Why not try to squeeze an extra destination into your itinerary? Most times, The longer the layover - the cheaper the flight ANYWAY.
Cheaper flight + Longer Layover = See Another City
Here are my tips to get the most out of your "Laycation":
1. Check If You Need A Visa FIRST:
Before planning your layover, first make sure you can leave the airport without a visa or extra paperwork. Travisa.com is a great resource that allows you to enter your destination country and citizenship country to see what requirements you'll need before leaving the airport. The last thing you want to hear at customs is: "sorry, you can't leave!"
2. Pack These Carry-On Essentials:
Spending 12-15 hours in your layover city requires a little extra planning. Pack the following in a small carry-on bag (I usually carry the Adidas Prime Backpack; it's not a fancy travel specific bag but it can carry a lot including my camera and tripod):
- Change of clothes - include undergarments and one outfit
- Passport and all documentation
- Phone Charger
- Travel-sized toothbrush or mouthwash
- Sunscreen (Depending on the destination)
- Chapstick (For winter layovers)
3. Rent a Car
If you have a license and the funds to rent a car, I highly recommend doing so. The cost of renting a small car for a day is well worth the ease of traveling around when you only have 10-12 hours to see an entire city. I recently rented a car in Panama City from 6AM - 10PM and it was less than $70 USD for the entire day.
Renting a car allows you to see more than just the tourist sites. I drove 4 hours round trip to go zip lining in a quiet jungle near Valle De Antón, roughly 150KM away from Panama City. Driving through the mountains on the way there and back was enough sight-seeing in itself. By the time I got back to Panama City, I still had 8 hours of my layover remaining.
Try matching the car to the city for some added fun (i.e. when I rented a Fiat in Naples, Italy)
4. Use Google Maps To Outline Your Itinerary
This is one of my rule of thumbs for any trip, no matter whether it's a quick layover or a month-long getaway. However, this is especially important when you want to see as many sites as possible within a matter of hours.
Visit google.com/mymaps to create your own map, choose the location, add pins for your stops, draw lines and calculate the distance between sites, color code points of interest, change the terrain, etc. This tool is extremely helpful in planning long layovers!
5. Drink an Energy Drink or Let the "Travel High" Carry You Through
This one is self-explanatory... you won't feel 100% rested, but guaranteed you'll remember the memories far more than the tiredness.