How to Turn a Boring Stopover into a Worthwhile Mini-break


Turn an inconvenience into an adventure.


Cake pops on your pillow, ‘cyclone’ fireplaces and chromotherapy bathtubs that use colour therapy to reset your energy: the Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach is arguably the coolest location for a Los Angeles layover, approximately five miles from LAX airport. Land at the end of the week to be there for Jammin’ Sundays, a weekly live music session in the hotel’s Zinc lounge that always draws a fashionable crowd. Just two blocks from the ocean, the hotel offers guests the use of complimentary Strand Cruiser bicycles so you can tour the local beaches in style.

If you have…

4 HOURS: Hitch a lift to In-N-Out burger for a fast food feed. The diner is half a mile away from the terminal, but happens to be next to a car hire agency called The Parking Spot which runs a free shuttle bus from the airport. Jump on board.

12 HOURS: Catch an Uber to LAX Coworking Space on Sepulveda Boulevard, where you can buy a day pass for US$20, catch up on your work projects (or, touch base with home), use the high-speed internet and mingle with local start-ups.

24 HOURS: The Custom is the only boutique hotel within a mile of LAX airport. They even offer a free Mercedes service to pick you up and take you back to the terminal.

When guests arrive at the Nine Hours hotel at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, they’re handed a key for a locker and a key for their ‘capsule’. Here, every resident stays in a ‘sleeping pod’ which measures 110cm wide by 220cm deep, offering just enough room to lay down or, if you’re not too tall, to sit upright. It’s as sci-fi as it sounds, with the pods stacked together like honeycomb. You choose between three categories – stay, nap or shower. The name ‘Nine Hours’ refers to the maximum length of time you can nap there before upgrading to the overnight package.

If you have…

3 HOURS: Get crafty! Narita airport runs free ‘cultural education workshops’ where visitors can learn local practices.

8 HOURS: Get the train to Tsukiji fish market where hundreds of traders set up stalls displaying an exotic selection of marine life. Perfect if you’re on a red eye flight, as the markets’ most active time is between 6am and 7am.

12 HOURS: Book a table for dinner at Beige – a culinary hot spot founded by world-renowned chef Alain Ducasse in collaboration with the Chanel fashion house, serving French cuisine with a Japanese twist.

Unlike some Dubai hotels where guests have to book a minimum of two nights, Jumeirah Creekside Hotel actively encourages single-nighters on an airport stopover. They’ll organise an airport pickup (less than a 15-minute drive away), offer 24-hour check-in for red eye arrivals and all guests have access to the hotel gym, rooftop pool and spa, where the signature 30-minute ‘Jet Lag Reviver’ massage will awaken your aching body. If you’re only there for a flying visit, get your money’s worth at the complimentary food trolley, which is stocked with local delicacies like chocolate-covered dates and artisanal cheese.

If you have…

5 HOURS: Visit the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, which at over 2700 feet tall isn’t for the faint-hearted (the observation deck is at Level 148). The bonus: Dubai Mall is conveniently located at its base, so you can grab a treat from Magnolia Bakery or Hummingbird Bakery and head outside to watch the world’s largest dancing fountain, which performs at 1.30pm and every half an hour from 6pm.

8 HOURS: In a city where the work week begins on Sunday, the Dubai Friday liquid brunch has become an institution (drinking is restricted for some locals; the rules apparently don’t apply elsewhere). While the Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle brunch can cost nearly US$800, head to Jumeirah Al Qasr for a buzzing atmosphere with live cooking stations that can cater for more than 700 people, or take a more chilled approach at Al Badia Golf Club, where you can pick up a picnic basket of deliciousness before relaxing on the manicured green.

24 HOURS: Just an hour and a half from the airport sits the growing cultural hub of Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island. While it’s mostly still under construction, mark this on your calendar for later in the year as Louvre Abu Dhabi is set to open any day now.

You might not think of Zurich as the obvious place for a stopover, but if you’re flying from Sydney to London – or vice versa – adding a layover in the largest city in Switzerland can make flights a lot cheaper. The airport is only a 10-minute train ride from the city centre, which means that even the shortest stopovers can be filled with shopping or sightseeing. Zurich is home to more than 50 museums, including the Kunsthalle, a modern art gallery located in the former Löwenbräu brewery, and the FIFA World Football Museum. Plus, there’s much Swiss chocolate to be found. Download the City Guide Zurich app to access interactive maps that can also be used offline too.

If you have…

3 HOURS: Throw a children’s birthday party. We’re not kidding! Zurich airport offers children’s party packages, which consist of a tour of the aircraft hangar followed by cake and an airplane-themed gift. Complimentary flight socks, anyone?

6 HOURS: Head into the city and follow your stomach to The Sternen Grill, a bratwurst grilled sausage bar that has become a local institution. There are other things on the menu, but they won’t look as impressive on Instagram.

8 HOURS: At the Transit Hotel in Zurich Airport you can either book a room or, for a cheaper option, opt for a private ‘rest area’. It’s basically a cubicle with a bed and a pillow but only costs 20 Swiss francs for three hours (less than AU$30).

FOR ART BUFFS: Melbourne
Just 30 minutes by taxi from the Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne, The Victoria Hotel provides not only a comfy bed but also a cultural education. In collaboration with Melbourne Street Art Tours, the hotel offers groups of travellers the chance to see the best graffiti in the city, under the expert supervision of a team of street artists who know their stencil art from their ‘paste ups’. The three-hour walk finishes at the famous ‘Blender Studios’, an iconic warehouse where the coolest street artists, from Junky Projects to Hancock, have planned their masterpieces.

If you have…

4 HOURS: Attend a yoga class at one of the city’s many studios, such as Summer Healing yoga in Brunswick, which is around 19km from the airport, or Bikram yoga in Tullamarine (don’t worry, they have showers).

12 HOURS: Take a taxi direct to the original Hellenic Republic restaurant
in Brunswick East (25 mins) for a lively, modern Greek feast courtesy of master chef George Calombaris. After the saganaki and the moussaka, you’ll be waddling back on board.

24 HOURS: Check in at the Adelphi for the city’s hippest digs. After using the wi-fi from the rooftop pool (cocktail in hand, naturally) take in a night class at The School of Life nearby (choose from How To Be Resilient, How To Change the World – or perhaps How To Make Up Your Mind?) which caters to individuals wanting to up their emotional intelligence. If you’re not up for a lecture, just pop by the Conversation Cafe for an inspiring shop and cup of joe.

Though you probably won’t ever be going through the Iceland’s capital on a stopover, last year, IcelandAir launched a unique service – Stopover Buddy. If you choose to break up a long flight with a stopover in Reykjavik, the airline will pair you up with a local tour guide, who also happens to be an IcelandAir employee. There are ‘food buddies’, and ‘culture buddies’ and even a ‘CEO buddy’ (Birkir Hólm Guðnason, the head of Icelandair, is a volunteer) who will tour you around places that might interest you. Your buddy is free, so you just have to cover expenses for the places you visit. The Stopover Buddy scheme is due to relaunch in late August 2016.

If you have…

6 HOURS: For an injection of inspiration head into the city to Laugavegur and browse the design shops (there’s a strong streak of Scandinavian design running through them). If you need to take a break,
pop into any of the cafes and order a kleina (a fried pastry) to snack on.

8 HOURS: Soak your muscles at the Blue Lagoon, arguably the most famous geothermal spa in Iceland. There are hourly bus transfers to and from the airport and travel time is around 20 minutes. Be warned though, you must shower naked – in change rooms – before entering the lagoon and there are shower police to ensure you’re following these instructions.

24 HOURS: Fitness fans, book into the Reykjavik Marina hotel where the impressive gym – dubbed the ‘boiler room’ – has floor-to-ceiling climbing walls. The hotel’s cocktail bar, the Slippbarinn, is also an eye-catching space for meetings.

Amy Molloy



We would love to hear your thoughts