Never Buy Tickets to Your Destination…Only Where The Plane Goes

I know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found. – John Muir

Greetings from glorious La Fortuna, Costa Rica! Getting some night writing done at the moment, with a fabulous view of this, obviously very popular, pool.  It was a pretty day here, a little cloudy, but that makes the volcano all the more mysterious and Jurassic Park-y.

So, this post will assume that you have read the previous post Get Around On The Cheap. And like fried chicken and Franks Red Hot or tortilla chips with mayonnaise and ketchup…seriously it’s a Costa Rican thing… you simply can’t have one without the other.

Quick Sidebar: You can read about other Costa Rican delicacies here

Of course my beloved Chifrijo is number one, but that is another post…or 12… altogether.

Ok I digress… back on track. I’m always thinking about food. Apologies.

Now I’m certain you’re diligently following the tips from the first post and have no checked luggage. Now, you have several options for saving literally thousands of dollars on airfare. Good for you for thinking ahead!

First Things First

You probably have your favorite search engine or website for finding flights. Maybe you can be a champ and share in the comments what you use and why, maybe yours is better…people helping people, right?.

Kayak and Google Flights are the go-to’s for my searches for a variety of reasons.

Use Kayak when on the fly, working from a phone. They have a good app and you’ll like that they will usually come up with a “hacker fare” at least once in a while that gives you some wacky combination of flights on the cheap. Kayak will give you ideas of combinations of flights to get the best deal that you may not have thought of, and can use again in the future.

Google Flights though, should be your mainstay. At least for what we are trying to accomplish here. They provide a monthly calendar visual from destination to destination showing what days have the cheapest flights. That alone will save you some bucks, without having to type in date after date after date and reload.

Google Flights - Month View

Now we are up and running, have a couple destinations in mind, and know the approximate dates we want to travel. Fork in hand? Here are the meat and potatoes.

All of this is taking the place of a travel agent of course. Does anyone really use one of those? Check out this good article from Matt over at Nomadic Matt if you are curious and also for other great travel tips.

The Extra Trip

Here is a great example. I was poking around today looking for a screamin’ deal on my next trip to Costa Rica. We are down to brass tacks on our land deal here…also another post…and so I will need to come back for some more Pura Vida in the next 30 days. A shame, I know.

This one was cake. Check it out. The first flight to pop up was about $500 under the average for a direct ticket from Charlotte to San Jose. $250 vs. $750.  So far so good.

But it showed a 31 hour flight time. Ouch! Hold up, wait, (said in Nate Dogg’s voice) a minute…don’t get that scroll finger all hot and bothered just yet. Where you are stopping and for how long are the important bits. I’ve had great times in foreign lands on only long layovers. Knocked out a solid day in both London, UK and Bogota, Colombia last year on layovers. In this case, its a 24 hour layover in Toronto. Sometimes the layover can be your accomplice in this mission.

Air Canada Flight

This flight works for two reasons. Firstly, it adds another country to the list for the year. Passport stamp = country visited. #stampcollector Not all trips are 6 months long, and don’t need to be to be enjoyable. Secondly, and most importantly, in my quest to see every Major League Baseball park before I am 40, I think I may be able to squeeze a game in while I am in town! I have 4 stadiums left to see, and Toronto is one of them. And wouldn’t you know it?? They are playing my beloved Cleveland Indians that day! The universe is conspiring in my favor already.

Indian Game Wed Night

Growing up in Michigan/Ohio, I was raised to love the Tribe, and even froze my tootsies watching them lose game two of the World Series last year.

Ok, back to work.

This flight is perfect. Leaves at a reasonable time in the morning, gets to Toronto in the afternoon. Plenty of time for a lunch, check into an AirBnB and gingerly place a liter or four of cold Molson XXX in my belly before game time. And leaves the next day mid day as well. Score!

Important Note: the total flight time (actual time flying in the air) for this trip vs. the next least expensive trip is only an additional hour. You don’t want to fly to Los Angeles and back, and waste 3 days in the air, just to save $200, the logistics are an important piece of the puzzle.

So that is our flight to San Jose. Locked and loaded.

What about coming back?

You Don’t Have to Fly Home – The Plane Just Needs To Stop There.

Starting with another Google Flights Matrix. Type in your final destination first, and pick the cheapest day around when you need to be back. You never know, there could be a killer deal waiting for you. Usually not in the case of Charlotte, but try anyway to give yourself a price baseline to work from. 

Our search shows that our San Jose to Charlotte flight is over $700. Dang!!

Same Flight $735

Here is where you get creative! Start to type in ANY other cities as the final destination. Boston, New York, Chicago, Detroit and DC are my SOP on the east coast.

Using Google Flights, you are looking for any of these destinations that stop in your city. Because that’s all you really need, right?

After a painstaking 5-7 minutes of searching, we see that there is a flight to New York, that stops in Charlotte, for only $243. Its the SAME FLIGHT mind you, that is $700+ if you purchase direct.

Layover In Your City

Why it is $500 cheaper to purchase two flights (SJO to CLT to LGA), one of which is the exact same, and have it be $500 less, is something I will never comprehend. Perhaps one day the airline gods will dispense this information to us mere mortals.

That’s it. You don’t have luggage, so you just get off the plane and your final leg… or legs… go unused.

We just knocked this trip down from $1500 to $500 in a matter of minutes.

Now the critics will say, “but you have to buy a hotel in Toronto!”. Yes, you do. Well, I guess you could stay in the airport for 24 hours. But if you are willing to do that, this probably isn’t the place for you. Remember, this is the “extra trip” option. It presumes that you would be visiting said city anyway, and need a hotel. Of course I recommend AirBnB, I am a host in Charlotte and have used it all over the world with great success. Including just last night in Costa Rica – Thanks Claudia!!

A quick search shows I’ll pay about $55 on average for a room in downtown, and help out a local. Win-Win.

AirBnB Toronto

And my total savings are still hovering around $950 – plenty of money left over for those Tribe tickets and some Molson XXX.

More Potential Savings

Don’t forget to stop by the ticket desk on your way out of the airport to see if anyone is on standby for your next flight. You will be a good Samaritan and give up that flight, that you aren’t taking anyway, for someone in need. In exchange for a handsome credit for future travel of course.

One Final Note of Caution: If you have the option to use some more of those savings and upgrade your flight home….do it. If you are using the Citi Prestige card…and why aren’t you if you travel… you have $250 in airline credits to use anyway, every year. You want to be the first one on the plane to make sure your carry on is, in fact, carried on, and not gate checked. I will typically either upgrade to exit row or business class, or play dumb in line and go with the first group…don’t tell my mom.

So there you have it. Even with the stay in Toronto, a baseball game, a few meals, an upgraded flight and some Ubers… chances are you are still $700-$800 dollars in the black vs. two standard rate direct tickets. And way better stories to tell….

NEXT POST: Life is Networking – Focusing on what the other person wants will get you ahead in life and business.

5 thoughts on “Never Buy Tickets to Your Destination…Only Where The Plane Goes

  1. Great tip to see if you can get compensated for a bump on the leg you aren’t using anyway. I’ve done that a few times but never thought to see if the leg you aren’t using is overnooked. Genius!

  2. Aga ignatowicz says:

    Lol if it’s not flying out of the US, then skyscanner is a favorite. It doesn’t work as well for US base flights though. Promised you I would look into reading your blog 😉. If you like cruises, then vacationstogo. The prices are updated weekly so you just have to check in regularly to look at the prices, but most cruises will easily go down by 70 percent. I also used to use cheapcarribean for package deals on flights and hotels but it is always a hit and miss on finding a good deal. Fly4free and travelzoo can also show you some amazing deals on occasion and a worth skimming over once a week. Hugs and kisses to all our fellow travelers

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