Want to see more than one city on your next trip? Spice up your travels (and travel planning) with a cheap multi-city flight. It’s a cost-effective and savvy way to see two (or more) places for the price of one trip. And it’s just as easy as booking a round-trip fare. Use Google Flights’ multi-city option to search and book, and you’ll be on your way to multiple destinations in no time!
If you’re not familiar with multi-city itineraries, this is a great place to start. Here’s how they work: instead of booking a roundtrip flight to and from one destination city, you can fly into one city and out of another. Booking a multi-city trip instead of a simple roundtrip flight can get you to more than one city for a very comparable price. Plus, you won’t have to backtrack back to that first city you landed in if you’re looking to see more of the country or continent you’re visiting.
Booking a multi-city flight may seem like it would be more expensive than a roundtrip flight, but it’s typically not. In fact, booking a multi-city itinerary is often much more affordable than booking two one-way flights.
If you’re planning to visit more than one city during your next trip, definitely compare costs and consider booking a multi-city flight instead. Fly into your first destination, use transportation like one-way flights, trains, or buses to get to your next destinations, and fly out of your final city.
Before you book, make sure you’re creating the best combinations of flights possible, and book far enough in advance to get the cheapest flights.
What is Multi-City Flight
There are four common types of multi-city flights: Open Jaw, Round-Robin, Surface, and Around the World.
- Open Jaw: An Open Jaw multi-city flight is named as such because that’s what your flight path will look like on a map — a wide open mouth. You simply fly non-stop to one city, then fly to another one on the way home. What makes an Open Jaw route unique is that you find alternative travel arrangements on your final trip home. Let’s say you need to find cheap flights from New York City to Austin, and you plan to stay in Texas for a few days. However, you need to stop in Chicago on your way home, and from there you plan to get a rental car to get you from the Windy City to your front door. That’s an Open Jaw, multi-city flight.
- Round-robin: This Round-Robin flight gets its name from the “round-the-world” pattern you make when you fly. In this flight pattern, you fly from your arrival city to your first destination, then to a different city, then back home. Unlike Open Jaw routes, you fly to each destination. You might live in New York City and have a wedding in Atlanta and a business meeting in San Francisco a few days after the wedding. Instead of flying to each destination and back home, you can fly to Atlanta and stay a few days, then fly to San Francisco from Atlanta, then back home from the business meeting. You’re making a complete circle, or a Round-Robin.
- Surface: A surface trip is an odd one because you have two disconnected flight legs, but it still counts as a multi-city flight. It’s called a Surface flight because a leg of your journey will be over land. You will fly from home to a new city, then drive to a different one, and finally fly home again. Say you live in Nashville and you have a bridal shower to attend in Orlando. Then, you want to drive to New Orleans to see friends after the bridal shower. After spending a few exciting days exploring Bourbon Street and the bayou, you want to fly home. You just completed a Surface multi-city trip.
- Around the World: This type of travel itinerary is similar to the round robin, but it involves international travel and light time travel. In an around the world route, you might book flights from New York City to London. From London, you take a quick flight to Paris. From la Ville des Lumières, you book another international flight to Hong Kong. And, finally, you travel from Hong Kong back to New York City, possibly with a layover in Los Angeles or Seattle. You’ve just completed a complete circumnavigation of the globe, skipping across time zones like an expert international traveler.
Some of these trips may seem complicated, but they can all save you quite a bit of money if you know how to book flights with multiple cities. If you were to try to fly back and forth between home and your destinations, you would be dishing out a lot more dough. Not only do these trips save you money, but they also allow you to spend more time in a new city, too.
How to book multi-city flights yourself?
What exactly are multi-city flights? They’re a series of one-way flights with extra stopovers along the way. If you don’t mind spending a little more time traveling, multi-city flights are an easy way to save money on your trip.
Who can book multi-city flights? Anyone! You just have to be flexible with your time. When planning a multiple destination trip, you have to count on spending an extra day or two at some of the stopovers along the way. There are many beautiful multi-city trip destinations you could visit on your trip!
- Use Kayak, Travelocity, or another search engine to find the price of the regular round trip.
- Choose destinations that are technically on your way that you could use as stopovers. Then pick the multi-city flight option on Kayak or Travelocity and start searching.
- Look for stops that cost less than 50% of the round trip. If necessary, try changing your travel dates. There’s more chance of finding a cheap flight on weekdays.
Travelers use multi-city flights to save money on flights while seeing the world.
Multi-city booking Online vs travel agents
The booking process is fairly simple. There are two options – you can either book a multi-city flight yourself via an online booking site or use an expert with years of experience.
Keep in mind that booking complex multi-city flights may include extra baggage checking fees and different luggage-transfer policies when changing airlines.
The only catch is that to save money you have to spend a lot of time searching for that single lowest fare. Basically, it’s a lottery – you might or might not find that extra leg that will reduce the cost of the trip.
What are multi-stop flights? Multi-destination flights are your ticket! Multi-stop flights allow you to visit two, three, or more cities on one airfare. They’re a great way of managing both your time and budget.
Multi-City Flights & Third-Party Sites
You can use the same strategy on sites like Expedia, Skyscanner, and Kayak. You may even get identical results. What you need to watch for are different carriers. If you find a multi-city route that includes multiple carriers, I will pass. If you are booking directly via an Airline and use other carriers, it’s a different ball game. What it boils down to is who is ultimately responsible for your travel. If you have three parties involved, you run the chance of problems should you miss a connection. I haven’t written about this in detail yet, but I will at some point. But let me stress, if you are using a third-party site (not an airline) and more than one airline involved – pass.
How does multi-city airfare work?
- A flight with multiple destinations works several ways. It’s a single ticket with multiple stops, anywhere in the world.
You can leverage one-way flights, airline hubs, flight specials, and unusual destinations to create the most valuable airfare possible.
- You can also stopover at key destinations, giving you an entirely new area to explore at little or no cost. A stopover is a layover that lasts for more than 12 hours, giving you the opportunity to get out and about in the city and see a few of the sights.
You could stop over for days, or even weeks! Since many long-haul flights connect in hub cities, it doesn’t have to cost any more to stop over for a few days and explore the city before continuing on to the original destination.
- You can even use multi-city flights to build in an overlanding session. Want to take a train from Cambodia to Thailand, but not have to take it back in order to leave from your original airport? Simply build this into your trip and fly out of Bangkok without having to backtrack. Or a bus from Montevideo to Buenos Aires?
It’s possible with a multi-stop flight.
- If you’re booking the route yourself, just be careful that you pick the correct airports in the cities for connections. Often there are two or three airports within a city which could make departures or connections confusing if you’re not paying attention (you wouldn’t want to go to JFK for departure and forget that you were actually departing from a different airport, La Guardia).
How to Book a Multi-Stop Flight
Do your homework and cross-referencing your information make the difference when booking multiple-city flights. Rather than depend on a single airline or website, diversify your search to open up your options.
- Determine your overall itinerary. When possible, pad your stops to allow for rest days and recuperating from jet lag. Avoid scheduling tight transfers, particularly when booking international travel that involves clearing immigration and customs.
- Compare round-trip with one-way tickets for scheduling and prices. Some airlines and booking engines charge nearly as much for one-way travel as they do for round-trip, while others offer a significant savings for one-way travel. Among the airlines that make one-way flight pricing their standard are AirTran (airtran.com), Southwest (southwest.com) and JetBlue (jetblue.com).
- Customize your online searches to allow for multiple stop flights. The interfaces vary, but airline websites and most online travel agencies offer options for multi-stop flights. Access Expedia’s (expedia.com) multiple flight search engine under one-way trips. On Orbitz (orbitz.com), select “expanded search options.” Travelocity (travelocity.com) has a link to “multi-destination” on its home page.
- Diversify your search. No single airline, agency or aggregator site offers the best deal every time. For foreign travel, European and Asian airlines might have competitive prices.
Planning a Multi-City Route
Multiple-destination flights can make for complicated itineraries, and booking one on your own can get tedious and confusing. Fortunately, there are online tools (such as Skyscanner and CheapAir) that can help you gather your stopover options and get your ticket squared away. Most providers let you book only up to five or six legs for each trip, but you can personalize the trip to make the most of what you’ve got, and include stopovers all over the world.
Pro Tips for Booking Flights with Multiple Cities
Okay, so now that you understand the general process, we have some more advanced tips.
Find stopovers: A stopover is a layover that lasts for more than 12 hours, which gives you the opportunity to get out and explore the city while you’re waiting for your next flight. Many airlines offer stopovers in the capitals of their country of origin. For example, if you’re flying with Air France from Washington, D.C. to Tokyo, you might be able to stop in Paris on your way. Stopovers usually don’t cost you anything extra, and you might even be able to get a package deal with your hotels. You will most likely need to call the airline because these options aren’t always available online.
Start with single stops: Using a stopover is a great way to save money while adding another destination to your journey. Single-stop flights are an even better way to find deals and open up your travel options. First, you want to start with a regular round-trip search and record the amount of money it will cost you for that trip. Then, you can take note of any stops and cities that your layovers will be in.
Hack the route- Multi-City Flights: Now that you have an idea of what the trip is going to cost you, and you have a ballpark idea of the timeframe for the trip, you can start hacking the route. Here are some great tips on booking multi-city routes, courtesy of Life Hacker:
- Like you normally would, you can start looking for a single route using the multi-city option. Search for cities that are generally on the way to your final destination that don’t cross oceans or backtrack through different continents.
- Now, you want to start keeping your eyes peeled for stops that cost less than half of your original round trip ticket price. A flight to a popular European destination from North America is often significantly cheaper if you stop somewhere like Guatemala City or Buenos Aires on the way instead of booking a regular round-trip flight.
- Let your creative side show when booking these cheap flights. You can look at pretty much any major city that comes to mind or visit a place you’ve always dreamed of seeing. It’s not unusual for two seemingly unrelated places to be located on important routes for airlines, making the seats on those flights cheaper than normal.
- Finally, you need to be flexible when looking for multi-city flights. If you can, play around with travel dates and start your search with a Wednesday departure date. You can also play around with the airports you’re flying to and from if there are multiple in the same region. You can think of this step almost like a game with a simple goal: to find the cheapest airfare possible.
Second Leg: After you find an incredibly cheap one-way ticket from your desired city to a stop along the way, you can start searching for the second leg of the trip. You basically want to repeat the hacking process to find another flight that is as cheap as your first leg. As you’re playing around with routes, try changing the dates so you can get the lowest fares possible. You can always add another stop if you don’t mind the extra travel, or you can use some frequent flyer miles to cover some of the expenses of your trip.
Book Multi-City Flights: Major Airlines
Delta Multi-City Flights: Search for a Delta flight round-trip, multi–city or more. You choose from over 300 destinations worldwide to find a flight that fits your schedule.
Southwest Multi-City Flights: Book the best deals and lowest fares for airline tickets only at Southwest.com. … Flight type options. Round trip. One-way. Multi–city. Payment options.
American Airlines Multi-City Flights: American Airlines multi–city flight reservations: Book multi–city flights for the one-way, round trip & last-minute travel and save on multi–city flight
United Airlines Multi-City Flights: Search for multi–destination flights on United and more than 80 airlines. Find adult, senior, child, and pet fares, and use money or miles to book.
Spirit Airlines Multi-City Flights: Spirit does not allow multi–city package bookings to be made on the website at this time. Please contact Spirit Airlines Reservations at 877-681-0056
JetBlue Multi-City Flights: JetBlue Multi-city reservations cannot be made using points and are only available right now as a Blue fare. If you would like reward flights or a different fare class, the segments will need to be booked separately.
Qatar Airways Multi-City Flights: Qatar Airways home page One World home page. Log in. Notification. Select your outbound flight. close. Flight Route. Return, One-way, Multi–city, With qatarairways.com, you can book flights, accommodation, cars, and other amenities to help you on your trip.
Emirates Airlines Multi-City Flights: Return, One-way, Multi-city. More information. Terms and conditions. Promo code alert. It’s easy to book flights online · Enter your departure city, destination, travel dates, and travel class. · Search the best flight fare and take your pick.
British Airways Multi-City Flights: You can add up to six flights on British Airways multi-center trips, which can be short stopovers or longer breaks away. Add your flight, then choose the dates …
Alaska Airlines Multi-City Flights: Looking for cheap flights and a great experience? Compare Alaska Airlines flights and enjoy the best value for your money. Fly smart. Land happy. Check “multi–city,” and “use miles” on the left. Choose “miles only” from the drop-down menu on the right. Enter your flight information, etc..
Air Canada Multi-City Flights: Buy airline tickets, find cheap airfare, last-minute deals, and seat sales with Air Canada. Book hotels, cars, and vacations with Air Canada Vacations. Fly to top Canada destinations with Air Canada and experience the premium service of a four-star airline, certified by Skytrax. Find the best flight deals ..
Why can’t I book this multi-city fare on American Airlines?
Most airlines price flights based on the origin and destination of the travel, not based on the individual flights. ie, in this case they are charging you as if you were flying from YVR to SAN, regardless of the fact you’re actually flying via DFW.
The “base fare” (before taxes/etc) that you’re being quoted on this flight is what’s called a “through-fare” so covers both legs of the flight – YVR to DFW and DFW to SAN :
(Output from matrix.itasoftware.com) :
Fare 1: Carrier AA VVACZSN1 YVR to SAN (rules) $154.92 Passenger type ADT, one-way fare, booking code V Covers YVR-DFW (Economy), DFW-SAN (Economy)
Note the ‘booking code V’ in the text above – this is what’s called a fare ‘bucket’, and is how airlines limit the number of “cheap” seats that are available on each flight. There will be a number of seats available for sale in each fare bucket, and as those sell out prices will go up as you move to the next fare bucket. Fare buckets were historically done on the basis of an individual flight, so YVR-DFW would have it’s available seats, and DFW-SAN would have it’s available seats. In order to get a cheap fare all the way through, you’d have to have availability on both flights.
Now, mixing the two concepts above (origin to destination fares, and fare buckets) can cause a problem for the airline. Maybe they want to sell cheap flights from YVR-SAN (perhaps because a competitor has a sale on that route), but they don’t want to offer cheap seats from YVR-DFW or DFW-SAN as there’s no competition on those routes so they know they can charge a much higher price.
Thus was born the concept of “Married Segments”, which is where bucket availability can be done on a pair of flights. Thus an the airline might set the number of cheap seats available on YVR-DFW and/or DFW-SAN to be zero, but at the same time have a non-zero number of cheap seats on the combined YVR-DFW-SAN flight combination.
Now with that as background, what you’re actually hitting here is the opposite of what I described above! Individually, both VVR-DFW and DFW-SAN have availability in the “V” fare class for those flights. The flight booking engine is seeing this, and is giving you a price based on that availability.
However the “married segment” of YVR-DFW-SAN does NOT have availability in V class – the lowest class it has availability in is the higher “K” class. When the system gets to the point of validating the fare is valid it’s realizing that there is no sufficient availability on this married segment flight, and is bumping your ticket up to a higher K fare, with a much more expensive base fare :
Fare 1: Carrier AA K0ACZNN1 YVR to SAN (rules) $312.89 Passenger type ADT, one-way fare, booking code K Covers YVR-DFW (Economy), DFW-SAN (Economy)
Technically, this is a case of “working as expected”, with the possible exception that Google Flights and the AA website should not have even offered you the cheaper price to start with for that combination of flights. You could try calling the airline and asking them to give you the lower price, but I wouldn’t not be surprised if they refuse on the grounds of “no availability” of that fare on that combination of flights.
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