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INSIDER SECRET: Always check flight prices from international hub airports to your desired country. Your smaller home airport will almost never have a good sale.
I’ve got a trip to Africa planned for this October, and I’ve been closely monitoring airfare deals.
I’m traveling with family, and in conversing with them about the trip, I was reminded that some strategies that are second nature to you and me are revolutionary to others who aren’t travel zealots.
I’ll quickly go over one strategy that can save hundreds and even thousands of dollars, depending on the size of your travel group: positioning flights.
The Art of Positioning Flights – It’s Saving My Family $1,170
When you’re looking for cheap airfare, be prepared to put in some work.
I’m mystified by the amount of folks who Google flights from their home airport and promptly abandon their travel aspirations because airfare costs too much. Pricing airfare from your home airport is the absolute first step in searching for deals — not the last.
If you live in a smaller area (like I do), the odds of a fantastic sale to the country of your dreams from your home airport are drearily low. Check out the price of a one-way flight from my home airport of Cincinnati. Round-trip flights easily cost $1,000+ (I only need a one-way ticket, because we’re heading to Asia afterwards).
$849 is the lowest price at my home airport. But that’s not the end of the road. Here are two ways to keep your hopes alive when prices from your home airport are exorbitant. They almost always work.
1. Price Airports Within Driving Distance
I live in Cincinnati, so I’ve got six airports within a two hour radius. If the price is low enough, I’ll happily drive two hours to the airport. Here’s how those cities price out for a one-way flight to Johannesburg:
- Cincinnati – $849
- Dayton – $849
- Columbus – $788
- Indianapolis – $788
- Louisville – $883
- Lexington – $883
Yuck. That tactic did not work for me. Not enough savings to warrant a 4-hour roundtrip drive to the airport. Let’s try the next (and more surefire) strategy to cheap international flights.
2. Price Nearby Hub Airports to Which You Can Fly for Cheap
International hubs are where the cheap fares live. Prices are often hundreds of dollars less than your smaller hometown airport. Your best bet will be purchasing your flight from one of these hubs, and booking a flight from your home airport to the hub airport to catch the cheaper flight.
The key is to make sure you can reach that hub airport very inexpensively, or you’ll negate your savings. Here are the hub airports I can reach for super cheap:
- Chicago – $79
- Washington, DC – $69
- Philadelphia – $89
- Charlotte – $88
Those tickets are quite cheap, and occasionally will even sink below $50 one-way (for example, American Airlines occasionally flies between Cincinnati and Philadelphia for $38).
These are the airports I’ll focus on because they’re cheap and the flight to reach them is short. Here are the prices of a one-way ticket to Johannesburg from these cities:
- Chicago – $547
- Washington, DC – $390
- Philadelphia – $533
- Charlotte – $633
The stars are aligning for a flight from Washington, DC. It’s the cheapest destination from Cincinnati, and the cheapest origin to Johannesburg.
By booking these flights, I’ll spend $459 for a one-way flight to Johannesburg. Compare that with the fares beginning from my home airport, which cost $849, and the savings are huge. I’ll save $390 per person ($849 flight from Cincinnati to Johannesburg – $390 flight from Washington to Johannesburg – $69 flight to Washington = $390).
Three of us are going on this trip, so we’ll save a total of $1,170 going this route.
Side Note: If you have the Southwest Companion Pass, you can hop to many hub airports for EXTRA cheap, because you can take a friend or family member with you for nearly free whenever you fly Southwest.
And remember to always use one of the best credit cards for travel when you purchase airfare. You could get a nice points boost for your next free vacation, not to mention valuable travel coverage like baggage delay insurance and trip delay insurance. Those card perks have saved me hundreds on my Chase Sapphire Preferred. Last time my flight was canceled, Chase payed for me to stay at the Grand Hyatt, and they even bought my meals.
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