One of the most overlooked booking tactics to save some extra cash on an extended trip is utilizing an open-jaw. So what exactly is an open-jaw? Nope, it's not the newest series on Shark Week. An open-jaw is a roundtrip ticket in which the origin or destination airport is not the same in both directions. As an example, an itinerary departing Miami (MIA) to San Diego (SAN) but returning from Los Angeles (LAX) back to Miami (MIA) would fall under the open jaw category.
So why should you consider booking one on your next adventure? If your vacation days or budget is limited, open-jaws are an easy way to save you a boatload on both time and money.
Let's have a look how.
Open-Jaw Tickets Save Time
The best benefit of booking open-jaw itineraries is to save time. When trying to cram in everything you want to see on a bucket list trip Down Under or the Euro trip you've been planning since last winter, the key to maximizing your valuable vacation time is to eliminate any backtracking or spending more time in airports than needed. That's where open-jaw itineraries easily outshine standard default roundtrip search options displayed by most search sites.
For example, one of the most aspirational trips on traveler's to-do list is Australia. Undertaking this epic journey across the globe takes long enough, so if your travel days are limited and you want to explore as much as you can of the Outback, you'd be doing yourself a disservice by booking a standard roundtrip in and out of say, just Melbourne (MEL). On trips where you plan on covering a lot of ground exploring more than one city, circling back to your arrival airport can chew up a lot of extra hours, sometimes even cutting a full day out of your schedule. Precious time wasted.
Roughly the same as the U.S. in size, Australia is a vast landmass to cover. And for the majority of travelers making the long-haul journey there, seeing as much of it as possible is a top priority. That's why it lends itself perfectly for open-jaw trips. Not only are most flight prices to Australia's big three cities Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane usually comparable in price, they cost nearly the same when booking open-jaws too. To make the most of a trip Down Under, by booking an open-jaw itinerary into Sydney (SYD) and out of Brisbane (BNE) travelers can make their way up Australia's eastern seaboard finalizing in Brisbane before they head back Stateside. That leaves an extra day cuddling koalas at Lone Pine Sanctuary, instead of having to fly down to Sydney only to backtrack in a northerly direction again. Half a day saved, and an unneeded flight segment ousted.
Utilizing open-jaws to cut down on additional travel time is a tactic that's useful just about anywhere that a smooth connection between two cities is feasible. Want to explore SoCal minus all the gridlock? Fly into San Diego (SAN) and take the Amtrak Surfliner up to Los Angeles and fly out of (LAX) without having to brave the I-5 in both directions.
Open-Jaw Tickets Save Money
Not only do many open-jaw itineraries save money by eliminating purchasing flights or other transportation back to your arrival airport, but you can also pocket additional savings by flying in and out of select airports to reduce overall costs.
The U.K. imposes a hefty passenger duty on long-haul flights departing from their airports, like London and Manchester. If you're planning an extended trip throughout Europe and visiting London is part of your plans, often it's a lot cheaper to fly into London and back from another European airport.
Here's a look at how the math works. For example, a regular roundtrip flight from New York (JFK) to London (LHR) this November is pricing at $347 roundtrip, whereas an itinerary from JFK to Paris (CDG) is $296 RT for similar dates. However, with an open-jaw itinerary flying into London and returning via Paris, I could pull up a trip for just $276 roundtrip. Not only is that cheaper than both "standard" options, but it also allows you to visit two cities, with no backtracking, plus $20 to put toward that Eurostar train ticket to connect! The same logic can be applied for Amsterdam, Madrid, Dublin, or any other city currently seeing sale fares in the $250-$300 range.
Of course, keep in mind you'll need to find a cheap connecting option to get you to your departure airport, or it's all for not. But for trips encompassing multiple European countries, it's a no-brainer to book an open-jaw. Because as they say, time is money, and in this case, it's extra time and money!
Not interested in Europe and looking for a beach holiday where you can leave your passport at home? Try Hawaii. Often flights to neighboring islands like Maui (OGG) and Lihue (LIH) are cheaper than arriving at happening Honolulu (HNL). For example, a roundtrip flight from San Jose (SJC) to Maui in October can be purchased for $318 roundtrip. To Honolulu, those same dates are $40 more at $358 RT. Searching for an open-jaw, I found an itinerary flying into Maui and out of Honolulu for the $318 lower rate. Just brush up your paddling or surfing skill to get between islands, and you're golden! Or… hop on one of the new interisland flights from Southwest for $39 one-way rate, and you've got two islands for the price of one – with no back-and-forth.
Why not Two Separate One-way Tickets?
If traveling domestically, booking two separate one-way tickets between varying destinations is essentially the same as using the open-jaw method. Nowadays, most carriers sell tickets within the States at reasonable one-way fares so you often won't save as much by booking open-jaws. It may even limit your airline options. But if saving time is your ultimate goal, then the open-jaw theory still applies. Best not be locked into a roundtrip itinerary that requires you to return to your arrival airport if you're planning an open-ended journey, like a cruise that finishes at a different port of call than where it embarked.
However, internationally, it's a whole different ballgame. One-way tickets can often cost just as much as an entire roundtrip itinerary, usually more! But the open-jaw loophole circumvents those steep fares because a return ticket is included in your final booking, even if it is to/from a different airport. Easily put, by booking an open-jaw itinerary from say, Boston (BOS) to Amsterdam (AMS) with a return segment departing from Zurich (ZRH) to Boston will almost always be cheaper than booking two individual one-ways.
How to Book an Open-Jaw Ticket
As mentioned above, open-jaw itineraries aren't just two one-way tickets stitched together. Airlines still considered them "roundtrip" itineraries even though it might not seem to be in the traditional sense. The reason for this is in most carriers' ticketing regulations state that when purchasing a return segment between two specific regions like North America to Europe, as long as you return to your original region (doesn't have to be the same origin airport). You'll close the loop on the itinerary. Thus issuing the trip as a roundtrip itinerary and not imposing hefty one-way pricing on each leg of your journey.
So how do you go about booking an open-jaw itinerary? Search sites might try to hide the function from their front page, but for the most part, it couldn't be easier. Since most booking sites by default are set to a roundtrip search, by clicking or hovering on the "Roundtrip" option you should see a drop-down menu for a "One-way" or a "Multi-city" search (other sites may have them as buttons), select " Multi-city" to get your open-jaw search started.
Once in the Multi-city search fields, it's all up to you to play around with how you want to tailor your trip, and which airports you'd like to open-jaw to/from. If you're based in Chicago for example, search for Chicago (ORD) to Madrid (MAD) in the first line then Barcelona (BCN) to Chicago in the second line and, voilà, you've got an open-jaw search ready to go.
While open-jaws are often a great tool to reduce travel time and costs, not all airlines adhere to the practice all the time, and you may get results with some higher prices. The key is to be patient and test out different travel dates or airports to see which results will pull up the best price comparisons. An easy way to do so is to keep tabs on airports that are seeing significant price drops and work backward from there. Once you've started using open-jaw travel, you'll be visiting more destinations for less with added hours to explore, and what's not to love about that?