The best way to save on flights? Maybe.
It may sound like the strangest (or worst) travel tip of all time, but flying to another city to save money on a flight can genuinely be worth it in every measure of “worth it”. From saving thousands to seeing new cities and enjoying perhaps an even nicer cabin for less money, there’s so many reasons this can be the best move in the world, but there are also many ways it can go wrong. Here’s how to figure it out for you, and perhaps open up a whole new world of travel…
No two cities on earth ever see the same flight prices. If you live in Baltimore, you’re going to see totally different prices to those in New York City. If you live in London, you’re going to see completely different prices to those in Inverness, Paris or anywhere else in Europe.
There is no “standard” cost of an airline ticket. Airlines price tickets at completely different prices from each individual market, and the numbers can vary by an entire digit, or perhaps even two.
It’s for this precise reason that even though you’ll take on an additional cost by booking yourself from another city, the savings can still be so great, that you can come out loads of money ahead. The harder part is figuring out when it’s worth it for you. Some people hate any hassle, even if it saves them money, while others will do anything to save a buck. Savings is savings.
In Europe, it’s not uncommon to see economy, premium or business class from certain cities at prices 50% lower or better than others. You might find an example, like…
- London to Singapore £2400 business class round trip.
- Stockholm to Singapore £1200 business class round trip.
Here’s a basic, real life example with at least £800 in savings. Obviously, every expense you incur to reach the nearby city eats into that savings, and your time is worth something too, but it’s a valuable number. That’s especially true when you see that Premium Economy from London is the same price as fully flat beds in business class from Stockholm.
This is the sort of situation where it can make sense for someone in London to book a cheap flight or use points to get from London to Stockholm, since they can save £1200, while spending perhaps just £100 in difference to cover their extra travels.
Of course, this means you are spending extra time, inconvenience and money to get where you’re trying to go – but there are times when business class from a nearby city is cheaper than economy from where you are. To many, that little extra effort is worth the time, money and extra comforts. So when is it worth it? The longer the flight you’re facing and the more comfort you want.
The Best Way To Search Flights From Nearby Cities
It’s only worth considering a flight from a nearby city if you’re not happy with prices from your home city, or you have a suspicion that better deals are out there from elsewhere. A good first step? Do a search from all your local airports and jot the prices down.
Once you have a baseline of how much you’ll pay from your home airport, considering any potential flexibility with dates, lengthening a trip and so forth, it’s time to search from nearby cities. While this may sound like a massive time consuming pain in the…. it’s not.
Google Flights is the simplest way to search prices from other cities, mainly because you can search from seven at a time. Yes, seven! In other words, with one extra search, a person living in London could check prices from Dublin, Paris, Oslo, Zurich, Barcelona, Prague and Amsterdam all at once. The same idea works for anyone, anywhere. It’s all about how far away you’re willing to go and how much a little, or a lot, of extra comfort means to you.
Find Out Extra Costs Before Booking Nearby Flights
Without a doubt, the best way to make cheaper flights from nearby cities “extra worth it” is to use points to get there, turning the added expenses into next to nothing. Obviously, a good first step is to confirm that flights are available with points before booking.
If that’s out of the question either because you don’t have points, don’t want to use them or there’s no availability, then next thing is to check costs between your home and the city where the cheaper flight deals exist. You’ll then want to add up the cost of the cheaper flight from elsewhere plus the extra flight to get there, to make sure the savings are still compelling to you.
Another major key here: having your flight from a nearby city depart in the afternoon, or at least mid day. If they don’t – you’ll probably need to arrive the night before – which adds a hotel cost into the new equation. Unless of course, you have an old friend you can bother.
Weather, mechanical issues, airline strikes – there are plenty of reasons why flights get delayed or cancelled, and it’s extremely important to know that when you’re traveling on two separately booked itineraries, you’re not as protected as you may be on one. In short: if your flight to get you to the nearby city gets screwed up and you miss your other booking, you could be out of luck.
It’s worth investigating your specific circumstance, but in general – if your two itineraries are on different airline alliances – like one on Oneworld and another on Star Alliance – you would be totally out of a reservation if you miss your flight from the nearby city to kick off the trip. If you are on the same alliance, you may be ok, but it depends on the airline. If you have two separate reservations but both are on American Airlines, you’d be ok.
The simplest advice is to pad yourself with plenty of time so that even a little flight delay won’t make things too hairy, and hope that it all goes well. Of course, a flight where you use points and then stay with a friend overnight makes all those costs a lot easier to stomach.
There’s also your luggage. Unless you’re connecting between partner airlines, it’s unlikely that an airline will gladly check your bags through to a final destination on two separate itineraries. This isn’t a big deal for many, but it’s just a little bit of extra hassle, knowing that you’ll need to re-clear security and re-check your bags at some point.
The idea of flying somewhere nearby to save lots of money is attractive, but the idea of coming off a long trip and still needing to take another flight to get home is a bit of a grind. For this reason, many travellers will try to find itineraries which actually fly through their home city on the way back. If they travel without checked bags, they can simply hop off. This is definitely an airline grey area, commonly known as “skiplagging”, but if it’s not something you do regularly, there’s nothing wrong with it.
Not taking a checked bag is easier than you think. The key is to maximize your carry on and personal item allowance, combining them into enough space to forget the time consuming checked option. If you do this, you have far more flexibility to simply “hop off” your itinerary whenever you please.
Booking an overnight connection also guarantees that an airline must give you your checked bags back, if you can’t travel without them. You may need to specifically request this at check in, but an airline will always return bags – since you’ll obviously need something to change into. Whether you make it onto the plane the next day is up to you.