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I would like to make a stop from the west coast of the United States to NYC, then to Berlin. I may just stop in NYC for a few days, or for up to a week -- I'm really not sure at this moment.

  1. Is there any way to choose your flight by where you would want to have a layover and for how long? Is it even considered a layover if its several days?
  2. Is there a price difference between doing the above and just booking two separate flights?
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1 Answer 1

up vote 9 down vote accepted

For international flights, the magic number is usually (but not always) 24 hours. If your flights are less than 24 hours apart, it's a "transit" or a "layover" and it's free; if it's over 24 hours, it's usually "stopover" and you may need to pay extra. Note that these terms are not always used consistently and it's not always 24 hours; I've seen up to 72 hour (3 day) connections on eg. China Southern, especially if one of the legs is not flown daily, while I gather on US domestic flights the window may be as low as 4 hours.

The problem is that most online booking websites are really bad at booking stopovers. If you search for a roundtrip, they only show the "free" connections of less than 24 hours, and if you try to do a multi-city search for LAX-NYC-TXL-LAX, they'll usually do something stupid like add up three rack-rate one-ways and quote you ridiculous prices.

My usual approach is to search for my flights at ITA Matrix (toggle "Advanced routing codes" and try eg. LAX to TXL with X:NYC in the outbound routing codes), find a fare where the fare conditions in the small print specifically allow a stopover for a low or zero fee, then take the printout to a travel agent and get them to book it with a stopover added in. For example, searching for a 14-day trip in March, I can find a $1014 fare on United via Newark (EWR) that appears to allow stopovers.

And yes, this is usually far cheaper than booking flights separately. For example, I had to fly Sydney-Tokyo-San Francisco last year, and three separate flights on the same route (3 one-way flights) would have cost me around 3x more than booking a SYD-SFO roundtrip with a stopover in Tokyo.

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Sorry, I have 3 questions to follow up: When you say to look in the "small print", do I have to manually search through each one and look at the fine print? And do I need to go to a travel agent or could I just book it myself? Lastly, when you say it is cheaper, are you referring to layovers or stopovers or both? –  MarkE Feb 3 at 17:41
    
Yes, manually. And yes, you'll need to book with an agent or directly with the airline over the phone, it's generally not possible to book stopovers online. And on most "legacy" airlines, anything is cheaper than a series of one-ways. –  jpatokal Feb 3 at 21:10

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