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The Layover: How Much Time is Enough?

 I must confess that I’ve had the good fortune to not have to deal with too many airport layovers. I’ve spent significant parts of my life in either Chicago or Dallas, and you can get a direct flight from both those places to almost any major U.S. destination.

 Even after moving to San Diego, which isn’t a hub for any airline given the proximity of Los Angeles, I’ve been able to book non-stop flights to the places I frequently travel…San Jose just up the coast and my hometown of the Windy City.

 I can recall one nightmare situation, when a friend and I had to connect through Midway Airport in Chicago on our way from Nashville to San Francisco. Because we were flying two different airlines, we had to collect our luggage from our inbound flight, which was late, and then go careening down the terminal only to have to talk our way onto the SF-bound flight because they’d just closed the plane’s doors.

 I have a few not-too-fond memories of having to make a long trek in D-FW Airport, arriving breathlessly at a gate that seemed to be in a different time zone than the one at which I’d landed. I also had a bad experience in Miami, trying to find the gate from which my “putt-putt” plane to Jacksonville would depart after deplaning from a redeye flight from San Francisco.

 All this was in my mind when I booked a trip this week to our nation’s capital. There are no direct flights from San Diego to Washington, D.C., but I did have a choice of airports at which to layover as well as various lengths of time to schedule between flights. I decided on a 1-hour layover in Chicago on my way east and a layover of about that same length in Denver on my back home…based on the following considerations:

 You really don’t want to “push it” when you have to change planes in a large airport, since you’ll get needlessly stressed out if your initial flight is delayed.

  1. Depending on the time at which you’re traveling, and how far you’re going, you might want to factor in time for a meal at your layover airport. Unless you travel first class, airplane meals are a thing of the past, and the food that’s offered on board for sale is quite limited.
  2. Unless you want to plan a meeting between flights, you probably don’t want a layover that’s more than a couple hours. It’s especially aggravating to have a layout that might be longer in duration than your final flight.

 One other important thing to consider when traveling during the winter is which airports are less likely to experience weather-related delays. My trip is in June, thus I’m very comfortable with my choice of Chicago as a layover spot, but if I was booking the same trip in January, I might opt for Dallas instead.

 Happy travels!