How Open Jaw Flights Can Save You Money – and Make Your Vacation More Fun

Not so long ago, a multi-destination holiday was often little more than making the most of a stopover on the way to Australia or the Far East. But the number of multi-destination trips taken by Britons has almost doubled in the past year, according to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Its latest travel trends report found that 14% of trips taken in 2023 will be multi-city, compared to 8% in 2022.

Smart travelers save big bucks and see more of the world at the same time by booking what are known as “open-jaw” flights, which are when you visit multiple cities on different tickets on the same trip.

It’s a trick made easier by the Internet: it takes advantage of global flight booking sites, which include small, national airlines, and takes advantage of the explosion of codeshare agreements between the larger airlines.

Abi Shaw, founder of Bushbaby Travel, has been organising bespoke multi-destination family holidays on open-jaw flights for 20 years. She says: “You can fly between destinations for £35 in some cities in Asia, but even with the big airlines, the growth of airlines such as the Oneworld Alliance means there are far more options than before.”


Cities in Asia, such as Hanoi, offer cheap flights to other regional hubs – iStock Editorial

It’s not just summer holidays and business trips; skiers are getting in on the act too. Almost 20 per cent of ski holidays sold by flexible holiday tour operator Heidi use open-jaw flights, which they call “FlexiFly”. Co-founder Marcus Blunt says: “We launched FlexiFly because we knew that open-jaw flights unlocked thousands of extra flight options and date combinations. It’s the ultimate in travel flexibility, and skiers are saving an average of £100 per holiday.”

What are open-jaw flights?

Open-jaw flights allow you to travel to multiple destinations without having to travel back and forth. You do not arrive and depart from the same airport. For example, you can choose to fly London-New York outbound and then Chicago-London back. Often, but not always, the onward journey between two cities is over land and sometimes the flights are booked as one-way tickets.

What are the advantages?

Flexibility, savings, vacation variety, and a jet lag buster. Open-jaw flights allow travelers to see more of a destination than a direct flight, whether by train, bus, or rental car, and experience lesser-known cities. They are a popular way for American visitors to see Europe, for example. Open-jaw flights are often cheaper than a standard round trip or two one-way tickets. By being flexible with your destination, a traveler can book a flight using airline rewards points such as Avios.

Father-of-two James Latimer books a multi-destination ski holiday after discovering that a family Interrail pass, including the Eurostar, is the same price as travelling from London to Paris alone.

“This Christmas we’re flying to Salzburg with easyJet, then after a week’s skiing we’re taking the train to Vienna for New Year’s Eve, then the train to Munich to fly back with British Airways,” he said. “We wanted a varied trip, but travelling around peak dates is a lot cheaper – around £100 per person, which adds up for a family of four.”


James Latimer plans to fly home from Munich after an initial flight to Salzburg this winter

What type of traveler could she use?

The trick to booking flights with your mouth wide open is research, flexibility, and an open mind. To find the best options (and savings), a traveler needs to be smart, aware of the best search engines for booking local airlines and overland transportation, and (where possible) flexible with travel dates.

An open-top flight can be a cheaper way to visit destinations already on your bucket list, such as Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands, or other parts of Africa.

The Galapagos IslandsThe Galapagos Islands

Open-jaw flights may be your best chance to see the Galapagos Islands – Stockphoto

Lucy Higginson from Windsor and her family added a few days of safari at no extra cost when they flew to Johannesburg with BA and took a domestic flight to Cape Town with Mango.

“We saved £250 per person by going indirectly to Cape Town, our final destination, which gave us money to stay in a game lodge near Johannesburg and take the kids on safari,” she explains. “It took longer, but the game drives are much more authentic near Johannesburg, so it made sense.”

How to book open-jaw flights

Search for multiple one-way flights rather than selecting multi-city trips on a search engine (although it can sometimes be useful to use a multi-city function as a benchmark to try and improve the price). It helps if you can be as flexible as possible with travel dates and airports – for example, in the UK, be prepared to fly from Luton or even Manchester and back to Heathrow or Gatwick. Some search engines such as Kayak let you select a radius around a city if you’re prepared to take the train. Compare multiple search engines and airline websites, particularly if you have rewards points such as Avios.

You don’t always have to do it yourself: use a tour operator with extensive experience in designing tailor-made and flexible trips, or even hire a “flight expert” through, where you pay £25 to have an experienced bargain hunter find you the best deal.

Please note that, as always with independent bookings, it is more difficult to obtain a refund or assistance for segments booked individually. Furthermore, your money may not be as well protected as when booking with an Atol-certified tour operator.

An Abta spokesman said: “Combining multiple destinations within one trip is inherently complex. If a specialist tour operator books some or all of your accommodation [as well as open-jaw flights] It offers the same level of protection as a standard package holiday.”

Five Open Jaw Routes That Make Sense and Can Save You Money

The American West Coast

London > New York > Los Angeles > New York

Los AngelesLos Angeles

Stroll through Los Angeles’ iconic Griffith Park after visiting The Big Apple – iStockphoto

Total travel time: 23h 48min

Cost comparison: £639 open jaw vs £1,008 to LA with Virgin Atlantic

The details

Tick ​​two US cities off your bucket list in one trip, combining city and beach by making your way to the West Coast time zone. Direct flights with Virgin Atlantic from 22-30 August cost from £1,008, with a total flight time of 11 hours and 20 minutes. Split this into three separate tickets, flying from London Gatwick to New York (JFK) on 22 August with Norse for £262, from New York (Newark) to Los Angeles (LAX) on 24 August, and from LAX to London Gatwick on 30 August for £270.

A South African adventure

London > Johannesburg > Cape Town > London

Cape TownCape Town

South Africa has a lot to offer outside Cape Town – South African Tourism

Total travel time: 30h 5min

Cost comparison: £1,186 vs £1,462 (London to Cape Town direct with BA)

The details:

Combine a game drive in Johannesburg with a few days at the beach and a trip to Table Mountain in Cape Town with open-jaw flights. Fly from London to Johannesburg with Air Ethiopia on 25 July for £629, after a few days game drive fly from Johannesburg to Cape Town with FlySafair on 28 July for £41, then from Cape Town to London direct with BA for £516 on 2 August.

Ski savings

London > Innsbruck > St Anton > Friedrichshafen

Saint AnthonySaint Anthony

Hit the slopes in St. Anton

Total travel time: 7h 24min

Cost comparison: £156.98 open-jaw vs £215.98 direct return.

The details:

Give yourself an extra £62 in beer money for New Year’s Eve by flying to and from multiple airports for a ski holiday in St Anton, Austria. Fly from London Gatwick to Innsbruck on 29 December for £86.99. Take the train to St Anton (around £18), enjoy a week’s skiing, then take the train to Friedrichshafen – only half an hour extra and £3 more than to Innsbruck, but save £62 on a flight home (£30.99 instead of £92.99). Both flights are with easyJet.

In love with New York and Toronto

London > Toronto > Niagara Falls > New York

Niagara fallsNiagara falls

Take the bus from Toronto to Niagara Falls – Getty

Total travel time: 27h 15 min

Cost comparison: £633.92 for a one-way ticket versus £679 for a multi-city trip.

The details:

Visit Niagara Falls and explore the east coast of North America by coach, as well as two of its largest cities. Fly from London to Toronto with Air Transat on 24 August for £352, take a two-hour coach from Toronto to Niagara Falls for £11.99 on 27 August, then on to New York on 28 August for £40.98, and fly back to London on 30 August with Norse for £229.

An odyssey in the Far East

London > Hanoi > Hong Kong > London

For many visitors, the chance to experience authentic Vietnamese food is a highlightFor many visitors, the chance to experience authentic Vietnamese food is a highlight

The chance to experience authentic Vietnamese food is a highlight for many visitors to Hanoi – getty

Total travel time: 37h 35min

Cost comparison: £713 for a one-way open-top flight versus £1,100.29 for a multi-city trip with British Airways.

The details:

Combine two very unique destinations and turn an Asian holiday into a dual-destination, beach-and-shopping, city-and-culture trip by visiting Vietnam and Hong Kong. Fly from London to Hanoi with China Southern for £400 on 10 October (including a stopover) and after a few days on the beach, jump to Hong Kong with HK Express for just £48. Fly back from Hong Kong with China Southern for £265 (with one quick stopover adding two hours to the total flight time but halving the price of a direct flight).

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