Welcome to Another Travel Hacks Friday. As part of a new series, every Friday, we will be introducing new travel hacks for outdoor and urban adventures. We will scour the web for the best and most practical hacks, as well as dig into our reserves and share our own awesome moments of ingenuity!
We all know the cost of airfare is ridiculous, often eating up a huge chunk of our travel budget. For the uninitiated, there’s little rhyme or reason to how the pricing is established; oil price goes down, yet airfare goes up. Could it be market forces? Sure. But what about the never ending nickel-and-diming: “luggage? That will be 35 bucks. Oh…you want peanuts too? You’ll need to purchase more legroom first”. The competitive spirit is also gone. Aggregation booking sites like Priceline and Orbitz tend to spit out the same ole results. We could call it an oligopoly, but that’s a subject for another post…
So, who can blame us for trying every known trick to find cheap flights, from clearing your cookies, buying on specific days, private browsing, to clicking your heels three times (careful with this one, it’s known to have unpredictable results). The truth is though, some work and some don’t. And as the Airline industries become more sophisticated the battle for low fares will continue to get more intense.
Enter hidden city ticketing! Because airfare is determined by market forces (so the rumor goes), distance traveled doesn’t determine cost and you’ll find yourself routed all over the map in order to get to where you want to go. This neat little trick leverages that loophole in order to get you the lowest fare.
The idea is simple: Buy a ticket going from point A to point C, and get off at point B. For instance, lets say you want to go to Rome. Instead of buying a direct flight to Rome for $1900, you would purchase a flight to Milan with Rome as a stopover for $1000, and then disembark at the Eternal City.
It’s not particularly new, as the trick has been around for a while. But sites like Skiplagged has figured a way to make hidden city fares more accessible to people like you and me.
Here’s a test I did for April 15 2015 using Skiplagged:
Using Google Flights – San Diego to Rome
Using Skiplagged – San Diego to Rome to Milan:
Using Google Flights – San Diego to Rome to Milan:
So this is how you find cheap flights:
- Go to your booking site of choice and enter your flight details. Note the price
- Go to Skiplagged, or some other hidden city search engine, and enter the same details, and record the results. Note the final destination.
- Go to the booking engines and enter in the same origin and FINAL destination you got from step 2
- If the price is right, book the flight
- If you can’t find the flight, try another flight combination from step 2
Notably, there are some bugs in the system, such as flight routes and price changes not being available at all. So make sure to do your due diligence as you would booking standard flights. Additionally, here are some other things to be aware of:
- You can’t book flights directly through Skiplagged – The site only provides information. It does have a booking function, but you’ll notice that it doesn’t really function.
- Prices on booking sites are different – In the end, booking sites and airlines still control prices and availability. So we are ultimately at their mercy. It requires a little bit of effort, but well worth it to save hundreds
- Purchase one-way – This only works for one-way ticketing, because there may be a possibility that airlines will cancel your return flight if you don’t complete the first half.
- Carryon only – you can’t check any baggage as it goes all the way through
- Sometimes round trip will be cheaper – The price can be cheaper for standard round trip tickets depending on your return date.
- Airlines don’t like this – You won’t get any frequent flyer points for the flight. In fact, don’t use your frequent flyer number at all, as airlines could revoke all your points in retaliation. Use it sparingly.
The travel hack isn’t fool proof; it doesn’t always find the cheapest flights; and results are not always up to date. And although it’s not illegal, airlines and big booking sites may eventually mobilize their combined weight to put the kibosh on the practice. But until then free market reigns and, for the brave and stalwart, this is just one more tool to help win the war!
Got a hack to find cheap flights or have experience with hidden city ticketing? Please do share!
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