Get me stranded in London, please.
May 24, 2009 8:12 AM   Subscribe

As a way to visit a friend during my travels in Europe this summer, I'm looking to obtain a days-long layover - ideally at least 2-3 days, but the longer the better. I have no idea how to go about getting such a thing, but I'm relatively sure the possibility exists. What are my best options for getting a layover like this, while still keeping my overall flight cost low?

More detail: I'm traveling to Italy as part of a long business trip. I have a limit on my flight budget, so doing a flight to the friend's country (England), then short hop to Italy, then back again etc makes the money add up quickly, and isn't an ideal option. Also, I need to make these arrangements asap (I've been delayed doing so for various reasons and am now in need of my tickets almost immediately). I've thought of calling travel agents, but being as this is a holiday weekend in the States, I won't be able to do so until Tuesday.

Is a travel agent my best (only?) bet for specifying something this particular? Are there ways to get online search engines to produce something like this? And am I really limited to carriers that have hubs in England, or might I be able to swing this on other airlines, thus increasing my chances of getting a low-cost flight?

(Also, if anyone has any ideas of how to finagle Rome - London - not-big-city States airport with little hassle and less money, I'm open. I've done the Easy Jet/Ryan Air route a bunch of times, but find that the hassle of switching from major to secondary or tertiary airports along the way is really inconvenient, and would like to avoid it if possible.)
posted by AthenaPolias to Travel & Transportation around London, England (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This does not seem inordinately expensive for a multi stop flight--of course you could fly cheaper using Ryan/EasyJet but you appear to know the coordination problems. I went to Kayak and picked arbitrary dates under multi-stop. Often flying on Wed. or mid week is less expensive. I will be interested to see what you can do:$821 JFK > LHR LGW > FCO FCO >EWR .

As you will see there are a number of alternatives available for the same price--also not knowing where you live certainly could add significantly to the price. With a little searching I will bet you can do this. Email me if you want with particulars and I will spend a little time seeing what I can do. No promises but we travel quite often--also, I do not know what "inexpensive/expensive" is for you.
posted by rmhsinc at 8:35 AM on May 24, 2009 is a good option. Also, with Expedia, you can choose one-way, round trip, or multiple destinations. So choose "multiple destinations," and your flights would be this:

Flight 1 Your Local Airport to London
Flight 2 London to Rome
Flight 3 Rome to Your Local Airport

I did this last summer internationally and it didn't add a whole lot to the cost.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:04 AM on May 24, 2009

Agreed with bluedaisy, I used (I think Expedia) to search for flights using "multiple destinations" and did London->New York, Baltimore->Austin, Dallas ->London for only $60 more than LHR<>AUS direct. So I think that sort of search should be fruitful for you! Also, as you can see it lets you put in all sorts of weird journeys so you won't necessarily have to fly back via London.
posted by so_necessary at 9:29 AM on May 24, 2009

Another multi-stop option variant would be to only select a different departure airport to return from. Not sure it would be much more expensive to fly New York-> Rome, London -> New York and then get a single trip, preferably mid day/mid week on a budget airline to get from Rome to London.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:54 AM on May 24, 2009

You want what's called an open-jaw ticket. Out of city A, land in city B, travel between cities B and C on your own/on another ticket, flight back from city C to city A.

Getting between London and Rome is a relative doddle - lots of options and airports to choose from. Also, if your friend lives outside Rome but close to a regional city in Italy and you've just told us Rome for some reason, a quick look at this page on Wikipedia will lead you to the Wikipedia pages for each of those airports, with all the flights to/from those airports listed on their respective pages. You can fly from London Stansted for example - a £20 bus/train journey from London - to Alghero, Ancona, Bari, Bologna, Brescia, Brindisi, Genoa, Lamezia-Terme, Milan-Bergamo, Palermo, Parma, Perugia, Pescara, Pisa, Rimini, Rome-Ciampino, Treviso, Trieste, and Turin - on Ryanair alone!

A word on those budget airlines, though - the conditions for getting to the plane, the flexibility of your flight, and the amount/weight of your bags can be really rather difficult. Be prepared, if you're carrying a bunch of checked baggage, to pay through the nose for all that.
posted by mdonley at 10:15 AM on May 24, 2009

Depending on how your flight is routed, you can also often do a layover for free in your connecting city. For example, I've flown New York - Amsterdam - Cape Town, and had a free 4 day layover in Amsterdam. Apparently, not many people know about this, but it's always worked for me.

Depending on your flights and preferred carrier, this might not be an option. But if you're looking at flight that are routing you to Rome via London, check the fare rules. It's buried in fine print, but you can often have a layover for free. However, this does generally require you to make your reservations over the phone, though not always directly with the airline, which might add on a service fee.

For example, I found a flight for $820 on British Airways, via ITA software. Departing on June 14, it's JFK-LHR-FCO, and returning on July 21 via FCO-LHR-JFK. The applicable section in the fare rules about stopovers: (in the 'flight details' link)


I highly recommend the ITA software site above. They have some big advantages over sites like Expedia, Kayak, etc:

1. They offer truly flexible date searches. After you get into the site via 'logon as guest,' at the top right they have a '30 day search.' This lets you put in your approximate trip length, and the window of 30 days that works, and they will tell you the cheapest day to travel. Other sites, like Kayak, offer the monthlong search, but only on calendar months, not across them, and don't let you specify the trip length as much. This one goes up to 6 months, though you lose specificity as the lengths get longer.

2. The 'or other cities within x miles' works really well, and goes up to 300 miles out. So, if you want to end up in Italy, but don't care if you take a train from Milan to get to Rome, or whatever, or just want to end up somehwhere in Europe, this is great.

3. You can search from several arrival or destination airports at once, using a semi-colon between them. So, if you want to depart from either Atlanta or New York, and arrive in either Rome or London, but don't want to see every trip within x radius, you can. Just put ATL;NYC in the departure field, and ROM;LON in the arrivals.

So, using the month-long departure date above for June for a 2 month long trip, it looks like the fare of $820 via Heathrow to Rome is available June 5-10, and 18-22. I didn't check every date to see if it was the same flights, but the ones I checked all were.

Sorry this is so long! Hope you find it useful, though - I travel on a tight budget, and like to think I've learned some useful tips along the way.
posted by foodmapper at 10:46 AM on May 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

A travel agent is a reasonable idea. Let someone else chase down all the variables.

Also, check out sites' "multiple city" options, which in your case would be three cities: Home -- Uk -- Italy and then back home. I.e., fly to London, fly to Rome, fly home. I've done that on European trips. The cost may or may not be more than flying to London, and then flying back and forth to Rome. It is, however, the most time efficient.
posted by justcorbly at 11:21 AM on May 24, 2009

I second the ITA recommendation above; the only caveat is that you can't actually buy the ticket through that site -- you'll need to find someone else to actually ticket it for you. It's great for figuring out what's out there, though.

In general, I think the "multi-city" searches on some airline websites will correctly find cases where the cost of a fare that allows stopovers is less than the cost of two separate tickets. (The absolute cheapest fares will often not allow free stopovers, or even stopovers at $50 per or whatever -- and it's not always the case that the gap between "cheapest fare" and "cheapest fare that allows stopovers" is less than the cost of just buying your own separate r/t on a budget airline from stopover point to end point and back.)

There is also a fairly obscure rule that may hurt you, price-wise, if the city you want to stopover in is typically an expensive destination for flights and your end point is typically cheap. This rule ("highest intermediate point," aka HIP) basically says that if you're going from say Denver to Rome, but want to stopover in London on the way, the fare for that itinerary can never be cheaper than the cost of a flight from Denver to London alone. Even though Rome is farther than London, it might well be a less expensive market -- so e.g. the cheapest DEN-FCO ticket might be hundreds of dollars less than the cheapest DEN-LHR ticket. The HIP rule means that even if you buy a ticket to FCO that says it allows stopovers for $50 or whatever, the actual price of your stopover in LHR can be a lot more than that, because it means your ticket can't be less than a DEN-LHR roundtrip.

Come to think of it, this is actually the only thing I've seen that ITA site do incorrectly -- i.e. I vaguely recall it pricing a complicated itinerary as if the HIP rule didn't apply, but when I called United to ticket, they gave me a much higher price. Even the res. agent initially didn't know why the cost went up, because the fare in question stated quite clearly that stopovers were allowed. Turns out it was the HIP rule. I don't know whether all airlines adopt this rule, but some certainly do.
posted by chalkbored at 11:43 AM on May 24, 2009

I have also used Expedia to do a multiple layover for several days. Last year my husband I flew from Chicago to Johannesburg with a 3 day layover in Paris and then Johannesburg to Chicago with a 4 day layover in Dakar. The overall cost of the trip only went up by $300 a person.
posted by aetg at 6:29 PM on May 24, 2009

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