysitting for your bags – they take care, and you can explore stress-free.
2. Pre-Plan Your Attack
Research, research research! Whip out that smartphone or laptop before you land and map out a rough plan.
Look for the must-sees and must-dos that you can realistically conquer in a day. It’s like going on a treasure hunt – you need a map and a bit of a clue about where you’re headed.
3. Public Transport is Your New Best Friend
Embrace the local transport. It’s usually cheaper and faster than hiring a car, and you get to rub shoulders with the locals – sometimes quite literally if it’s peak hour.
Buses, trains, trams – they’re all part of the authentic travel experience. Plus, you get to avoid the stress of navigating foreign roads, which in some places is akin to entering the Thunderdome.
Look out for transport that will take you straight from the airport to the city centre – often there is an express service to get you exploring quicker.
4. Choose One Area to Explore
Don’t try to see it all. Pick just one area and get to know it well. It’s like speed dating – you don’t have time for a long-term relationship, just a fun fling with one neighbourhood.
This way, you avoid spending half your stopover rushing from place to place and instead actually get to soak up the local vibes.
5. Eat Local
Food is the gateway to culture. It’s always on my list of things to do on a short stopover. Every place has a local speciality that’s worth a taste.
So skip the familiar fast-food chains and dive into some local cuisine. Be adventurous – but maybe steer clear of anything that’s still moving.
Local markets are a great place to start, but you might also like to think about the style of location. Enjoy a street-side cafe in Paris, a hawker centre in Singapore, or a coffee shop in Istanbul.
6. Dress Like a Local (But Maybe Not Too Local)
Be weather-wise and culture-conscious with your attire. This doesn’t mean donning the full Aussie Akubra and Driza-Bone getup if you’re just in Sydney for the day, but dressing appropriately for the climate and culture is key.
Comfortable shoes are a must too – your feet will thank you after a day of exploring.
7. Take a Walking Tour
Walking tours are gold. I love to do one on my first day in a new city to get my bearings and learn some of the basics – so perfect for a stopover.
They’re often led by locals who know their city like the back of their hand. Plus, they’re a great way to meet fellow travellers and get insider tips.
Some are even free – just tip your guide if you reckon they’ve done a great job.
8. Capture the Moments (But Don’t Live Behind the Lens)
Take photos – but don’t spend the whole day looking through a camera lens. Sometimes the memory of how you felt wandering through a new city is worth more than a perfectly framed shot.
9. Use Social Media Wisely
Check out social media for real-time recommendations. A quick search on Instagram or Twitter can lead you to some amazing hidden gems.
But don’t fall down the social media rabbit hole – remember, you’ve only got a day!
10. Stay Safe, But Not Scared
Be street-smart. Keep an eye on your belongings, know the emergency numbers, and trust your gut if something feels off. But don’t let fear stop you from exploring. It’s about being cautious, not paranoid.
11. Embrace the Unexpected
Finally, try your best to go with the flow. Sometimes the best experiences are the ones you didn’t plan for and could not have anticipated happening to you.
That random street performer, impromptu street market, or friendly local offering advice might just be the highlight of your stopover.
So, be open to everything and try not to get frustrated when things take an unexpected turn!
As you can see, it is perfectly possible to have an enjoyable one-day stopover without it leaving you frazzled.
Travel is all about the journey, not just the destination, so making a real effort to enjoy every step of the way (okay maybe not those annoying airport security checks) will undoubtedly enrich your experience and ensure that your next trip is even more memorable than the last.
You know it makes sense, so where will you stopover next?
TRAVEL PLANNING ESSENTIALS
Find flights – I always use Skyscanner as my starting point when searching for flights. One search will give many options including airlines I may not have thought of. This means I can find the best possible flights to suit my needs
Book accommodation – my go to is always Booking.com for the best places to stay. It’s not just hotels anymore, but hostels, apartments, B&Bs and more. I love that the bookings are usually cancellable, and that I can book now and pay later.
Hire a rental car – RentalCars.com is my go to here. It allows me to do just one search and it finds cars from many of the different supplies, so no checking multiple websites to compare.
Get travel insurance – you would have heard by now that saying “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”. If we’ve learnt anything from the last couple of years it should be how essential travel insurance is. I use CoverMore for my insurance.
Pick up an eSIM – I tried an eSIM on my last trip and it was fantastic. I set it up before I went so it was ready as soon as I landed, and I still had access to my home number for emergencies. Get your own eSIM at Airalo.
Book activities, tours & attractions – I use a few different websites for this. Viator and Get Your Guide tend to be the first places I look. In Asia, Klook often has more options, and in Australia it’s Experience Oz.
Manage your money – the best way to manage your different currencies is with an account from Wise. You can hold money in many different currencies, and use them with the ATM card or from your phone.
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