A tip for finding cheaper airfare

Airfare.  It’s the most expensive part of any trip.  This means, I’m always scouring the internet looking for ways to save money on airfare.  There are a lot of articles out there where travel hacks that offer tips to save money.  However, some of these “travel hacks” appear a little too sketchy for my taste. 

For example, one hack I read was to get a credit card with rewards, buy a gift card, then use the gift card to purchase a money order, then deposit the money order into the bank and use it to pay off the credit card.  I mean…. I guess technically it’s not illegal.  Maybe it’s just “scamming the scammer.”  However,  I just want to get a good deal on a plane ticket; not take a gateway drug to becoming a real money launderer. 

I’ve had  success with some of these travel tips to save money on airfare, and I’ve written about these here: Tips for cheaper airfare.  I’ve also had my share of flight-buying frustrations, which I’ve written about here: Ode to purchasing airline tickets.  One tip I wanted to highlight is one I recently tried: purchasing flights from a different airport.

I started a Kayak alert for my destination, and the tickets were outrageous.  I’m talking $1,200-$1,500 a person.  However, I started really looking at all the places that I would have a layover in, and noticed a pattern.  There was one layover city that came up almost every time, across all airlines.  Depending on your destination, the layover pattern may be completely different.  So I started playing around, and seeing patterns with any destination I plugged in.  For example, if you’re flying from here to many of the cities in South America, your layover will be in Atlanta.  This means, that if you can find a cheaper flight to Atlanta or plan to drive there, you can possibly save a ton of money.

The destination we were looking at had all their layovers in Toronto.  Toronto is only 6.5 hours from us, and makes a great hub for international travel.  Here’s the best part about this.  Like I said, tickets were outrageous.  The flight I wanted was $1,250 a person, from Columbus.  Flying directly from Toronto, however, it was $675.  This means that we saved $575 a ticket, just by flying out of Toronto.  What will we do with our car you ask?  Good question.  There are actually plenty of hotels that let you rent a room and park for up to two weeks for free, or there are hotels that let you just pay for parking.  I found a website called ParkSleepFly, that lets you search any destination and gives you options for (big surprise here) parking, sleeping and flying.   You can search for hotel and parking only, or parking only.  I found parking (without hotel) for as little as $7 a day, which considering how much we’re saving on airfare, is chump change.  So if you include gas and parking (and potentially a hotel room), we’re looking at $30 RT fuel, $110 for hotel and parking.  So saving $1,150 on airfare, but spending $140, means a real savings of just over $1,000.  Not bad at all. 

I tried out a few more, just to test my theory.  This was a fun experiment.  Here were my findings, from least savings to greatest savings:

  • Flight from Columbus to Bahamas with a layover in Philadelphia: $510.  Same dates flight from Philadelphia: $385.  Drive time to Philadelphia: 7 hours, flight savings: $125.
  • Flight from Columbus to Portland, with a layover in Chicago: $625.  Same dates flight from Chicago:  $425.  Drive time to Chicago 5.5 hours, flight savings: $200
  • Flight from Columbus to Dublin, with a layover in Washington, D.C. (or Chicago) $885.  Same dates flight from DC: $500. Drive time to DC: 6.5 hours, flight savings $385
  • Flight from Columbus to Tokyo, with a layover in Toronto: $1,050.  Same dates flight from Toronto: $570.  Drive time to Toronto: 6.5 hours, flight savings: $480
  • Flight from Columbus to Paris, with a layover in Chicago: $1,110.  Same dates flight from Chicago: $475.  Drive time to Chicago: 5.5 hours, flight savings $635.
  • Flight from Columbus to Taipei, Taiwan, with a layover in Toronto: $1,190.  Same dates flight from Toronto: $520.  Drive time to Toronto: 6.5 hours, flight savings: $670
  • Flight from Columbus to Lima, Peru, with a layover in NYC: $1,195.  Same dates flight from NYC: $495. Drive time to NYC: 8 hours, flight savings $700

As you can see, it pays to check out where those layovers are going, and see how much you might be able to save with a little bit of driving.  Honestly, if you think about it, you’re spending about the same amount of time you would driving to the airport, waiting and having a layover as you would just driving to the airport.  5-6 hours in the car, compared with a 2-hour flight, plus waiting time and getting to the airport in time on either side.  So you’re saving money, and not necessarily compromising on time.  Seems like a win-win situation!  

Check this out and share with me if you have realized some really good cost-savings!


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