Air Booking Tips: The Magical "Multi-City" Tool & Open-Jaw Ticketing

by  Darren Murph | Apr 3, 2015
Plane in the sky
Plane in the sky / undefinedundefined/iStock

Airfare isn't cheap and time is precious. So it behooves all of us to make the most of every flight we book. Taking advantage of stopovers and open-jaw ticketing is a great way to squeeze more out of each departure, even if you only have an extra day or two to spare. We already told you about airlines offering free international stopovers, but there are a couple of additional tactics you might want to try. You can use them to secure round-trip pricing (which almost always costs less than purchasing one-way tickets) while fitting an additional city into your flight itinerary, or even plan a whole separate trip between departure and return flights. Below, we’ll take a closer look at how to do it.

Sneaky stopovers: If you're planning to travel in the U.S., you can sometimes sneak an extra stop into most round-trip tickets at little to no cost. Even if a domestic carrier charges slightly more to add a third city, it’ll still save you hundreds compared to booking three one-way flights. With a stopover ticket, you only leave your home airport once, but you end up getting to see two places.

The key here is to book using an airline’s “multi-city” tool. These are found on the booking sites of practically every major U.S. airline, as well as booking engines such as Kayak, Hipmunk, Orbitz, and Expedia. It takes a bit of finagling to find the deals, but it’s worth the effort.

If you’re looking for a place to start: think of where you want to end up, and search for flights to that destination. Pay close attention to potential connecting airports. If you spot any that are near a place you’ve been longing to visit, that’s a great way to start piecing together a stopover ticket.

Open-jaw ticketing: Most travelers book roundtrip fares to and from a single airport. But what if you want to land in Paris and depart from London, while squeezing in a whole trip in between? That’s completely doable, and it’s the basis of open-jaw ticketing. Similar to the process mentioned above, you need to use an airline’s multi-city tool to book open-jaw tickets. In essence, you’re booking a round-trip flight (one flight path out, and one flight path back), but you’re landing at an airport that’ll differ from the airport where your return journey begins.

Last year, we booked a flight from North Carolina to Tokyo, and then booked a return leg two weeks later out of Tahiti. It priced out like a conventional round-trip ticket, but it allowed us to plan an epic side trip from Tokyo to Tahiti. On a separate airline, we booked tickets from Tokyo to Auckland, and then from Auckland to Tahiti.

Open-jaw and stopover tickets can be extremely flexible, but we’d recommend arriving at your final departure point a day early — remember, if the “in between” tickets are on a carrier different from the airline you’re flying home with, they won’t have much sympathy for delays or cancellations on your inbound journey.

Have any other tips and tricks for making the most of each departure? Let us know in comments below!

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