Oh, his aching legs!
August 24, 2009 12:37 PM   Subscribe

How can I arrange an overnight layover, and how much will it cost me? My very tall boyfriend and I are planning to visit my dad in Shanghai, and we're hoping to find a way to give his legs a rest between flights.

I've tried to book exit row seats in the past, but was told that we would have to use airline miles to do so in advance. We can't afford business class, but I'm hoping there may be a way to arrange our flights so that we have an overnight stopover somewhere in Europe (halfway to China) so that he gets a break from the cramping. Has anyone done something like this, and how would I go about it? Also, will it cost us a lot more this way?
posted by odayoday to Travel & Transportation around Shanghai, China (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would call the airline you're booking with. Lots of airlines will let you add up to a 48-hr layover to your ticket without really bad penalties. It might require booking via phone; that sometimes can come with an extra charge, but it doesn't hurt to at least call them and ask.
posted by mckenney at 12:46 PM on August 24, 2009

Hm. A few airlines in the Middle East and South Asia, especially, like Emirates, Sri Lankan and Qatar, offer stopovers en route, but not for free, and often only with layovers of 8-24 hours.

Where are you flying from?

I've tried to book exit row seats in the past, but was told that we would have to use airline miles to do so in advance.

This is not always true. Check with a particular airline after booking, and check out seatguru.com. Don't forget that many seats are a bit larger/smaller on the same plane, and that you can select seats when you do online check-in or when you book (especially if you book tickets on the airline's site itself).

We can't afford business class

What about premium economy? It's a good middle ground, and the extra degrees of recline, footrests, and slightly cushier accommodations make alllll the difference.

Also, choosing a heavily trafficked route might mean that you have more time to chill out. Say you book a New York to London ticket - which has zillions of flights a day, so lots of time options, and you arrive in the morning. Spend the day in London, crash out for a few hours somewhere like the Yotel, which has wee little rooms near/in airports, then check in for your separately booked flights to Shanghai.

Final tip - often, non-US-based airlines don't enforce the "no congregating in the aisles" rule as much, especially on overnight flights. If Tall Boyfriend is a walker, this is something to consider, as is the type of plane you fly on; a plane with two aisles will let you do little laps of the cabin.

This is pretty likely if you're flying a long distance, and looks like this:

WINDOW seat-seat-seat AISLE seat-seat-seat-seat AISLE seat-seat-seat WINDOW

Good luck!
posted by mdonley at 1:07 PM on August 24, 2009

Are you in the US? It may be a false economy going via Europe because the overall flight time to Shanghai will be much longer. The flight time from Europe to Shanghai seems to be similar to the flight time from the west coast to Shanghai.

Not knowing where you are located, I used Chicago as an example (quick and dirty direct flight times from Kayak):

Chicago -> LAX = 4 hours
LAX -> Shanghai = 14 hours out / 11.5 hours back
Total = 18 hours out / 15.5 hours back

Chicago -> Frankfurt = 8.5 out / 9.5 hours back
Frankfurt -> Berlin = 11 hours out / 12 hours back
Total = 19.5 hours out / 21.5 hours back

So that's an extra 7.5 hours overall with the via Europe method. Now, if you want to go to Europe overnight to do some sightseeing while also resting the legs, forgive me and ignore this post!
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 1:11 PM on August 24, 2009

Up above, I should have said Frankfurt -> Shanghai, sorry
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 1:18 PM on August 24, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, guys! We're in Texas, so I guess we would likely be flying to Shanghai from somewhere on the east coast.
posted by odayoday at 1:19 PM on August 24, 2009

Some budget options may actually instill such a layover. The nearest equivalent to such an itinerary as yours I can think of was when my old roommate was trying to fly from NYC to Brisbane, Australia -- and one of the cheaper options she had was precisely that cheap because it had a three-day layover in Abu Dhabi. She actually went ahead and took that option because "what the hell, I've never been to Abu Dhabi before" and so she got a little bonus vacation out of it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:34 PM on August 24, 2009

Seconding going via west coast routes - flying time will be shorter. DFW-LAX-PVG is much shorter than DFW-FRA-PVG (for example).

Also seconding that not all airlines force you to use frequent flyer miles to get an exit row. Some airlines do restrict the ability to select exit row seats to elite-level frequent flyers, but you may be able to call and get the exit row seat anyway if you explain your boyfriend's legroom requirements. Or book a bulkhead seat (the first row of the cabin) - you usually can't put anything on the floor, so your handbag will have to go in the overhead, but those seats usually have more legroom. Seatguru.com is indeed your friend when researching the best seat choices.

I just ran a quick check on American, and it gave me a good fare including an overnight stay in Chicago both ways (routing was DFW-ORD-PVG). I got the overnight stay automatically because I selected an afternoon flight for the Dallas to Chicago leg, and the Chicago to Shanghai flight is only once a day, in the morning. Instant layover! So maybe try checking afternoon flights out of your city, and if the connecting flight is in the morning, you can have a nice little layover to stretch your legs.
posted by bedhead at 1:40 PM on August 24, 2009

Another advantage of going via the West Coast is that you'd only have one red-eye to contend with, which would be waaaaay easier to manage for Tall Boyfriend to sleep. You might also have a wider choice of airports to leave from and connect through; pretty much every major airport on the West Coast has some direct flight to China, and you'd have all day to get there, as many flights to Asia leave the West Coast late at night. Flying Asian carriers often brings much higher standards of service than you'd get on an American airline, and you'd also almost certainly be flying "with" the sun/moon (so you'd have either a long day or long night), which makes it easier to adjust once you land.

As stated above, the West Coast route is over 3000 miles shorter. Here's a map comparing them.

Finally, it looks way cheaper for the random dates I looked at to go west, which means that you'd have more money to spend on a layover.

And finally - why not go all the way around the world? It's remarkably reasonable if you consider the place you'd get to visit that you might not otherwise (like, say, eastern Europe or the Middle East). Airtreks has a cool online planning tool thing.
posted by mdonley at 2:24 PM on August 24, 2009

I once turned a five hour layover in Atlanta into a two day lay over in London and saved my corporate masters $17 in the process. (I had to spring for my own lodging but in a fight Henry the Fifth beats the guy who invented Coca-Cola.)

The process as I recall it was that I asked a travel agent politely and she typed for about thirty seconds.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:37 PM on August 24, 2009

The best idea would be to stopover in Anchorage, which is midway along most East US <> Asia routes, but there don't seem to be any direct flights to China, so you'd have to change planes at least twice, all together.

Other options would be to stop over in Vancouver (but the YVR-PVG leg is still 11 hours) or Honolulu (two legs of 8 hours or so each, but no direct service to China).
posted by armage at 7:42 PM on August 24, 2009

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