Phileas Fogg took 80 days to go around the world and still did not reach Australia. Today, a flight with a single layover from London to Sydney takes only 21 to 23 hours.
However, Mr. Fogg experienced a mini-vacation at every point in his journey--he had no choice. So why not take advantage of the layover situation and enjoy a mini-vacation of your own? Arriving to London from Australia (or back) usually requires a stopover in one of the most beautiful cities of Asia, regardless of your airline of choice. With that in mind, there is no reason to discard a unique opportunity to experience Asia's urban scene.
With more than half a day's stopover, you could climb the Great Wall. The massive, solid piece of architecture gives you a heady feeling of being in two timelines at once, with the Beijing skyline in sight from the top. The Forbidden City, home to the last imperial family, is also a perfect rambling spot. The wide concrete-paved courtyards are as good as a park.
If it's shopping you had in mind, look for the Pearl Market. Strings of interconnected malls and a thousand small vendors selling everything from cashmere scarves to two-way walkie-talkies will keep you occupied for hours.
Take a food trip to traditional Singapore and look for the half-hidden "Hawkers." With the commercialization of Singapore, Singaporeans hide their native cuisine in these small strips of selling booths in the residential areas. Order Han Chicken and choose from their native drinks, blended from different flowers.
If you are in a walking mood, ditch the trains and buses, lace up your trainers, and stroll to every destination. With the incredibly low pollution, Singapore simply turns into one of the largest parks on earth.
This tiny, rather out-of-the way archipelago in Southeast Asia is the third-largest English-speaking country in the world. They have a rich cultural mix, with Spanish and Mexican influences underlying the more obvious American ones.
If your idea of a mini-vacation is a shopping spree, you are more than in luck. There are so many side-by-side malls that in one spot they simply placed bridges between three malls and called the area Trinoma. If a more cultural-historical itch needs to be scratched, then go down to Manila, Metro Manila. The National Library, National Museum, and the old walled city of Intramuros are there for the enjoying.
Unless you have an entire day in which to linger, do not make the Grand Palace your mini-vacation. The museum alone has enough to keep you occupied, and you might miss the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the other living quarters in the compound.
Instead, opt for a Thai food trip before heading to the shopping places--no matter what time you are in Thailand, there will be one open. Tackle the Thai street food if you dare--both the fruits and the fried. For a safer but still authentic experience, avoid the large restaurants and look for the small Thai mall food courts. They close early, around 7 in the evening, which leaves more time to shop.
The next time you have a business trip, make room in your schedule for that vacation. If you're not sure how to arrange your flight so you get the stopover you want, use booking agents like Check-in which provide the option to add stopovers to your itinerary. Leap at the chance for a break and make it memorable.