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Not MM - Frequent travelers, how do you handle your long layovers?

I just booked our flights to Norway! FINALLY! This has been my big stress since Jan/Feb while I've been watching ticket prices go up and up and up but I finally found a decent enough deal out of JFK that takes us to our destination (not Oslo which was why it was getting so expensive). Anyway, so we're flying out of JFK and our return to the US on the 18th takes us through Amsterdam-Schipol airport for a 2 hour layover and then CDG for a 6 hour layover. At AMS I figure we'll just sit tight...but in CDG, 6 hours???? Enough time to leave, ooh and ahh at Notre Dame and turn around and come back for our cross-Atlantic flight? Best way to do it cheaply? I can read French much better than I can speak it but that's about the only thing going for us, plus we'll be coming in from another Schengen airport so passport control won't be an issue right?

Second part of the trip, I kind of messed up with these tickets to JFK. While our flight doesn't return very late, 7 PM, apparently there aren't any direct red-eyes between JFK and ATL after that....and the only red-eyes out of LGA leave at 9 pm. I don't think we'd get through customs and across town in enough time to actually make our flight, and forget about luggage. So anyway, we're going to stay in NYC overnight, there's a Hampton right by the airport for $225 (Friday night so rates I guess are higher plus NYC). There's a return flight the following Saturday night that's not terribly priced that I was thinking of taking and that gives us most of a day in NYC to see at least one or two sites. As I recall from our last European trip, we both felt pretty good coming back. It was easy to get up in the mornings, we just got tired earlier in the evenings so I think jet-lag won't be the issue. Would it be more worthwhile to spend 2 nights in NYC instead of just the one and catch an early am Sunday flight back home? I'm trying to stay balanced between being MM which is just the one night, or making us slightly less rushed and paying for 2 nights.
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Re: Not MM - Frequent travelers, how do you handle your long layovers?

  • hoffsehoffse
    Sixth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its Name Dropper
    member
    edited April 12
    6 hours to get into Paris and back will be tight, but since you are clearing immigration in Amsterdam you might just be able to do it if you race a little.  You will need to check your bags through to the final destination and just take small day bags with you.  A cab into Paris takes anywhere from 40-60 minutes depending on traffic (plan for an hour).  But yes, you could probably get 60-90 minutes at the Eiffel tower or another landmark if you picked only one place to visit.  Eiffel tower is good because it's just a big park, so you won't have to stand in line or anything if you avoid going to the top.  I would leave downtown Paris with at least 3 hours to spare to get back to CDG for your next flight.  

    FWIW H and I did this on a long layover in Toronto.  We had a couple hours longer than you, but we had to clear immigration, which you won't have to do (granted, being US passport holders in Canada is not much different than being Canadian...).  We took the train in and back, which was about 45 min each way, and it gave us enough time to walk around downtown, take some photos, eat lunch at the old food hall there, etc.  We did have to go through security again when we returned to the airport,so be sure to leave enough time for that.  Normally I would say European security is very lax, but France has ramped it up significantly over the last couple years.  

    I would not plan to eat lunch in Paris unless it's a to-go crepe place or something like that.  Sit down meals can take hours there.  However, there are some food stands that serve snacks and beer in the park right by the Eiffel tower - it's a nice way to spend an hour or so.

    To answer the original question though, we tend to go to lounges on layovers.  We have lounge access tied to one of our credit cards, but even in airports where those lounges are absent we will sometimes splurge for a day pass when the lounge serves food.  It's much nicer than sitting at the gate, and the cost isn't that much more than buying food at the airport.

    EDIT: Sorry you said Notre Dame and not Eiffel tower.  ND is just as good because it's also free to enter (no lines), and it's actually closer to the airport than ET.  Just be prepared to fight off the selfie sticks.  It's gotten a little out of hand.
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    labro
  • hoffsehoffse
    Sixth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its Name Dropper
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    edited April 12
    Oh and this is obvious but I need to say it - don't get your heart set on getting into Paris.  Figure out how to do it in case you guys have time, but if you land with less than 6 hours I don't think I would risk it.  CDG is way the heck outside of the main tourist area of the city, and 6 hours is tight as-is.  It also won't be MM - it will probably cost you 100+ euros to cab there and back, but I think the cab is really the only way to do it with the amount of time you have. 

    Anyway when H and I did this in Toronto we didn't make the final call to go into the city until we were through immigration and looking at the train platform.  I think it also depends on how high stakes it is.  If there are other flights to Norway that afternoon or the next morning that you could take in a pinch then I would be more inclined to do it (check rates but lots of Euro carriers are very cheap).  H and I approached the Toronto jaunt very conservatively because our flight from Toronto to Amsterdam was pretty high stakes, and it was the last one that night.  If we had missed the flight we probably would have just flown back to Atlanta and cancelled the whole trip.

    EDIT 2: If Paris is before the transAtlantic... be conservative with it.  I thought you were going JFK - AMS - CDG - Norway, but I think I read that wrong.  My reading comprehension is subpar today.
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    labro
  • Regarding long layovers.....I avoid them at all costs.  I have no desire to hang out in an airport for hours on end and while it isn't MM, I'll pay more for a ticket that has reasonable layovers depending on whether or not I'll have to clear immigration or not and depending on the airport.
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  • labrolabro
    Fifth Anniversary 500 Comments 250 Love Its Name Dropper
    member
    @jtmh2012 No choice on the long layover unfortunately. There was another option with a 1 hr layover in CDG but a 7 hour layover in AMS and I've heard CDG is hell to get through depending on transfers so I opted for the longer option. Tickets are already purchased. Long layovers aren't my favorite either so I'm trying to make the best of it! :)

    @hoffse Thank you!  I think you highlighted my exact concerns - tighter security because it's Paris and they've had a lot of problems, and 6 hours is truly bare minimum. My hope is to plan it out as much as possible, and just abort mission if something goes wrong - we arrive late in CDG, takes too long to get off the plane, there's a planned strike that day, etc. I also picked ND because well...it's ND but also because it is more direct than having to hop on another line (or walk) to the Eiffel Tower. I've read that food options within the secure part of the CDG airport are pretty minimal...so even a crepe stand sounds more appealing to me! We definitely don't have time for sit down. And yes, Paris is our last stop-over before crossing the Atlantic back to NYC.
  • Unfortunately, I can't speak to traveling internationally.  But since you already have to spend one night in NYC, I personally would splurge and spend a second night.  Especially if that makes it less hectic.  I LOVE NYC.  I'd stay the extra day just for more meals there, lol.

    Plus, and this is a personal preference, I would constantly be worried about time while I'm trying to enjoy NYC, if I were leaving Sat. night.  I always prefer to fly out in the late morning/mid-day, if I can.

    Though a couple things to keep in mind.  There's a good chance Saturday night will be even more expensive than Friday night.  And that a Sunday morning flight will be more expensive than a Saturday one.

    Also, you all will have just spent a long time away from home in Europe.  Would you really rather extend the trip another day or just get home as soon as possible?

    Pros and cons for either option!  But those are good choices to have ;).  Congrats on your upcoming Norway trip!

    labro
  • labrolabro
    Fifth Anniversary 500 Comments 250 Love Its Name Dropper
    member
    @short+sassy Yep! I already noted the price increase for the flights but hadn't checked hotels yet. We're talking a difference of $50 per ticket...but this is eating more and more out of all the reasons why we chose to fly out of JFK in the first place lol! Basically it was going to be $2700 out of Atlanta on Delta (we could've done $2100 on a cheaper airline like JetBlue and Aer Lingus) and $1400 out of JFK which is why we bought the tickets. We've already extended our Norway trip by a day too so I'm just looking to get back at this point and have a weekend for recovery. So much for that! But it's NYC and since we already have to be there one night it's worth it, right? I think in my heart I'm leaning towards 2 nights with a Sunday am flight because I agree...I'd be checking my watch constantly too. Unless there's some really good reasons not to...
  • als1982als1982
    500 Love Its 1000 Comments Third Anniversary Name Dropper
    member
    At six hours, I agree that a club pass would be your best bet.  For layovers of more than 8-10
    hours, we've started hiring a local driver for the day.  We did this in NYC once.  He picked us up at Newark and drove us around the city, serving as both tour guide and transportation.  I think we paid about $300, which was totally worth it!

    And enjoy Norway!  We loved Bergen.  Such a relaxing and beautiful country.
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    csuavelabro
  • csuavecsuave
    500 Comments 250 Love Its Fourth Anniversary Name Dropper
    member
    edited April 13
    I think you have gotten some really good advice so far.

    For the NYC question, if you have one full day and take the red eye that evening you can really get a lot done as far sightseeing in the city goes.  Wake up early, have a coffee, make an itinerary and go to it.  If you exhaust yourself then you are more likely to sleep on the red eye.

    Based on my travel experience I estimate that I could do at least 80% of the core tourist activities in a city like NY, San Francisco, Chicago or Paris in one day.  The question is if there are particular things on your list for NYC that will need the extra time like Statue of Liberty, multiple tours, taking time inside museums or going to a play. It also depends on your sightseeing pace---do you stop and smell the roses or take a look and move on?  Do you want to just look at the Empire State Building or do you want to go up it?

    Make a list of what you want to do and figure out how much time you need to do it.  If something like seeing a memorial that is open all day is on the list put that early in the morning instead of something that won't be open until later.
    labroals1982short+sassy
  • labrolabro
    Fifth Anniversary 500 Comments 250 Love Its Name Dropper
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    @csuave Thanks!!! We ended up deciding to just book 2 nights. @short+sassy called it and I'd definitely be checking my watch all day. I immediately started feeling the stress when DH was like "Ok, but we have to leave for the airport no later than 3". Luckily I was able to pay for part of hotel stay in points so at least it helps alleviate the extra cost a bit! We're still under what we would have spent for more direct flights out of Atlanta! I'm thinking I definitely want to see the WTC memorial early in the day but I haven't gotten further than that. Ellis Island would be cool to just visit and walk around a bit, we both had family who were processed through there, but I don't think we need to get in-depth with tours. As far as other places I was thinking it would nice to attempt to see Central Park and the New York Public Library.

    @als1982 REALLY looking forward to our Norway trip!! Our last stop on the trip is in Bergen before we go home!
    short+sassy
  • nfp147nfp147
    Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    member
    edited April 20
    Long time lurker here (I'll post an intro). We just returned from Paris yesterday, so I thought I could offer a pretty fresh perspective. CDG is a bit hell-ish and it seems to take forever to walk through it, so if you are going to leave, give yourself a good solid couple hours to get back to check in for your connecting flight. You can get to Notre Dame for 10 euros each way on a direct train (RER B - get off at the Saint Michel-Notre Dame stop, it's a five minute walk to ND). When we arrived at CDG, there was a stupid long line just to get RER train tickets in the airport, but once you get through that, the train will take 40-ish minutes to ND from CDG. (Maybe check to see if you can get RER tickets online?) There are many different options to grab food around ND. There will likely be a line at ND, but it moves surprisingly quickly. The best part of ND (in my opinion) are the towers, but the line is really long, so I wouldn't bet on getting to do that. ND is also a really short walking distance from the Louvre and the Seine if you have a little extra time to wander around. CDG, the train, and the sites are very easy to get around without any French at all, so you don't have to worry about language. I'm happy to help if you have any questions!
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