Joe and I started running a travel-focused Facebook group in 2018. We ran it for about 5.5 years and at the time we closed it down, we had amassed over 23,000 members from literally all over the world. The group supported our blog, but we also used it as an opportunity to have some fun, with travel-related memes, quizzes, occasional giveaways, etc.
Besides the stuff that we posted in the group, we also encouraged our members to add things – photos of their own travels, questions they may have about a travel-related topic, etc. It usually brought about some good conversation and it was fun to see the travel-related interests and experiences other people had (like when people would ask about traveling with kids; Joe and I don’t have kids, so that topic was a whole other world to us).
Anyway, a while back one of our members, Mary, posed a very interesting question:
Please settle this important (ridiculous) debate between Hubs and I:
If you have to change planes in a state you’ve never been in, does that plane change count as going to a new state? In other words, we have to change planes in Oklahoma City. Do I get to count that as having been in Oklahoma?
- “I don’t count it”
- “That doesn’t really count LOL!”
- “Counts for me! If I set foot on land in a state then I’ve visited it!”
- “If you fly into Will Rogers Airport, then you are here and consider yourself greeted by me, an Okie! Howdy, and enjoy your time here in OKC”
- “If you were there, you were there”
- “A visit only counts if you leave the airport…or sleep in the airport overnight”
- “It counts if you eat there, preferably something local”
- “It counts if you go outside and step on the ground”
- “I count it IF you buy something there”
- “My philosophy is, if I spend more than an hour there, I’ve been there”
- “If you can manage to purchase a fridge magnet, then yes!”
- “We have a wooden cutout of the USA and we color in all the states we’ve been to… but we only color in that state if myself, my husband and all 3 kids stayed the night together in that state“
- “Landing there doesn’t count but getting off the plane does”
- “NO. WAY. You must leave the airport and visit one attraction”
- “Only if you go to the bathroom and flush”
It was Mary’s question so I put her in charge of keeping track of the responses (Delegating. It’s a good thing LOL!). Her final count was:
- Doesn’t count: 53
- Counts: 45
- Conditional: 8 (conditions include buying something, eating something local, staying over an hour, using the facilities, etc.)
As for the debate between Mary and her hubby, apparently Mary’s husband had said that layovers don’t count:
So, hubs “wins” this debate… But I’m still counting it
That was the response in our little corner of the internet, but I knew we weren’t the first ones to ask. So I did some of my own research to see what other groups of people have said at other times in history.
About a year before the discussion on our FB group, the question was raised on Quora: “Does a layover count as visiting a country?” (I know we had been talking about states but really, it’s the same concept, just a different location). They only had 6 responses: 3 “No,” 2 “Maybe,” and one “You be you.”
A few years before that, back in 2016, Max F. asked on a TripAdvisor forum if airport stop-overs count as visiting the country. He got 32 replies and although there were many hard-lined yes or no replies, there was a fair share of, “It’s whatever you want it to be.”
In 2015, someone on StackExchange asked a similar question, albeit for a legit reason, rather than just curiosity: “What counts as a “visit” for immigration forms?” They only got 2 replies but one, from Kate G., was particularly well thought out:
Better safe than sorry. If you claim to have visited a country but never left the airport, what will happen to you? Nothing. They may say “tell me about your visit to X” and you will say “actually I never left the airport, it was a connection” and that’s that. No consequences.
But if you leave it off, and they say “well how did you get from A to B?” and you say “I transited through C” and then they say “why didn’t you list C on here?” then suddenly you’re a person whose answers on the form might not be complete.
I recently had to list ten countries to answer that question. I listed them all. Just do it.
Going further back in time, in 2011, a member of City-Data.com did a poll that asked whether or not layovers “count.” 19.18% said they counted, 80.82% said they did not.
And WAY back in 2002, Travel Weekly did a piece on “Rules For Counting Countries.” Apparently one of their readers, Bob K. of Gainesville FL, and a friend of his, came up with “Bob & Jim’s Official Country Count Rules.” It’s kind of an amusing read.
As for me, I keep two lists – one of the places that I actually visited (read: left the airport and did something), and one where it was only a layover.
What do you think? Do airport layovers count as “visiting” a place?
*** Many thanks to Mary C. for the inspiration for this post!
Feature Photo: Stockvault by Pixabay
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