Airline travel isn’t just limited to your traditional round-trip flights that return from the same city you flew into. A multi-city flight is an advanced airline ticket which allows you to travel across the world using multiple stops: greatly increasing the value of your trip by booking extra legs with stopovers in several different cities!
What is a multi-city flight?
One of the most efficient and rewarding ways of seeing the world, a multi-stop flight can also be a frustrating form of airfare to plan and book. Most providers don’t offer more than 5 or 6 legs per trip. You can use a tool such as TripPlanner to explore options, and then talk to a travel consultant to arrange the details of booking a complicated itinerary like this. Where it might have taken a few days and required knowledge of all trip details in advance, you can now do it in a few minutes with flexibility to change and edit your itinerary later on.
Sound expensive? Actually, it can be the same price or cheaper as a traditional round-trip ticket. Plus, it not only saves the money it would take to visit the extra destinations by themselves, but depending on timing and location it can actually reduce the cost of your overall ticket! And if you’re spending extra money on business class around the world, a multi-city itinerary can help offset the extra cost. I’ll try to run through some ways with which you can find cheaper routes.
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).
Where are the best destinations for a multi-city vacation?
Although you can book multi-city airfare across the entire world, sometimes it is the most efficient to stay with a few regions. Some regions have many capitals and airline hubs situated closely together, making it easier on the wallet and on your jet lag.
A multi-city European vacation, for example, could be planned with a stopover in London while routing through Heathrow or Gatwick, then a week in France by stopping in Paris, another week in Spain with a stop in Madrid, then on to Germany through Munich or Frankfurt, and on to exploring Italy by landing in Rome or Florence.
The same could be done in South East Asia with a multi-city flight using stops in Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia before your final destination in Malaysia by stopping at capitals like Bangkok, Hanoi, and Jakarta for a few days or weeks each before landing in Kuala Lumpur.
Even traditionally expensive destinations, like South America, can be seen easily by making a loop of the continent, hitting Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima, and Medellin in a large circle before heading back home.
Of course, using hubs as a stopover is always an easy way to see a city while on your way to a particular destination. For example, Dubai can be incredibly expensive just to go see by itself. It’s a common hub for many long-haul flights, however, and you could stop for a few days on your way to Asia and not break the bank on a very expensive city. A couple years ago, I called my travel agent to turn my London layover into a 3-day stopover: an easy way to see the city for no more travel cost.
As mentioned before, overland travel is an additional option you can build into your trip. TripPlanner allows you to do this automatically. Want to take a train across Europe and Asia? After jaunting across Europe, fly into Moscow, take an overland segment by spending six days on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Beijing, and fly out of China back home! It doesn’t have to be as drastic as that, however, and it might be as simple as flying into London, taking the Chunnel to Paris, and flying back from there.
When should I book a multi-city flight?
The great thing about multi-city flights is that they’re already saving you a lot of money, and giving you a big bang for the buck. But there are ways to increase your value even more, and that’s primarily by booking tickets in the off-season.
Traveling during peak seasons means that you’re competing with a lot of travelers paying top dollar for their tickets, so it’s harder to find economical seats, and often flights will be totally booked anyway.
Shoulder seasons, the times on either side of peak, are your best bet for finding reasonable airfare.
Americans tend to take extended vacations in the northern hemisphere’s summer (June through August), when most children are out of school. Booking before or after these dates can save you on ticket cost, not to mention avoiding the crowds of tourists at landmark destinations. Depending upon where you’re going, associated costs at the destination (accommodation, tours, and adventure sports) fluctuate according to demand.
Book your flight as far in advance as possible to ensure that you can get the seats you need.
Use flexible flight dates if you’re able to have some level of flexibility in your plans: this option can give you a much better price. The closer you get to your departure date, the harder it is to find economy fares.
Even if you’re going during the peak season, you’ll still find that multi-city flights can be very practical…sometimes on a day to day basis. Just last month I booked a multi-city flight from Dallas to Los Angeles to Indianapolis, and it ended up being much cheaper than trying to fly to both places individually.
Where should I start?
Do your research and find out which destinations are on your shortlist. You’ve surely got a few spots across the world that have always piqued your interest: they might be realistic candidates for an entire leg of your trip, and most likely are very affordable to add as a destination.
You can use AirTreks’ tool to explore different destination options across the world, and come up with a price estimate in just minutes. There are many airline hubs, and often airlines will offer stopovers for free in their home country. If you see any connections in the middle of your itinerary, Istanbul or Amsterdam for example, consider making one of those cities your stopover! You can explore options on TripPlanner, and then talk to an agent to book the flights and discuss potential routes that can save you even more money.
If you’re interested in flying first class or business class, learn more information on how to get a custom quote from AirTreks for a luxury multi-city business class trip.
If you’ve traveled before, you know how rewarding it is to see new places, meet new people, and experience new things. If you’ve freshly arrived at the idea of around-the-world travel, it’s easier than you think. Educate yourself: how to find like-minded people in your travels, how to stay safe, how to navigate the tricky waters of visas and customs, the best hostels and service providers at each destination, how to pack, and everything in between. Around the world travel, in almost any destination, is one of the best ways to open up your mind and experience true adventure. Just read some articles and do your research: you’ll be surprised at how accessible the globe is to anyone with a thirst for adventure.