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Altogether in Europe, we visited 12 countries. (During the trip, we also visited friends in Israel, which is part of Asia. Yep, Israel is in Asia. Add that to your ‘fun facts’ portfolio).
Out of those 12 countries, our visits to Italy, Spain, and The Netherlands were all less than 24 hours.
It was fun getting to check additional countries off our list in between the main countries we were traveling to, and we did this by booking extended layovers when we found the option on Skyscanner – the website we used for all of our flights during our 7-month trip.
When we left the USA to fly overseas to England, we had an 8-hour layover in Rome. Between our time in England and Israel, we had an 18-hour (overnight) layover in Madrid, and between Switzerland and Scotland, we had an 18-hour (overnight) layover in Amsterdam.
We planned our route with these layovers on purpose since there were a few cities we wanted to visit for a short time. Our trip to Europe ended with a month in Croatia. For our travel route back to the USA, we booked a flight with a 1-night layover in Berlin to explore the city before we left Europe. Our direct flight overseas from Berlin to Los Angeles was cancelled within 6 weeks of that flight, and we couldn’t find a replacement direct flight. We decided on a flight that stopped in New York City for a 2-night layover so that we could go into Manhattan from JFK on the in-between day.
Our first realization that this option could help us visit more cities was our leg from the USA (Boston) to England (London). We had the option for a two-hour layover in Rome – not enough time to leave the airport – or an 8-hour layover there. We chose the longer layover, of course!
The train ride from the airport to downtown Rome is about an hour each way, so after getting off the plane, we found a secure storage spot in the airport where we could leave our luggage for $15 Euros per piece of luggage for up to 24 hours.
Here was our timeline:
- About an hour to get off the plane, go through customs, get through security and to luggage storage where we left our bags
- A one-hour train ride to downtown Rome
- 3 hours to walk from the train station to do a lap around the Colosseum, purchase a few pastries and a souvenir magnet, and get some pizza for lunch on our way back.
- A one-hour train ride back to the airport
- An hour to collect our luggage and get through security
- An hour to wait at the gate and board our next plane
Keep in mind that with the time difference, we landed at 7 am (local time in Rome), but felt like 2 am for us … take an overseas flight, land in a new country at 2 am for a 3-hour exploration of Rome, get back on a plane for London, get off the plane and find our way to our hotel.
This particular layover isn’t for the faint of heart, but we were ambitious. And, in hindsight, we are thankful we took the opportunity to get a small taste of Rome, because we didn’t have another opportunity to on this trip. Here we are in Rome – ignore how tired we look…
After all of our travel by train and one trip on a ferry, our next flight was from Zurich to Glasgow. One options was a flight that was within our budget and had a 5-hour layover in Amsterdam. We thought the 8-hour layover in Rome was a bit tight, so 5 hours wasn’t really a reasonable time frame to get through security and out of the airport, navigate public transportation, visit the city, and then reverse the process to get on our flight.
We soon discovered an alternative flight that included an overnight stay in Amsterdam, so we booked it! Our itinerary looked like this: we flew into Amsterdam in the early afternoon, explored the city until sunset, spent the night in a hotel near the airport, and got on our morning flight the next day to Glasgow.
For almost the same price as the flight with the 5-hour layover, we were able to get the 16-hour layover flight.
We arrived at our hotel in Amsterdam around 1 pm, caught a bus across the street into downtown, took a canal boat tour, and visited Amsterdam until the evening. After dinner, we returned to our hotel and got to bed earlier than normal so we’d be ready to catch the 5 am shuttle to the airport the next morning.
In this case, we were going to be flying into Glasgow 2 days ahead of our next housesit. So, we had the house between spending two hotel nights in Glasgow or 1 night in Glasgow and 1 night in Amsterdam, both of which cost the same.
For the cost of the bus in Amsterdam (for the 5 of us, the 24-hour unlimited pass cost 20 Euros) and the canal boat cruise (about 80 Euros for our family), we got to add another country to our list and experience another, beautiful city.
The plan for visiting Madrid (between London, England, and Tel Aviv, Israel) was the same idea.
We booked a flight to arrive in Madrid midday, dropped our luggage off at a hotel located at the first subway stop from the airport, then went straight into the city by subway for the afternoon.
We always use Skyscanner.com to search for flights. It searches multiple airlines and nearby airports for your destination, and it will generate a trip made up of 2 legs from individual airlines through 3rd party travel sites if the price or schedule is optimal.
Viewing all of the flight options allows us to find layovers that might give us the opportunity to visit a new county or city without having to do the extra work ourselves of investigating individual airlines and booking separate, one-way flights.
We used Skyscanner to book our flights to Europe, during our time overseas, and for our flights back to our RV in Los Angeles.