Open Jaws, Nested Flights, and other Airfare tricks

Looking for flight deals? Maybe you go to Orbitz, search for a flight from Chicago to Amsterdam, and then pay whatever is offered. That works fine for some, but there are other ways to book tickets that you should consider. One might save you some time, and another might save you some money. Let’s look at these two types of flights: “open jaws” and “nested flights.” Don’t be scared. Put on your research hat, play close attention, and let’s buy some airfare.


This is when you buy two one-way tickets so you can visit two different destinations. Your first ticket is from your home airport to Destination 1, and the second ticket is from Destination 2 back to your home airport. What happens between Destination 1 and Destination 2? YOU DECIDE.

Example: You want to visit Bangkok, Thailand (Destination 1) and Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Destination 2). You buy a one-way ticket from your home airport to Bangkok, and then you buy a one-way ticket from Phnom Penh to your home airport. You’ll then just need to figure out how to get between Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

Benefits of Open Jaws flights

You can buy the one-way flights separately, which comes in handy if you’re not good at saving money. Say you want to travel next June:  you could buy your one way ticket from Atlanta to Bangkok in November, then buy your one way ticket from Phnom Penh back to Atlanta in January, and in March buy a flight between Bangkok and Phnom Penh. Breaking your airfare purchases up into pieces is a great (albeit often more expensive) option when you can’t splurge all at once.

Flying Open Jaws can also save you a lot of time when you want to visit two destinations and only have a short amount of time to do it. You can focus fully on each destination rather than having to rush back to Destination 1 to catch your flight home.

Before you book an Open Jaws flight

You can generally keep your prices lowest if you book the two one way flights on the same airline, at the same time, and on the same itinerary.  You can purchase these flights by using the Multi-City search option.

Here’s an example of airfare costs using different search methods on the Delta Airlines website.

Multi-city flight search:  Flight one – Minneapolis to Bangkok. Flight two – Phnom Penh to Minneapolis. Total price: $1414

Round trip flight search: Minneapolis to Bangkok and return. Total price $1359

One-way flight search: Minneapolis to Bangkok. Total price $866

It’s up to you to decide how much you’re willing to pay for the opportunity to visit two destinations and save time doing so.

You’ll also want to confirm that you can travel between Destination 1 and Destination 2 fairly easily. Places like Southeast Asia and Europe have plenty of low-cost regional airlines or a decent train/bus network. One great trick for Open Jaws travelers in Europe is to take an overnight train between your destinations. This will save you having to pay for lodging for that night.

Drawbacks of Open Jaws flights

One-way flights can often be more expensive than round trips, especially if you buy them separately and on different airlines. But remember, you will be visiting two destinations and that’s certainly worth something. As well, figuring out how to get between Destination 1 and Destination 2 might be a bit of a hassle if you don’t take a direct flight. But finding other ways to get between destinations can certainly be interesting. We once went on a 12-hour bus and mini-van journey between Cambodia and Thailand. While there were some miserable parts along the way, I’ve never regretted the experience.


This is when you buy a round trip ticket from your home airport to Destination 1, and then buy another round trip ticket between Destination 1 and Destination 2.

Example 1: You really want to visit Barcelona (Destination 2) but it’s way cheaper to fly to Amsterdam (Destination 1). So you buy a round trip ticket to Amsterdam, then find a cheap round trip flight between Amsterdam and Barcelona.

Example 2: There’s an amazing flight deal from Chicago to Barcelona… but you live in Des Moines. So you buy a round trip ticket between Des Moines and Chicago (Destination 1), and then you take that round trip flight between Chicago and Barcelona (Destination 2).

Benefits of Nested Flights

It can be significantly cheaper to nest flights if you pay attention to travel deals. Websites and Facebook pages such as Scott’s Cheap Flights and Secret Flying constantly post the latest travel deals. Go check them out and you’ll quickly find that most travel deals are for flights leaving from major cities or airport hubs. If you don’t live in one of those cities, nesting flights is the way to get that travel deal.

Example 1: Say there’s a hypothetical airfare deal from Chicago to Amsterdam for $500, but you live in Des Moines. Here’s where nesting flights comes in handy:

A round trip flight from Des Moines to Chicago: $250. Add the flight deal from Chicago to Amsterdam at $500. Total price: $750

A round trip flight from Des Moines to Amsterdam: Total price: $1200

Example 2: There’s a flight deal from Minneapolis to Budapest for $450. But you’ve really been wanting to go to Moscow. Let’s try nesting flights:

The flight deal from Minneapolis to Budapest: $450. Add a round trip flight between Budapest and Moscow at $150. Total price: $600

A round trip flight between Minneapolis and Moscow: Total price: $800

Before you book a Nested Flight

Make sure that buying two round trips tickets is significantly cheaper than just buying one round trip ticket to your final destination. You want to make it worth the extra time you’ll spend reaching your destination. This usually means simply sitting back and waiting for a great deal to come along.

It’s up to you if you want to hang out in the first city before continuing to your desired destination. You’re booking the tickets, it’s your choice. Do take into account the costs for accommodation if you decide to stay in the first city for awhile.

If you just want to hurry on to your final destination, it’s imperative that you avoid staying overnight at Destination 1. The cost of lodging there than quickly eat up any money you saved on the flights. To avoid this: be sure you book your flights to Destination 1 so that you arrive there as early in the day as possible, and then plan to depart for Destination 2 that afternoon/evening. Do the same thing on your return trip. Try to give yourself at least 4-5 hours or more of layover time between flights if at all possible.

Drawbacks of Nested Flights

If your return flight to Destination 1 is delayed or cancelled, you might miss your flight home altogether. If you’re flying from smaller, remote airports, or from places that could be affected by snowstorms, or even over long mountain ranges (where the weather can change in an instant), it might be a good idea to plan your return back to Destination 1 either the night before or with a good 10-12 hour gap.

Now go forth and find some flights!

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