Snag the Cheap Flight, Then Go Elsewhere

beyond Lisbon in Portugal

It’s a given that if you want to go to Antigua, you must first fly to Guatemala City. If you want to go to Granada, you must first fly to Managua. For the Grand Canyon, you will probably fly into Las Vegas or Phoenix first. So why do people forget to think beyond the gateway when looking at flight prices for other destinations?

Yucatan PeninsulaWhen talking with other travelers, especially the kind who take short vacations instead of long journeys, I often run into a curious mind block. They think of a destination as being where the airport is, and can’t get their head around the fact that you can easily travel elsewhere—without being on an organized tour.

I’ll say something like, “You can get a cheap flight to Cancun and then just take a bus to Merida and beyond.”

“Whaaaatt?! How would I do that?!” is a typical reply, like I’ve just told them they have to navigate a giant obstacle course.

I’ve heard people say they haven’t been to Place X because the flights there are expensive, yet they could fly to the city two hours away in another country for hundreds of dollars less and cross over. They just can’t fathom how to connect the dots.

I found this odd in the days when all that info was available in guidebooks, but I find it even stranger now when a properly worded search query can turn up instructions after a few clicks. Sure, you may have to take a taxi to a bus station, or make your way to the shuttle window in the airport, but it’s akin to level 3 of Candy Crush, not solving a calculus equation.

Savvy long-term travelers know to always “look for the second right answer” as Roger Van Oech said in his creativity books. Just because you grab a cheap flight to busy San Jose del Cabo airport doesn’t mean you have to spend your vacation in expensive Los Cabos. You can take a bus or Interjet shuttle at 4:00 and be having a sundowner in La Paz a few hours later. The next morning you can be swimming with whale sharks or be on an excursion like this:

adventure baja sur

Snagging a cheap flight to Cancun doesn’t mean you have to spend more than an hour in Cancun. Take the airport shuttle to the bus station downtown and you can be off on your own to somewhere amazing. And the prices in that somewhere else will be a better deal too.

If you’re fortunate enough to live in Europe, you’ve got some crazy cheap air options to choose from. I pulled up May 16 at random on Google flights and here are just a few of the one-way options, in U.S. dollars.

Lisbon ($69)
Athens ($78)
Bucharest ($48)
Istanbul ($110)
Marrakech ($64)
Split ($71)
Palermo ($70)
Rome ($47)

I’m practically salivating looking at that. Yeah, some are on budget airlines so you’ll have to pack light and cough up some fees, but you could justify a spontaneous getaway at those prices. So what if you don’t want to go to Bucharest, Athens, Marrakech, or Lisbon? Snag the cheap flight and then you can easily go overland to a dozen fantastic places.

beyond Athens

Take a bus, grab a train ticket, or just rent a car and hit the countryside. If you’ve already been to Lisbon twice, don’t ignore the bargain flight. Head out to Alentejo or somewhere else. If you see a $424 round trip from Toronto to Lima like I saw today for May, grab it! Head to Paracas, or Trujillo, or Arequipa.

You can stay in that international gateway city if you would like, of course, but you don’t have to.

Comments
  1. Elisabeth - Sidetracked

    Cool article! Thanks very much for highlighting this fact I have noticed as well. I think most travelers are either afraid of planning so many stages in their trip or just plain lazy. Like you pointed out, there really is no excuse for someone nowadays not to find the most convenient/cheapest/most comfortable option due to the endless resources on the internet.
    Recently I saw a flight from Germany to Venice for 29 Euro… I would take advantage of that deal in a heartbeat!
    Cheers!

  2. Zascha

    I have to admit that it has never occurred to me to do it like that. Flying to a different destination 2-3 hours away to save money. I shall remember that from now on!

    And you’re right that flights within Europe are soo cheap.
    Last month I got a RETURN ticket between London and Copenhagen for just £39 and I only booked it a couple of weeks in advance. It was only a weekend trip so I only needed hand luggage, I remembered to print my flight ticket in advance, so I didn’t have to pay a penny more than those £39!

  3. Jessica

    There are loads of options like this in Asia too. Flights to Laos, Myanmar, or Vietnam from the USA are sometimes $500+ more expensive than ones to Bangkok. So just fly to Bangkok, spend a little time in Thailand, then go overland or catch a budget flight to the next stop. Ten minutes in a travel agency after arrival will sort that out.

  4. Arianwen

    This is such a good point! I used to also think that I should only visit one country at a time on holiday – as if the border was some kind of barrier to further travel! It’s funny how few people will see half of Costa Rica and half of Panama, for example, rather than picking one and sticking to it. It’s a shame too, because often neighbouring countries have their own interesting and unique attributes despite being similar geographically. People should think outside the box more!

  5. Tinuke

    Brilliant tips! I’m flying out to Copenhagen next week for a short break and will take the opportunity to cross over to Sweden and explore Malmo whilst we are there. Sometimes it’s worth pulling out the map and seeing what else is nearby!

  6. Budget Home Stay in Agra

    Nice posts, this is very exciting travel tour programs which is provide the cheap flight travel fare for all the travellers!

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