How to Book a Free Stopover on Your Next Flight

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Did you know that many airlines allow you to book a free stopover as part of your flight when you buy airline tickets? By tacking on a free stopover to your flights, you could see two destinations for the price of one and save an incredible amount of money in the process.

If you have extra time to devote to a stopover on an overseas flight, I highly recommend it. It enables you to see more for your money and make the most of your vacation time!

airplane landing - how to book a free stopover

Of course, it’s not always easy finding these stopovers. You have to know how to look for them. But once you’ve learned how, you’ll see that it can be very easy and rewarding to add a free stopover. When Nick and I started traveling together, I had already been to 33 countries and he had only been to 2. We started experimenting with the free airline stopover as a way to visit the places I’d already been without devoting an entire flight to it.

What we learned is that we can pretty easily visit top cities on our way to or from our intended destination for little to no extra money by using this stopover flight booking technique. Imagine that. FREE flights! Let us show you how to book free stopover flights.

» You might also like our guide on how to find deals on airfare.

What is a Stopover?

A stopover has great flexibility. It lasts more than 24 hours in duration and can be extended up to a specified length to allow you to actually see and enjoy the destination you stopped in.

Technically, a stopover is different than a layover. If you wish to stay longer than 24 hours in a second destination, it is considered a stopover. We’re going to show you how to book flights that include a stopover, because this requires an addition skill than booking a long layover.

Don’t worry if this all sounds a bit confusing. We’ll iron it all out of you.

What is the Difference Between a Stopover and a Layover?

A layover is a connection that lasts no longer than 4 hours for domestic flights and no longer than 24 hours for International flights. Layovers are fairly common, especially overnight layovers, but usually they aren’t long enough to benefit you.

A note about layovers: You will occasionally find flights that include layovers of up to 24 hours as part of the regular round trip ticket. If you don’t have a lot of time to burn, take advantage of those. We did an 18-hour layover in Frankfurt as part of a RT ticket and while it wasn’t a lot of time, it was still worth it to us.

Iceland stopover

How to Find a Free Stopover Flight

» Go Through the Airline

You’ve probably seen some airlines advertising stopovers directly. Icelandair promotes their stopovers in Reykjavik en-route to other destinations in Europe.

They even have a handy “Icelandair Stopover” button to make booking easy. Singapore Air, Japan Airlines, TAP Air Portugal and Emirates are three others that openly advertise stopovers.

There is a whole page on the Emirites website devoted to booking a Dubai stopover package. But many airlines don’t advertise stopover flights, so travelers don’t know it’s possible and even if they do, don’t know how to go about booking one.

» Use the Manual Method

Some airlines, like IcelandAir and now British Airways, have a convenient stopover search button on their flight tool that allows you to look for and select the stopover options they offer.

It’s really convenient and I wish all airlines would offer it, but alas, they don’t. My favorite way to find stopovers is to search on Skyscanner using the multi-city search functionality. This enables you to find stopovers quickly on almost any airline.

How to Search For Stopover Flights

Step One: Search for your preferred round trip

Using Skyscanner or Expedia, look up the round trip flight you want. Take note of the cities you must travel through to reach your final destination. These are the destinations where you can easily book a free stopover.

EXAMPLE Let’s look at a trip from Seattle to Hong Kong. Begin by looking for a round trip flight to Hong Kong.

Seattle to Hong Kong flight search

The search reveals possible connections in Beijing (PEK), Shanghai (PVG), Taiwan (TPE) and Seoul, South Korea (ICN). So, there is a high likelihood you can book a free stopover in any of those cities.

Connections in Beijing and Shanghai
Connections in Beijing and Shanghai

Step Two: Search for a multi-city ticket

Now you need to locate a ticket with a stopover in one of those destinations that’s longer than the layover of the round trip flight.

  • Perform a new search on Skyscanner, but this time click “Multi-City” rather than “Roundtrip”. 
  • Using the multiple destination tool, search for a ticket from Seattle to Beijing (PEK), then Beijing to Hong Kong, and returning from Hong Kong to Seattle.

(Note: each carrier has rules about stopover duration that we’ll discuss in a bit).

seattle hk stopover
Adding a free stopover in Beijing

The multi-city search reveals that I can get a stopover in Beijing for 5 days for the exact same cost as the round trip flight with no stopover. I tried a 5- and 7-day stopover and the cost remained the same.

Now, let’s say you want to add 2 free stopovers to your trip. You can do a multi-city search for a 3-day stopover in Beijing on the outbound flight to Hong Kong, and a 3-day stopover in Shanghai on the way home from Hong Kong. See the results below.

Add two stopovers for the same price
Add two stopovers for the same price

The price of the overall ticket rose by only $4 and I was able to add 3-days in Beijing and Shanghai. Now I get to see three destinations for the same price as one.

As another example, I am flying from London to Sydney and wanted to add a stopover somewhere fun on the way to break up the long flight. I used Skyscanner to search roundtrip for possible connections and found that Hong Kong and Singapore are the most likely stopover destinations.

Doing a multi-trip search including these legs shows that I can stop over in either destination for the same prices as the round trip. Of course, not all flights can have a free stopover added to them, even when using this method.

For instance, when I searched for a Taipei stopover, the ticket increased by $200. You will find sometimes that the flight price goes up dramatically when adding the stopover. This is why you have to be flexible and willing to take what you can find.

Use airwander to Book a Stopover

airwander screenshot

I also use an online tool called airwander to find successful stopover destinations. This tool does all the heavy lifting of finding stopover destinations for you. It’s a brilliant tool, really. 

airwander looks for possible stopovers en-route to your final destination. For example, I will search for a flight from London to Sydney and search for stopovers.

It will then show me the options for stopovers on this route and the price difference of those stops. As you can see from the image below, many of the stops actually make the ticket cheaper.

airwander search

Some choices are Singapore and Tel Aviv, plus many others.

For me, the best part of this tool is the suggested destinations to visit on your way or on your return, because it can take hours of digging through flights in order to find these stopover cities. It takes airwander a few seconds to tell you exactly where I could go. Extremely handy!

Alternative Ways to Find Stopovers

If you can’t find anything good, try speaking to the airline’s reservation agent before booking, because they might know of additional tricks or tips on getting the best routing and pricing.

Don’t expect them to do the homework for you though. Always call in with at least a preliminary plan and a basic knowledge of their rules. I usually try a bunch of combinations online until I find something good. Again, flexibility pays off. I’ve even found, in a few instances, that booking a stopover can make a flight cheaper.

For instance, in a search for Seattle to Tokyo, I found that adding a Singapore stopover made the trip $250 cheaper, even though it’s not on the way. My examples are international flights, but you can book stopovers on domestic flights as well, using the same technique.

You can also make stopovers when using your airline miles to book a free flight. Many of the international flights we book using our miles cost 60,000 miles. For the same amount of miles, you can often add one or two stopovers. Of course, exactly what is allowed is based on the airline.

airport flight board

Best Tips For Finding Free Stopovers

  • Find out where the airline’s hub is, because you can almost always make a stopover at a hub.
  • Be as flexible as possible. The more flexible you are with times and dates, the more likely it is you’ll find something great.
  • If you look far enough in advance, you’ll probably find a ticket easily. The longer you wait, the harder it tends to become, as flights become more scarce.
  • If you find a good stopover flight, be prepared to purchase it right away. Stopover flights become more expensive the closer it is to departure.

What Are the Airlines Rules for Stopovers?

Each airline has its own rules concerning stopovers, so if you want to fly a particular airline or use airline miles, you’ll need to be familiar with their specific rules. The problem is that the airlines are constantly changing their rules and there’s no good way to keep track of them except to call and ask.

The airlines’ rules usually include how many stopovers and/or open jaws you can build into an itinerary. An open jaw is where you fly into and depart from a different city or airport. In our example above, an open jaw would be flying Seattle to Paris, then flying from Rome on to Istanbul. I would need to find my own way from Paris to Rome.

Here is an updated list of airline stopover and routing rules compiled by Travel Is Free. And here is a detailed diagram and info put together by Well Traveled Mile.

Keep in mind that these lists may not contain the most up-to-date information. To learn what rules govern your own situation, be sure to check the airline’s website for information and call directly for confirmation.

If you’re unable to find the route you want using the online multiple destination planner, a phone agent can usually help you work it out or find something feasible. It sometimes takes a little configuring to get the perfect combination.

airline connections

Airlines That Offer Free Stopovers

Sometimes the easiest way to find a free stopover is to plan one with an airline that advertises free stopovers. There are a few well-known ones that you can check out:

  • Air China: Up to 72 hour visa-free stopover.
  • Air France: Not available on non-flexible fares
  • Emirates: Allows up to 96 hours stopover
  • Etihad: Maximum 2 nights
  • FinnAir: Two free stopovers permitted (one in each direction)
  • Hawaiian Airlines: Available to customers traveling from international destinations
  • Icelandair: Stays up to 7 nights
  • Japan Air: Two free stopovers for up to five people
  • Singapore Airlines: Two free stopovers on every class
  • TAP Air PortugalOn a long-haul flight (round trip or one way), if the final destination of your trip is the Azores, Madeira or Algarve. You can stop off for 1-5 nights in Lisbon or Porto.
  • British Airways offers multi-stop options with added stopovers. Use their multi-city tool to find this option.


Once you’ve had some practice, you’ll see that finding free stopovers to add to your journeys is incredibly easy. It’s a great way to see more and stretch your travel dollar even farther. If you have any tips to add about booking stopovers, let us know in the comments section!

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how to book a free flight
How to Book a Free Stopover on Your Next Flight

28 thoughts on “How to Book a Free Stopover on Your Next Flight

  1. Kelsey of RouteWords says:

    YES! I have been looking for a post like this. Great info! I’m bookmarking it to refer to later

  2. Irene says:

    Multiway Travel is going to launch a new search of flights with long layovers and stopovers to visit extra countries for FREE! For more information go to

  3. Sneha Jain says:

    Brilliant post. One question – When I go to quest organizer and I search from Seattle to Tokyo, it gives me the entire list of flights from which I can choose the stopover destination. I have to go back and add stopover destination and search again… Is there a way to just get the list of suggested stopovers?

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Sneha, I’m not sure I understand. You can get the list of suggested stopovers by putting in your From and To destinations and your dates. All the suggestions pop up there. You don’t have to continue on to search for the flights if you don’t want to. You can just use the list of destinations to do some additional research. If you have questions about the search tool, you might contact Airwander (formerly Quest Organizer). They can help.

  4. Terry mcmanus says:

    Both sites are very useful but airwander would be great if it worked better. It gives you stopover option easily but if you hit details or anything it freezes and then you can’t do anything with it. It happened to me multiple tries. If they fix that it is great. Otherwise I would have some fear of using it

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Terry, I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble with the Airwander site. I use it quite frequently and I’ve never had it lock up on me. Maybe they were having a temporary glitch?

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Ken, the fare you purchase will always stipulate what baggage you have included. There’s no difference on a stopover, except that you must pick up your luggage and take it with you during the stopover, then recheck it when you return to the airport.

  5. Darleen says:

    “BONUS: If you make it to the end of the article, I’ll show you an even easier way to do it!” Where is this BONUS? The article ended with a request to post it on pinterest. Next is this comments section.

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Hi Darleen. The bonus method is Air Wander, which comes just after the manual steps for searching on your own.

  6. Nikunj says:

    I tried using airwander. After asking for sstopovers, it shows big savings. But when I add those to trip, the total price increases instead of getting cheaper

  7. Mark Onan says:

    I plan on taking a trip around the world next year. Is it possible to book a one way flight that includes a stopover? For example next year I would like to fly from Singapore to Bangkok with a stopover in Kuala Lumpur and also a flight from Dubai back to the states (Nashville or Atlanta) with a stop over in Europe or Israel or Cairo etc. Thank you.

  8. Jerome says:

    Has Finnair cancelled their free stopover program? Can’t seem to locate it anymore on their site 🙁

    • Laura Lynch says:

      I’ll try to get more info. Some airlines discontinued during covid, but will likely resume soon.

  9. Lyn says:

    If travelling to Australia/melbourne from UK next year and hoping to add stop overs… do I need to book returns from Melbourne (wit stops on return leg? or can return leg begin elsewhere. Tks

    • Laura Lynch says:

      If you didn’t book the return from Melbourne, it might be considered 2 one-ways, which can be quite a bit more expensive. Try using the multi-city tool on Skyscanner or Expedia to see which is cheaper. Sometimes you can do it and it doesn’t cost more.

  10. Angela says:

    Hi Laura, thank you for the informative article. I am trying to book a flight to Manila with a few days stopover in Japan. Using multi city on Expedia it is $500 more than a round trip. How do I get the free stopover? I spoke to a travel agent who said free stopover is impossible as they will charge you airport taxes and fees if you leave the airport which is why it is always more expensive to stopover.

    • Laura Lynch says:

      It’s not possible to do on every route. You have to look for ones where the price is lower or the same to stopover. There’s no guarantee of this happening. It takes alot of research, which is why we gave such detailed instructions.

  11. Howard Chong says:

    In your stopover examples, how do you know how many days the stopover is allowed?
    Thank you for the info.

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Some airlines have specific durations for their stopovers, but others don’t. When you’re searching for one, you just have to keep putting in one more day until you reach a point when the stopover costs more.

  12. leigh says:

    Hey Laura . Thanks for your great site & tips:))
    This is a bit of a sideline but do you have a recommended site or info to share on regulations of stopovers by airlines. We currently have to stay in Doha airport for almost 12 hrs and we are not allowed to leave the airport due to the world cup. The airline is being super stubborn and refuses to give us a pass for a lounge so we have to pay an additional 200 euro for a 6hr max access to a business lounge. They have not been nice on many fronts which is sad because we booked especially with them thinking they were the best int he world with safety and health. We are stuck and looking for some tips on how to get some support from them so we stay safe, healthy and refreshed in the artificial lit and cooled airport. I would deeply appreciate some insights and tips and think other passengers will also experience this with the upcoming world cup and may not know since the airline didi not inform us before booking the ticket. :(((

    • Laura Lynch says:

      It’s too bad you had that experience Leigh. It’s such an irregular situation that I don’t really have anything to share as far as regulations. Each airline has their own rules. You can usually get a more positive response from them via Twitter, if you have an account.

  13. Shiven says:

    I am also unfortunately facing a similar situation with Cathay Pacific wherein we had originally booked Zurich-HongKong-Brisbane with a layover of only 4hrs in HongKong but the airlines have since cancelled the HongKong-Brisbane sector and provided an alternative flight resulting in a layover of 40 hrs in HongKong. With no other alternative flight or Hotel accommodation provided we are really at loss how to negotiate with the airlines. If you could pls give your suggestion. Thanks

    • Laura Lynch says:

      Look at their customer rights information on their site and see if this violates that. It can be very difficult to get a reasonable resolution. Just keep asking to speak to a manager.

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