Hope you guys enjoyed Christmas! Now, as you’re fighting off that holiday bloat, let’s continue where we left off last week.
Basically, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by purchasing the different legs of your journey separately. These are not connecting flights and that’s where the risk factor comes in. If your first flight is delayed for some reason and you miss your second flight, the airlines are not responsible and won’t give you any compensation. You have to purchase a new ticket.
Is this risk worth the savings? That’s for you to decide.
If you want to go ahead and book separate flights to save money, take the necessary precautions to minimize your risk as much as possible.
Traveling on separate tickets: 6 precautions to take
Because the risk mainly has to do with missing your second flight, you need to make sure there’s enough time for you to do everything.
1. Ask the right questions at booking time
The amount of time you have to spend at the gateway airport varies depending on many things. It’s important that you contact the airlines to ask about:
- Whether you have to clear security and customs again before you board the next flight.
- Baggage policies. If both flights are on the same airline, it may be possible for them to move your bags to your next plane at the gateway airport. Otherwise, you may have to claim your baggage at the carousel and check it in again.
Tip: If possible, pack light and travel with just one carry-on.
- Boarding passes. Will all boarding passes be issued together at the first airport or separately at every departure point? If the flights are all on the same airline, they may be able to give you all the boarding passes before your first flight.
What could go wrong: You have no idea how long it takes to get your bags, check in, obtain your new boarding pass and clear security checkpoints. You don’t allow enough time for these things and miss your flight.
2. Leave enough time to make the connection at the gateway airport
There’s an unlimited number of things that could make you late for your BBB – CCC flight.
The first flight could be delayed or overbooked. There may be snowstorms or floods. The TSA guy may not like the way you look and choose you for the extra-long random screening of the day.
The only thing you can really control is how much time you have. Allow lots of time between flights — 12 hours should be enough to cover most scenarios. If possible, sleep overnight at the transit city. And if you really have some spare time, why not spend a few days to explore the city?
If you’re on a budget and can’t afford a night at a hostel, sleep at the airport to save money. It may not be glamorous, but it’s better than missing a flight. (Check out Sleeping in Airports to plan your night.)
What could go wrong: Your AAA – BBB flight is delayed for some reason. When you reach the BBB airport, your next flight has taken off. You now have to purchase a new ticket.
3. Choose the right airports
Check the airport codes carefully. One city can have multiple airports, so make sure you’ll be arriving at the same airport as the one you’ll be departing from. If they’re different airports, then allow time for the journey from the arrival airport to the departure airport.
And if possible, go with major airports.
What could go wrong: You land in the right city, but soon realize that your next flight departs from another airport at the other side of town. You rush there on an overpriced cab, but you’re late. And worse still, it’s a small airport with infrequent departures, so the next available flight is not until tomorrow. You have to spend the night either at the airport or at a hotel.
4. Check in online as soon as possible
Airlines overbook flights all the time, especially during peak seasons.
People miss their flights for one reason or another. Airlines pre-calculate the number of no-shows based on historical data and sell more tickets than the number of seats they have on the plane.
To make sure you have a seat, check in as early as you can. Online check-in usually opens 24 hours before the flight.
What could go wrong: The flight is overbooked and you don’t have a seat on the plane. You get bumped to the next available flight, which makes you late for your next flight.
5. Arrive early at the airport
I generally try to reach the airport two hours before a flight. But if you have separate tickets for the different segments of the trip, plan to get there three or even four hours early, especially during peak travel seasons. Busy airports are chaotic and slow.
What could go wrong: You miss your flight, so you have to buy a new AAA – BBB ticket. This makes you late for your other flight/s as well, so you end up buying two of each ticket.
6. Prepare some emergency money
You need to arm yourself with a way to purchase additional tickets should an emergency happen. It doesn’t have to be cold, hard cash; it can be a credit card.
What could go wrong: You miss your BBB – CCC flight and have to buy a new ticket, but you have no money. You’re now stranded at the BBB airport until you can get your family to wire you some money.
Another out-of-the-box trick to save money on airfares
If you don’t mind taking ground/sea transport, there are more options for saving money. Instead of booking multiple flights, you can book one flight and one bus trip, or one flight and one train ride. It’s less risky than booking separate flights, but it’s also often less comfortable.
I’ve successfully used this trick and saved $230. Click here to read all about it.