Multiple destinations on one trip can be costly.
But plan the multiple destinations with stopover flights in mind and you can actually save money.
On the day I researched this article, I could fly from Toronto to Buenos Aeries on August 6 returning on August 19th for Cdn$1,677.67. Were I to choose to stop down in Santiago, Chile on the 6th however, spend 5 days there, then continue on to Buenos Aires on the 11th for the rest of my trip, my flight cost would be just Cdn$1,778.46.
Two countries for $100 more. That's the value a stopover plan can offer.
Here's an even better example.
If I were to fly Los Angeles to London with budget airline WOW Air and pay for one carry-on bag for the same dates as above I'd pay US$1,024.95. This is without preselecting a seat and no seat upgrade. If, however, I fly LA to Reykjavik on the 6th, stay for five days, and then travel on to London on the 11th, returning on the 19th my flight cost is US855.96. That's a savings of $169. The Reykjavik stopover savings can be found for many destinations in Europe. It appears that the longer the stopover the greater the savings.
A smart stopover is good value for your travel dollar. But how do you find them?
How to Find Stopover Flights to Save Money
Finding the perfect stopover can take a lot of research as there is no clear-cut method that covers every travel option. Try a few of the methods below to determine which is the best deal for you.
- Choose an airline with a stopover program. Air Canada, IcelandAir, Finnair and many more airlines have specific stopover programs. Check to see if your favorite airline has a stopover program simply by googling the airline and stopover.
- Understand airline hubs. Hubs are airports that airlines use as major transfer points. As such, they are prime airports for a layover that could be extended into a stopover. By knowing what airline uses your destination airports as hubs you can narrow down which airlines to search for stopovers.
- Buy one-way tickets. Consider buying a series of one-way tickets on budget airlines that hub in your destination cities. For example, JetBlue hubs at JFK Airport in New York City. You could fly to NYC on JetBlue and stay for a few days. If your next destination were Miami you could book on Spirit which hubs in Miramar, Florida, which is essentially Miami.
- Get Yourself to the Region first. If you're traveling overseas it's likely best to get yourself to the region first and then book on local budget airlines. For example, flying from Toronto to Paris, non-stop, in October is Cdn$835 return. If I want to spend a week in Berlin as well it's best that I make a separate purchase of a short-haul flight on easyJet, a budget airline. That hop would cost less than Cdn$200. When I looked up the two cities as a multi-city trip the cost was over $2,000.
- Use a specialty online booking engine. For the information above I used Flightnetwork.com, my current favorite booking engine. It has saved me hundreds of dollars in the last year. But there is also a booking engine called Indie that specializes in multi-city trips. So, I ran the Toronto, Paris, Berlin and back to Toronto flight through their system. It picked up the easyJet option to Berlin and came out at the same price, around $1,000, but the transatlantic flights were not nonstop. To get direct flights the cost they found were $270 more than those noted above.
- Use a specialty travel agent. Airtreks is a travel agency that specializes in booking long-term travel and, as such, they specialize in multiple flights in one trip. They know which airlines hub where, which ones have stopover programs for what destinations, which local carriers are going to save you big time when moving within a region… In other words, they know the ins and outs of all the methods above. However, to use them you need to have a complex trip. Here's their minimum: “TripPlanner requires at least 3 stops internationally in at least two countries not including the start and end cities.”
I would love to hear how you have used stopovers in your travels, whether they be long or short-term. Please share in the comments below.