Heading to a Popular Event? Airport Flexibility Can Save You Hundreds!

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Did you know you could save hundreds of dollars when traveling by adding a little inconvenience to your itinerary?

We all love the comfort of flying to the closest airport when we travel.  But sometimes you can save a LOT of money if you fly from (or to!) an airport that’s farther away.  Especially when you’re flying to popular events like the NBA Finals or the Kentucky Derby!

Cheap Flights To The Kentucky Derby
Don’t Assume the Airport Closest to You Has the Best Deals!

The folks here at Million Mile Secrets use this trick all the time.  I’ll let you know how you can do it, too!

Use Google Flights to Search Multiple Airports at Once

Link:   How to Use Google Flights

Airports can have dramatically different ticket prices.  In some cases, a nearby airport (or destination) will sell tickets for hundreds of dollars cheaper!  So it pays to price the surrounding airports.

When you’re looking for alternate airports, check Google Flights.  It’s easy to see prices from several origins and destinations.

Many areas have multiple options.  For example:

  • Los Angeles – Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), John Wayne Airport (SNA), Long Beach Airport (LGB)
  • New York City – John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), Long Island MacArthur Airport (ISP),
  • Washington, DC – Washington Dulles Airport (IAD), Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA), Baltimore/ Washington Airport (BWI)

Lots of folks search for flights from 1 or 2 of the closest airports.  But you may be able to save big by driving a little farther.

Cheap Flights to the Kentucky Derby

For example, if you’re looking for cheap flights to the Kentucky Derby from Chicago, you can enter multiple airports in both the origin box and the destination box.

Cheap Flights To The Kentucky Derby
If You’re Looking for the Best Deal, Enter More Than Just the Most Desirable Airports

You can search for flights from Chicago O’Hare and Chicago Midway.  And search for flights to Louisville and all the surrounding airports.

Note:   If you don’t know the 3 letter airport codes, don’t sweat it!  Just type the airport’s city, and Google will give you suggestions for nearby airports.
Cheap Flights To The Kentucky Derby
Google Will Search All Routes at Once, So You Don’t Have to Manually Search Each Combination

In the example above, flying into Cincinnati is $220 cheaper than flying into Louisville.  So if you don’t mind the 2-hour drive to Louisville, this route can save you a lot of money!

Consider a Low-Cost Airline to Save

It’s worth paying attention to budget airlines, like Frontier and Allegiant Airlines.  Because these flights can be very inexpensive.  If these airlines fly to nearby airports, it could be worth the drive!

For example, if you live in Sarasota, a flight to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby will NOT be cheap.

Cheap Flights To The Kentucky Derby
Ouch! Nearly $700 for a ~3-Hour Trip!

But the surrounding airports have low-cost airlines that fly to airports near Louisville.

Allegiant Airlines flies from Punta Gorda airport, 1 hour south of Sarasota, to Cincinnati for as low as ~$80 round-trip, depending on your dates.  And Frontier Airlines flies from Tampa Airport, 1 hour north of Sarasota, to Cincinnati for as low as ~$100 round-trip.

Cheap Flights To The Kentucky Derby
Driving 1 Hour From Sarasota to Tampa and 1.5 Hours From Cincinnati to Louisville Will Save ~$530

Budget airlines will usually charge extra for things like seat selection and carry-on luggage.  For example, Frontier charges at least $30 for a carry-on bag.  But you’ll still likely save lots of money!

A Few More Tips to Save Money on Flights

Google Flights and Skyscanner will help you find the best deals.  Google Flights will tell you when there’s an airport near you with better prices.
Cheap Flights To The Kentucky Derby
If Google Sees a Better Deal Somewhere Close, It Will Show You

One of my favorite ways to find low-cost airline tickets, particularly in Europe, is with Skyscanner.  It shows more low-cost airlines than most other online search engines, like Google Flights.

Note:   Southwest prices do NOT show up on Google Flights or Skyscanner (though it will show you the Southwest flight schedules).  You’ll have to search for those flights on the Southwest website.  And if you have the Southwest Companion Pass, you’ll be able to bring along a friend for (nearly) free!

Save More If You’re Traveling With Others

Driving an extra 2 hours to save $60 probably isn’t worth it to you.  Time is money, after all!

But depending on the number of people you’re traveling with, the savings can add up.  For example, if you have a family of 4, that same 2 hour drive will save you $240!

Or, if you and 5 friends living in Miami who don’t want to miss the Kentucky Derby, it might be worth driving 2.5 hours up to Punta Gorda, flying to Cincinnati on a budget airline, and driving 1.5 hours south to Louisville to save collective thousands on your flights.  And you can split the cost of a rental van for the journey!

Bottom Line

You can save a lot of money by flying through airports farther out of your way, especially if you’re flying to a popular event like the Kentucky Derby.  That’s because many other other folks will be flying to that airport for the same event!  And prices can spike.

Check the prices of airports near your desired origin and destination with sites like Google Flights and Skyscanner.  The savings can be huge!  Then decide how much money you want to save or spend for the sake of convenience.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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