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A Golden Alternative

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Using alternative airports is a form of creative ticketing that airlines don't really object to, but they will not offer alternative airport options when you call for reservations or book online. If you tell them you want the lowest fare from Chicago to San Francisco, that's the route you'll be quoted, even if the fare to Oakland (11 miles away) is 40% less. If you're looking for a low one-way fare to Los Angeles and call the major airlines, they are certainly not going to tell you about a low-cost carrier flying to nearby Long Beach for just $99.

A reasonable change in departure or arrival airports (or both) can save you hundreds of dollars. This can be due to a price war in a certain market, a low-cost carrier that's causing prices to fall, or other market factors. Alternative airports can also get you to popular destinations at peak times, such as New Orleans' Mardi Gras. Baton Rouge is just 65 air miles away, but when most people think about booking Mardi Gras tickets, they don't give Baton Rouge a thought. If you're heading for the nation's capital, your best bet may be Baltimore, just 30 air miles away.

More distant alternative airports can still provide big advantages. You can save enough to pay for a private limo to your actual destination; you can use a commuter flight to get there; or you can rent a car and trade several hours' time for several hundred dollars in savings. Compare the savings against any possible inconvenience, then decide. Is $50 in savings worth an 80-mile drive? What about a $350 savings and an 80-mile drive? For example, Dallas-Cincinnati roundtrips are going for $450. Dayton, Columbus, Louisville, and Indianapolis are all approximately two hours or less from Cincinnati. The airfare to any of these cities could save you up to 80%.

Cities served by low-cost airlines including Southwest, AirTran, and (for long-haul service) America West offer potential alternative airport savings.

The alternative airport theory also works for international travel. For U.S. departure airports, check fares from major U.S. gateway cities. If you live in Philadelphia, for example, check the fares out of New York City. Be aware of U.S. departure cities for international low-cost carriers including CityBird, LTU, and Icelandair.

Bargain fares to London are almost always available. Consider using them, with rail travel or intra-Europe air tickets. Virgin Atlantic offers $69 rail or air travel within Europe when you purchase specific 21-day advance transatlantic tickets. El Al offers roundtrips from the East Coast to London's Stansted airport year-round at under $300.

For travel to Scandinavia, fly into Germany to be within 100 miles of Denmark with easy access by rail and ferry. Your ticket is likely to be a lot cheaper than if you booked a flight directly to the Scandinavian country. Icelandair flies into Luxembourg (near Belgium, France, and Germany). Its fares are almost always bargains, and the airline will even assist you in discount train travel to Paris or Zurich.

Find alternative airports by taking out a map and looking for nearby cities. Travel agents' computer reservation systems will list alternative airports. Check cities served by low-cost carriers. Don't forget to combine alternative airport fares with discount coupons for maximum savings.

The information that follows lists domestic alternative airports, with air mile distance from the primary airport in parentheses.

DESTINATION CITY ALTERNATIVE AIRPORTS
Akron Cleveland (36); Pittsburgh (70); Columbus (99); Detroit (162)
Albany Hartford (80); New York City (140)
Atlanta Chattanooga (106); Birmingham (134); Knoxville (152)
Atlantic City Philadelphia (55); Newark (93); Baltimore (142)
Austin San Antonio (70); Houston (143); Dallas/Fort Worth (183)
Baltimore Washington National (30); Washington Dulles (43); Harrisburg (70); Philadelphia (90); Richmond (120)
Bangor Portland (111); Manchester (189); Boston (201)
Baton Rouge New Orleans (65); Pensacola (236)
Boston Manchester (45); Providence (49); Hartford (91)
Boise Salt Lake City (291)
Buffalo Rochester (55); Toronto (68); Pittsburgh (186); Cleveland (192)
Burbank Los Angeles (18); Ontario (44)
Burlington (VT) Montreal (75); Manchester, NH (137); Hartford (177)
Charleston (SC) Columbia (95); Charlotte (168); Atlanta (259)
Charleston (WV) Columbus (131); Pittsburgh (165); Cincinnati (173); Louisville (226)
Charlotte (NC) Greensboro (82); Greenville/Spartanburg (84); Raleigh/Durham (130); Atlanta (227)
Chattanooga Knoxville (87); Atlanta (106); Nashville (113)
Chicago Milwaukee (75); South Bend (75)
Cincinnati Dayton (64); Louisville (83); Indianapolis (98); Columbus (116)
Cleveland Akron (36); Toledo (102); Columbus (112); Pittsburgh (124)
Colorado Springs Denver (67)
Columbus (OH) Dayton (72); Akron (99); Cleveland (112); Cincinnati (116)
Corpus Christi Harlingen (110); San Antonio (135); Houston Hobby (187)
Dallas/Fort Worth Oklahoma City (175); Austin (183)
Dayton Cincinnati (64); Columbus (72); Indianapolis (110)
Daytona Beach Orlando (50); Jacksonville (97)
Denver Colorado Springs (67)
Des Moines Omaha (117); Kansas City (165)
Detroit Toledo (49); Flint (54); Lansing (74); Grand Rapids (120)
Eugene Portland (106)
Evansville (IN) Louisville (98); Nashville (141); St. Louis (161)
Flint Lansing (45); Detroit (54)
Fort Lauderdale Miami (21); West Palm Beach (42)
Fort Myers Sarasota (71); Tampa (104); Fort Lauderdale (112)
Fresno Oakland (152); San Francisco (159); Sacramento (167)
Grand Rapids Lansing (48); Detroit (120); Chicago (134)
Green Bay Milwaukee (107); Chicago (181)
Greensboro Raleigh (67); Charlotte (82)
Harlingen Corpus Christi (107); San Antonio (235)
Harrisburg Baltimore (70); Washington National (81); Philadelphia (83); Washington Dulles (94)
Hartford Providence (66); Boston (91); New York City (108)
Hilton Head Savannah (31); Charleston (62); Jacksonville (133)
Houston Austin (143); San Antonio (191)
Huntsville (AL) Birmingham (74); Nashville (97); Atlanta (151)
Indianapolis Cincinnati (98); Dayton (110); Louisville (111)
Jacksonville (FL) Daytona Beach (93); Savannah (117); Orlando (143)
Kalamazoo Grand Rapids (47); Lansing (62); Detroit (113); Chicago (116)
Kansas City (MO) Omaha (152)
Key West Miami (126); Fort Lauderdale (144)
Knoxville Nashville (152); Atlanta (152); Greenville/Spartanburg (261)
Lansing Flint (45); Grand Rapids (48); Detroit (74)
Lexington Louisville (63); Cincinnati (70)
Lincoln Omaha (55); Kansas City (152)
Little Rock Memphis (130)
Los Angeles Burbank (18); Long Beach (18); Orange County (36); Ontario (47)
Louisville Cincinnati (83); Indianapolis (111); Dayton (147)
Madison (WI) Milwaukee (74); Chicago (119)
Manchester (NH) Boston (45); Portland (73); Providence (84)
McAllen Harlingen (37); Corpus Christi (119); San Antonio (232)
Medford Portland (222)
Memphis Little Rock (130); Nashville (200)
Miami Fort Lauderdale (21); West Palm Beach (62)
Milwaukee Chicago (75)
Mobile Pensacola (64); Birmingham (216)
Montreal Burlington (82); Manchester, NH (209); Boston (254)
Naples (FL) Fort Myers (26); Sarasota (98); Fort Lauderdale (101); Tampa (134)
Nashville Memphis (200); Atlanta (214)
New Orleans Baton Rouge (65); Pensacola (186)
New York Newark (14); Philadelphia (93); Hartford (108); White Plains (24)
Newark New York (14); Philadelphia (81); Hartford (115); Baltimore (179)
Norfolk Newport News (23); Richmond (75); Washington (142); Raleigh (160)
Oakland San Francisco (11); San Jose (30); Sacramento (75)
Oklahoma City Tulsa (111); Wichita (156); Dallas (175)
Omaha Des Moines (117); Kansas City (152)
Ontario (CA) Orange County (30); Burbank (44); Los Angeles (47); Palm Springs (65)
Orange County Long Beach (19); Ontario (30); Los Angeles (36); San Diego (76)
Orlando Daytona Beach (50); Tampa (80); Gainesville (98); Jacksonville (143)
Palm Springs Ontario (65); San Diego (85); Orange County (86); Los Angeles (110)
Pensacola Mobile (64); New Orleans (186)
Philadelphia Newark (81); Baltimore (90)
Phoenix Tucson (110)
Pittsburgh Akron (70); Cleveland (124); Columbus (144)
Portland (ME) Manchester, NH (78); Boston (95)
Portland (OR) Seattle (129)
Providence Boston (49); Hartford (66); New York (146); Manchester, NH (84)
Raleigh/Durham Greensboro (67); Charlotte (130)
Reno Sacramento (112); Oakland (180); San Francisco (192)
Richmond Newport News (52); Norfolk (75); Washington (97); Baltimore (120)
Roanoke Greensboro (85); Raleigh (120); Washington (192)
Rochester (NY) Buffalo (55); Syracuse (79); Toronto (106)
Sacramento Oakland (75); San Francisco (86); Reno (112)
Saginaw Flint (43); Lansing (58); Detroit (98)
St. Louis Indianapolis (229)
San Antonio Austin (70); Houston (191)
San Diego Orange County (76); Palm Springs (86); Long Beach (96); Los Angeles (109)
San Francisco Oakland (11); San Jose (30); Sacramento (86)
San Jose San Francisco (30); Oakland (30)
Sarasota Tampa (40); Fort Myers (71); Orlando (109)
Seattle Vancouver (127); Portland (129)
Shreveport Little Rock (182); Dallas/Fort Worth (190)
South Bend Chicago (75); Indianapolis (137); Detroit (157)
Spokane Seattle (224)
Syracuse Rochester (79); Buffalo (134); Toronto (175)
Tampa Sarasota (39); Orlando (80); Fort Myers (105)
Toledo Detroit (49); Flint (96); Cleveland (102); Columbus (121)
Tucson Phoenix (110)
Tulsa Oklahoma City (111)
Vancouver Seattle (127)
Washington (DC) Baltimore (30); Richmond (96)
West Palm Beach Fort Lauderdale (42); Miami (62); Orlando (142)
Wichita Oklahoma City (156)
Worcester Providence (44); Boston (45); Hartford (47)

Bestfares.com is designed to save travelers time and money. The one-stop travel resource site tracks the latest specials, posting hundreds of deals every day. It covers domestic and international airfares, frequent flyer bonuses, business travel, vacation packages, cruise travel, lodging, car rentals, rail travel, and more. Most deals are available to the general public. Specially negotiated discounts exclusive to Bestfares.com members offer savings of as much as 70%.

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Last updated: May 3, 2000




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