Can traveling to another airport help you save money on flights?
It's a question I ask myself every time I book airline tickets. Our home airport is small, and I'll admit that I love it. Waits at baggage check and security are short, terminals aren't horribly crowded, and it's easy to arrive in and depart from.
That said, flights are often quite a bit more expensive as there are only a few airports we can fly to direct.
5 hours away is a major US airport where rates will often hit rock-bottom, especially to Ireland.
So, how much per ticket is worth the hassle of a 5 hour drive + parking + a possible night or 2 in a hotel?
That is, of course, for your wallet to decide, but this is how I work it out for my family.
Research and Save on Flights to Ireland
When I begin my flight search the first place I turn is Kayak, a travel comparison tool.
With a pad of paper at the ready I check flights from my airport to Dublin and/or Shannon, depending on my travel plans, for one person. I input my preferred dates, as well as showing flexible dates +/- 3 days. Requesting a comparison via 3rd party site is your choice- I usually uncheck the box.
Then I check flights from the major airport- same dates, same arrival airports.
My most recent search offered these rates:
Home airport to Dublin: $1099
Home Airport to Shannon: $1282
Major airport to Shannon: $829
Major airport to Dublin: $566
The difference in rates from my home airport and the major airport to Dublin makes this choice a non-choice. For my family of 4 we would save $2000 by driving 5 hours each way. Even when you add in one or 2 nights in a hotel near that airport + parking we still come out at least $1000 ahead.
Had the difference been less drastic- maybe $200 each- I would have had more to consider as locally we can Uber to the airport relatively inexpensively, therefore saving on parking, and a hotel stay wouldn't be necessary. Would the savings- then made much more minimal- be worth the 5 hour drive each way? Dramatically less so.
My next step is to see if that great price from the major airport to Dublin holds true when I update the number of travelers. Because not all seats are priced the same, this can change- sometimes drastically.
My updated search yielded a $7 savings on a different airline, but the original airline price remained the same.
When to Purchase Your Flight to Ireland
I find that the ‘sweet spot' for purchasing flights to Ireland lies between 12-8 weeks.
For many, that is cutting the purchase a bit too close for comfort. Luckily, Kayak offers a little bit of help… at the top left you will see one of two options:
An offer to set a price alert to notify you of changes to the fare (I always set a fare alert if my flight is more than 2 months in the future).
Or a graph that offers information on whether you should purchase your flight or wait.
My best advice is to set a flight alert with both Kayak and AirfareWatchdog. Be sure to adjust your settings so you are only receiving alerts that you want to see and not every alert for cheap fares from your chosen airports. While most flight alerts won't work out, you just need one to be a ‘hit'. And, once you find that, book it.
Pro tip: While I use both Kayak and Airfare Watchdog to find the best flight deals, I rarely use them to book my flights. Only if the deal is direct from the airline will I click the ‘BOOK IT” button. If the deal comes through a consolidator like Just Fly, CheapO Air, or others, I will check the rate on the airline site. I do this mainly for peace of mind… When you book through a 3rd party site they are your ‘go to' if something goes wrong… the airline can't help you. And, if something does go wrong, you want to cut out the middleman (if you can even reach them!)