How I Got A “Free” Side Trip to Paris

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If you’re a frequent traveler, you might already know this Paris layover scheduling trick. If not, read on.


Last February I went on a 10-day trip to Italy and stayed there practically the entire time. I was lucky to have gotten a good price on my flights: just $558 total for my Hong Kong-Rome and Florence-Hong Kong tickets. And as icing on the cake, that price also included a “free” 15-hour side trip to Paris.

How? An intentionally long layover.

Sample of a flight with a 15-hour Paris layover just like mine


People generally don’t like long layovers because it extends travel time — and also extends the time you’ll have to go without a shower 😀 — but if you have the extra time, and a layover is inevitable anyway, you might as well get a good side trip out of it.

In my case, I started by searching for flights between Hong Kong and Rome.

(You can try it out HERE. And if you’re wondering why I chose Hong Kong even though I live in Cebu, read this: 9 Ways to Hack a Hong Kong Layover.)

In the screenshot below — which I took today just to illustrate the process — you can see that I already specified Air France from the airline drop-down list above the blue bar. If you already have a layover city in mind, you might want to do that. General rule: pick an airline that is based in the country where you want to have a side trip. That means Air France for Paris, KLM for the Netherlands, and so on. However, it’s always a good idea to keep your options open, so I would suggest that you not limit your airline choices, at least not at first.

Search done through Google Flights


As you can see above, the choices all begin with an Air France flight that departs from Hong Kong at 22:55 (10:55 PM). Where they differ is what time they eventually arrive in Rome. The first choice arrives at 9:20 in the morning, the next at 16:20, and so on. Now take a look at the rightmost column: it tells you, first, how many stops the flight will make, and then, in gray letters, it tells you the length of the layover.

Choose the flight with the longest layover at Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport and voila, a chance to explore Paris in the middle of a flight to Rome. Best of all, it’s FREE, in the sense that it costs practically the same — just a $1 difference — as the flights with a shorter layover that don’t give you a chance to see Paris.


Things to note:

  • It’s quite a walk between the terminal where your flight arrives from Hong Kong and the terminal where you are supposed to board your flight to Rome. That means the first option above — the one with the 1h 20m layover — isn’t going to be feasible anyway. Out of those options, the shortest layover you can realistically have at CDG is over 8 hours. Now, 8 hours will feel long if you stay at the airport, but if you try to get out and see the city, 8 hours will actually be too short, what with passport control and waiting for baggage and transport to/from the center of Paris. So: if you’re going to have a long layover anyway, you might as well go for an even longer one.
  • With my 15-hour layover, I got to see the Eiffel Tower and take photos from the Trocadero area and the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, walk around and feed the birds at the Tuileries Garden, stop for a photo at the Louvre pyramid along the way (I’d already been inside the museum 2011), have a leisurely lunch, walk along the Seine River, browse the bouquiniste stalls, and visit (and join an impromptu dance at) the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Not bad for a Paris layover, right? Everything was done unhurriedly too — I didn’t have to rush from place to place. The one drawback was that I got to Rome too late to catch the last train from Fiumicino (FCO) airport to Roma Termini and had to be creative with sleeping arrangements. (Tell you about that later.)
  • Best advice: if you want enough time to see Paris AND you want to get to Rome early enough to catch the train to the city center, choose the flight with the 11-hour layover and quicken your pace a bit in Paris. Otherwise, go for broke and choose the 15-hour layover. I did and loved every minute of it.

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© Gaya | Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains | How to Get a Free Paris Layover



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