Picking which airline to fly with is more than just price, sometimes…

For most people, picking a flight is all about price. But assuming price is equal – which airline you choose can make a massive difference in the amount of cities you’re able to take in. Some people hate connections on principle, but if you work them effectively, they can be the perfect way to explore a city on the cheap, and let’s be honest, some cities don’t need multiple nights, anyway!

What Is 23:59?

Any connecting flight under 24 hours counts as just that – a connection. Anything over 24 hours counts as a stopover, which most airlines charge more for, on a large majority of plane tickets.

By building in stopovers up to 23 hours and 59 minutes, you’re able to save money on the ticket, leave the airport, hit the city, (or the beach) and explore until your next flight. With the emergence of cheap airport lockers and storage options, it’s easier than ever to shed your bags and be free to roam.

How To Use 23:59

The best way to maximize 23:59 is to seek bad connections in great cities, or use multi city flight booking to create connections manually. And yes, this works equally well on points tickets as well. For example, if you’re flying Cathay Pacific, to Vietnam, you’ll be connecting through Hong kong.

If you can find a flight that lands mid day and leaves mid day the next day, you can take in a full dinner, drinks and stroll around the city, before carrying on. Or better yet, if you land early in the morning and leave late at night, you don’t even need to pay for a hotel! This sort of thing works all over the world, so it’s great to use airlines with hubs in places you’d like to visit.

Booking Multi City

Building stopovers in can be so much fun. Some airlines, like Icelandair, Air Canada and Emirates will even allow extended stopovers at no additional charge. Once you’ve found a cheap round trip ticket, you change to “multi city” booking mode, to add in the stops separately.

Here’s a great example to play with, for a trip from San Francisco to London, with a two day stop built in- in Iceland. If there’s a place you’d really like to see on the side, go for an airline guaranteed to take you there. Think ANA or JAL for Tokyo, Finnair for Helsinki, British Airways or Virgin Atlantic for London, you get the point.

Negatives Into Positives

With airport lockers and more and more airlines offering 24 hour bag drop, it’s easier than ever to shed your baggage and roam free into a brilliant city.

While most people look at lengthy connections as a huge pain in the… yeah – you can end up catching a glimpse of some of the world’s best cities. And when you do, you’ll often find some cities don’t require much more than 24 hours, and those that do, you’ll come back for.

Have you used 23:59 in your favor?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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45 Comments

    1. It’s not about airlines. It’s about airport. For example I had 24H layover at JFK during my flight from CPH to LAX, and on JFK I left my baggage in special locker room for something around 7$.

  1. It’s been a while since I did this, but AIr New Zealand goes a step further…. You can add a stopover, say Hawaii or Tahiti on a trip to/through their Auckland hub. You can also stopover in New Zealand, say on your way to Australia regardless of whether or not you have another stopover. And for your NZ stopover can begin and end in any NZ city they service – no charge for open jaw itineraries within NZ.

  2. In my experience, it’s the airport, not airline, that provides a secure bag storage. My sole experience was in Beijing, and it worked fine. I paid a little for short term bag storage then explored the city for a day. Arrived early to retrieve my luggage and check in AGAIN for my next leg.

  3. Yes did this on a flight from Guam to Honolulu. Had a 10 hour connection in Tokyo. Well worth it. May have only been a few hours but it gave me a stamp in my passport and I was able to feel some cool crisp air!

  4. Dublin was great for this on the way to Northern Europe. The airport has a great luggage drop, and easy bus to the city center right outside of the luggage drop. We landed early in the morning and flew out after 7PM, so we got a whole day of three meals, a Jameson tour, and a Guinness tour too. Since Dubliners are awesomely friendly people, it’s my favorite full day layover ever.

  5. Do you need to go through customs/immigration in those stop/layover countries? How does that time fit in? As well as “rechecking in”?

    1. Yes, you do. Since you are leaving the airport you are legally entering that country. Therefore you need to go through immigration and customs. When asked by immigration officials the reason for entry just mention short term tourism visit due to a long airline connection time.

    2. Also, you will need a visa in some countries or a transit visa even for visiting or entering some countries. With US passport, many countries will provide entry for a short period; ensure you research the visa aspect. I heard from some people from other countries, even going on honeymoon to say new zealand and stopping a short while, were turned back because they did not obtain transit visa. secondly, absolutely do not take any thing/any baggage or packet from anyone, even TSA while entereing the line there is a security warning, many countries, if caught with even a minute amount of illegal substance could mean death. Especially, passengers from california, colorado where marijuana have been legalized (recreational) is not legal in many countries. just be aware.

    1. Most airlines will check bags through to final destination unless there’s an overnight layover. If you want your bags with you, you can request a short check to the layover city.

    2. On my way home from a 3 month stay in China, I stopped over with just enough time to explore the bay area and eat dinner in San Francisco, since I paid to leave my baggage at the airport. However, my large suitcase was damaged: wheels and more, etc. while in “storage” and I had to duct tape it so it would hold together for the trip home to Pennsylvania and then it had to be thrown out. In my haste to find a place to keep it at the airport, I neglected to read the fine print that they were not responsible for damages. I did enjoy my time at the bay though, and would do something similar again – having small enough baggage to fit in the locker storage next time.

  6. Do all airlines do this, or just major airlines? Like could this work with southwest or spirit?

  7. Back in the day, I think the late 1990’s I pulled quite a doozy. I was moving from south Florida to Southern California around New Years. At that time you were still severely penalized for one way travel – one way coach MIA-LAX was about $800 – yikes. Instead think winter Europe fares! MIA-LONDON for Christmas then Eurostar through the newly opened Chunnel. New Years in Paris. Then Paris-LAX with 23 hour stopover in MIA to pick up the dog and kid!! Kid’s fare MIA-LAX was $800…but our fare for our Europe adventure starting in Miami and ending in LA – only $450 each…!!! Basically treated like a double open jaw USA to Europe at the deepest discounted time of year.

  8. We even left our winter clothing luggage in London Heathrow for about 3 weeks while we took a jaunt down to hot sunny summer South Africa.

  9. So you’re saying that I can spend 10-18 hrs on a flight, not sleeping in an upright chair, and possibly in a middle seat, and then casually stroll around in a stop over city. All before, I hop back on to a plane, so that I can not sleep in an upright chair, before reaching my destination!?

    1. Yeah, the writer should have added the caveat that you need to be someone who can sleep on a plane to start with, the premise sounds fantastic, like people who can function on 4 hours sleep per night and unicorns and leprachauns…

    2. Yup. If you’re brave enough, you can see a lot of the world. You can sleep when you’re dead.

    3. yeah you lazy pampered dink. sitting in a chair with a/c to travel across the world…. think about that for a minute.

  10. To clarify, does this mean that:
    – Layovers in each of multiple connecting flights may each be up to 23:59 in duration?
    – That the durations of the actual flights are immaterial to the 23:59 allowed layovers?
    Thank you.

  11. If you’re not using overnight hotels, do you only sleep on planes?
    If you’re not using overnight hotels, where do you shower? Not many airports have showers.

  12. I have done a several hour day tour, twice, in Amsterdam traveling Toronto Venice, first trip on the return segment, second on the outbound segment, both with KLM.

  13. My family has done this twice now. We flew Icelandair to London. On the way back we had a day in Iceland. we saw a midnight sunset, stayed a a cool hotel, rented a car, drove around the peninsula near the airport and saw all kinds of fantastic sites. We definitely want to go back to Iceland for a longer stay. Smart of them. Most recently, we flew Iberia to Paris, with a 12 hour layover in Madrid. We had checked our bags, so we just left the airport and had a fun day exploring Madrid. It is a short train ride into the city. We flew up to Paris that night.

  14. This works really well domestically – no messing around with customs. I booked a flight from San Francisco to Barcelona with a 12 hour layover at JFK so I could take in a few sights – luggage was checked all the way to Barcelona, so it was an easy in/out of the city. I made it up the Empire State building and then the view inspired me to do a bar crawl instead of more touristy stuff. I spent the next 7 hours drinking my way through Manhattan – and met a bunch of fun locals who started bar hopping with me! Had a great NYC experience and I got better sleep than usual on the next flight. I’m just glad they let me on the flight because I was a walking train-wreck.

  15. I’ve done this several times going to Asia where I stopped over in HongKong and Honolulu and spend 2 nights at no extra charge on the airlines. It works vrey well.

  16. Yeah, on longer flights this can be pretty hard to do, esp. given the time difference. Exploring a city at what feels like 3 am… A hotel would help.

    A 7 hour night flight from the East Coast to Germany, which is not that bad at night, 10 hour layover to see parks and the zoo with the kids (you can drink a 32 oz? 64 oz? beer glass with wurst at the park), and an evening flight to the final destination. Worked great.

    You need local cash (!!!) in many of these international destinations. I am used to just carrying my credit card around, and that was a problem in many places in Germany.

  17. i booked a flight with an extended layover on purpose (i like plenty of time in my connecting city), and the reservation was changed by the airline to a “better flight” for me. In other words, they took away the layover i booked on purpose and gave me a ticket with a 35 minute layover instead. Needless to say I wasn’t happy plus i missed my connecting flight. So this idea sounds great, but i am skeptical!

  18. My wife and I used this on our honeymoon. On our way to Vienna, we stopped in Amsterdam. Arrived early morning and left on an evening flight. I was able to arrange for a private car tour of the area that took us downtown, to the Anne Frank house, a canal cruise, a gouda cheese farm, and pretty much anything else we wanted to see in the time.

    It allowed us to see another city with little expense. It’s a great rule to take advantage of.

  19. My wife and I recently flew Cathay Pacific from Bangkok to San Francisco, and had an 8-hour layover in Hong Kong. We took the light rail from the Hong Kong airport to the harbor; totally worth it! Rode the Wheel (spectacular views!), walked around the waterfront, and had a nice dinner. Of course, you don’t get to truly experience the awesomeness of a city in such a short time, but for us, it worked out well!

  20. I didn’t know this was a thing, but when it happened to me it was the sweetest surprise. I got an amazing deal from a (now rare) travel agent on a flight to Sri Lanka. She told me the catch was a long layover. When the ticket was issued, it showed that the layover was in Rome. When I got to Rome, I safely secured my luggage, then took the train from the airport into the city. It was an inexpensive and lovely Spring day in the Eternal City. It was such an amazing treat! AND I saved a lot of money on the ticket! I think I smiled almost the whole next leg of my journey.

  21. I did this on my way to Bangkok from Dulles. Stopped off for 2 days at Narita/Tokyo and it really made the trip so much more enjoyable. They were United/ANA flights so it didn’t cost extra even though I exceeded the 23:59 rule. Check your airlines/fares on Kayak, you can find great deals with the +/- 3 days feature and then you have to keep checking for 2 days layovers impact on pricing.

  22. I am reading the posts and they all seem to deal with international flights. Does this work with domestic (US) flights as well. I want to stop go from DCA to LAX and somehow stop in Phoenix on the way there or the way back.

  23. I did this on a flight to Salzburg, Austria. I had an 8 hour layover in Frankfurt. I walked out of the airport and took the train down town. I was able to get a meal, shower, and a tour of the city. Added a complete new destination to my trip.

  24. How does one actually book such a set of flights? When I book online, the layover options seem to be limited to the shortest layovers. Are phone reservations the way to go? …or some hybrid form?

  25. This is a really good idea. Often we’re in a rush to get to our destination. Stop, breathe, take in the trip as an experience. I knew about Iceland as they promote the stop over really well. It’s very pricey there but hey, your airfare is a great buy and it’s a short stop. I’ll have to keep this type of routing in mind the next time I go on a “long” flight.

  26. This stopover rule is great! I fully maximised it when I booked a business class ticket using points from New Zealand to London. Instead of flying Auckland > Dubai > London, I utilised the Qantas/Emirates partnership and the 23:59 stopover rule and flew Auckland > Sydney > Hong Kong > Dubai > London. I spent between 12-23.5 hours in each city, either catching up with old friends, grabbing a local meal or seeing the sights, it was fantastic with no extra points required!

    Double bonus was also trying out the different planes, lounges and airports and our 40kg luggage was checked through most of the way (only in Sydney where we had to take our luggage out, not sure why).

  27. I did this in Atlanta, Iceland, London, Zurich, DC, Amsterdam, Munich, Madrid, Belgrade, Zagreb, Istanbul, Tokyo.

    Turkish even gave me a free hotel and transportation to the hotel in Istanbul.

  28. Best stopover I have ever had was flying from Tel Aviv to Manchester UK, via Helsinki with Finnair. Flight left TLV at 01:00am and arrived in Helsinki shortly after 5am. I whizzed through the airport, took a train into town and had until my 5pm connecting flight. Helsinki is a small city and the weather was great. I saw most of the sights and took in a short boat trip to Suomenlinna. I have flown from NYC to Tel Aviv often with SWISS stopping for 12 hours in Zurich which is always fun. It gives time to take a cruise on Lake Zurich, take the train to Uitliberg and get in a two hour mountain hike, as well as a meal in town., all with a tremendous value one day Zurich ticket. There are cheap lockers available at the airport.

  29. Yep there is always at least one poster ( pointing at you Cougar) who has to be negative. God it must be tough being you! Learning to be a tad more positive would be a good New Years resolution for you.

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