Here’s a little reminder of how important it is to be creative when searching for travel deals:

This week I had to book a flight from Paris to Los Angeles for a work trip in December. I needed a one-way flight due to the nature of the trip, but was alarmed to discover that the cheapest ticket fitting my schedule cost nearly $1,900.

My employer is paying for the trip, but I knew they weren’t going to be happy with that price — which was three times higher than my ticket to London a week earlier. And so I went looking for a better deal.

First I checked for all airports near Paris and LA, but the prices were similar. Then I tried adjusting the days I was flying — I had all weekend to get home — but still had no luck.

Then I noticed something curious: For whatever reason, all the potential flights were connecting through other cities, usually London (though in once case suburban Moscow). Once I noticed that, I tried checking for trips from London to LA. Heathrow was out, but Gatwick had a direct flight for under $600. I couldn’t believe it.

But of course, I wasn’t going to be in London, I was going to be in Paris.

To solve that problem, I checked for budget flights but ultimately decided to book a train ticket through the Chunnel from Paris to London. The train leaves the morning of the flight, and arrives about an hour and a half before I need to be at the airport. Just before I booked everything, I double checked Google Maps to make sure I could get to Gatwick in time using public transit.

Screenshot 2015-10-28 22.58.24

The train ticket cost about $100, which means that for less than $700 I’m covering the same distance that might otherwise have cost nearly $1900. The overall travel time in slightly longer — the train trip and my “layover” before the flight are both a bit slower than flying the whole way — but actually not by much.

There are certainly things that could go wrong with this itinerary — train delays, public transit strikes, etc. — but that’s true of any trip with multiple connections, including ones that are limited to a single mode of transportation.

Everyone who has ever hunted for a travel bargain knows it can pay to check different dates, routes, and airlines. But this experience reemphasized to me the importance of checking entirely different modes of transportation as well. Especially in Europe, where there are fast, affordable trains, being creative with an itinerary can save literally hundreds of dollars.

— Jim Dalrymple II


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.

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