My love affair with Amsterdam started with a layover.

Amsterdam was on my long list of places I wanted to visit, but I was in no rush to make plans to head there. When I had a five-hour layover on my way back to the states I decided to use that time to get a taste of what the city had to offer.

Before I left for my trip I searched the Internet for tours and things to do with a super short lead time. I found a great driver who I contacted ahead of time and he picked my friend and I up from the terminal and took us on a tour. We took a picturesque drive to the countryside and saw the Rembrandt windmill and visited a historic cheese and wooden shoe farm—yes it is very random, but it was a really interesting experience and I love shoes and cheese. We also got a chance to ride through different neighborhoods, swing through the red light district, visit Dam Square, walk the canals and eat at an amazing café.

Instead of letting a layover ruin your trip, use it as a chance to explore new cities and be a tourist for the day. Here are some tips to help you turn your next layover into an adventure:

  1. Determine if you have enough time. This is the most important step. Three hours in a city may seem long but having to clear customs and go through security takes time and may not make the exit worth it.
  2. Research. Search the term “layover tours” and the city you are visiting. Many cities have tour guides who can pick you up from the terminal and help you explore the city. There are also websites like and that suggest ideas of things to do.
  3. Plan ahead. Even if you don’t finalize plans before your trip have an idea of what you want to do. This will help you allocate time, figure out what to do with carry-ons and ensure you won’t have any troubles leaving or reentering the airport.
  4. Remember this is only a sampling of the city. Don’t try to see all of the sites in a day. If what you see on tour piques your interest, start planning your return when you get home.