McCool Travel Tip: Open Jaw Flights

Do you know about open jaw flights? Open jaw flights are a great way to save money and have more fun on trips.

Open jaw itineraries are one of my favorite travel strategies. I often fly into one airport and return from another, such as when I recently flew to Key West and returned from Miami.  I actually bought two one-way tickets on two different airlines—and, in fact, used four different airports.

Below is an excerpt from my book, Winning the Airfare Game. I published the book in 2001 but it might be even easier now to get open jaw flights. JetBlue, as one example, sells reasonable one way flights wherever they fly.

Open Jaw Flights

Open jaw flights—flying into one city and back from another—offers travelers more flexibility than round-trip flights. Europe is ideal for open jaw flights because of its efficient and extensive train system. For instance, one can fly into Rome and return from London or into Amsterdam and back from Paris. An open jaw flight usually costs the average of each round-trip ticket.

Using a frequent flyer award for an open jaw flight is a great strategy. An open jaw award flight requires the same number of points as a round-trip flight. An award flight into Rome and back from London “costs” the same as a round-trip award flight to either London or Rome.

Costly rental car fees make open jaw trips too expensive for most U.S. routes. An exception is that most companies do not usually charge extra to return a car to another city in Florida. An open jaw flight into Tampa and from Miami (or any other pair of Florida cities) is possible.

A reasonable one-way fare between cities can make an open jaw flight possible. An open jaw flight from an East coast city to Portland (Oregon), and Las Vegas is possible because of low one-way fares between Las Vegas and Portland.

Open jaw flights can save travel time or let travelers see more during a trip. For an open jaw flight (from the East coast) into Los Angeles and back from Seattle, I used a frequent flyer award to travel from Monday to Friday—such a flight usually costs over $2,000. The rental car was $25 more per day than if it was returned to the pickup location. The additional cost of $125 (five days at $25 per day) can be justified, compared to the cost and time associated with driving back to Los Angeles from Seattle. Also, more time can be spent visiting new areas instead of doubling back through already visited areas.

North American open jaw scenarios include flying into:

  • Tampa and back from Orlando (or any pair of Florida cities)
  • Minneapolis and back from Detroit
  • Honolulu and back from Kona
  • Vancouver and back from Toronto (train between cities)
  • Seattle and back from Anchorage (cruise between cities)

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