Q. I have been looking for summer airfares from Los Angeles to Madrid for my family for four. Here's my question: when I look on Kayak.com and Orbitz.com I see fares are quite high (at least too high for me) at $1129 round-trip including the tax. However, I see I can fly on many days in July from LA to Washington's Dulles for $238 with tax and from Washington to Madrid on United for $699, saving almost $400 for the four of us. So why didn't the search engines show me this possibility and is there any reason why I can't book two separate fares?

A. First off, summer fares to Europe right now are much higher than they were last summer, especially to Madrid, which was the bargain capital of Europe airfare-wise. So they might come down. I'd try checking in the early spring and keep on checking. Second, most airfare search sites just aren't sophisticated enough yet to combine two different flights on two separate airlines. And third, be sure to leave enough connection time between your flights in case one of them is delayed. In general, it's a somewhat risky business to assume all your flights will operate as scheduled and unless the savings are truly dramatic (or you're willing to overnight in your connecting city to give yourself plenty of wiggle room), the strategy you're suggesting might not be worth it.

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