Save as much as 70% and avoid the financial trauma of one airline's route monopoly by splitting your ticketing in half and buying two tickets: one to an intermediate city and one to your final destination. In many cases you can do this with separate tickets on the same airline. On other routes, you will have to use two airlines. Your extra effort could pay off with hundreds of dollars in savings per flight.

For example, a student flies from Detroit to her hometown in Minneapolis as often as possible. It's hard to plan in advance, and last-minute fares are prohibitive. Using split cities, she books Detroit-Chicago roundtrips on one airline and Chicago-Minneapolis roundtrips on another. The total of her two separate roundtrips is less than a 21-day advance Detroit-Minneapolis roundtrip and up to 70% less than a last-minute roundtrip.

A strong low-cost carrier presence in a market can significantly increase your split city options. Book one leg of your trip on the low-cost carrier, and you frequently get close enough to your destination city to get an inexpensive major airline ticket for the second leg. Low-cost carriers' walk-up fares are higher than their advance fares, but the ratio of increase is far less than it is for major carriers. On low-cost carriers using inventory-controlled pricing, you may even be able to get their lowest fare for last-minute travel, particularly if you fly during off-peak periods.

Use major carriers for split cities by using a separate carrier for each segment of your trip. This is possible when one of two factors is in play:

  • Competition keeps fares low on a particular route, either through the presence of a low-cost carrier or major airline competition for dominance.
  • Fare war prices, which are not in effect for the roundtrip you want, are in effect for one segment of your flight.

Use split cities for international savings. If you're going to Europe, check East Coast gateways such as New York, Boston, and Washington. Check roundtrip fares to London and roundtrips from London to your actual destination. If you're going to South America, check Miami departures. If you're going to the South Pacific or the Orient, check Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco departures. If you get a good promotional fare (or a great consolidator fare), you can add a separate roundtrip from your home city to the international departure city and still come out way ahead.

There are two U.S. cities you can travel to at low fares that don't require Saturday stays -- Reno and Las Vegas. The required minimum stay is two days -- any days of the week. This is true even on the lowest-priced 21-day excursion fares. You can use this little-known fact to your advantage on many itineraries. You want to fly from New York to Los Angeles, for example, without a Saturday stay. Route your split city flights through Reno or Las Vegas, and you can save 75% to 80% off published midweek fares. Purchase a New York-Las Vegas roundtrip and a Las Vegas-Los Angeles roundtrip. If you have the time, take advantage of low hotel and meal costs in Reno or Las Vegas, and enjoy a stopover vacation.

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