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Dealing with airfare for a multi-city itinerary

When we first started planning a trip to Pennsylvania that would continue on to Europe, I wasn’t really sure how to go about booking the airfare.

Normally when I travel to Europe, I buy a round-trip ticket, and that’s the end of the story. Since I live in Phoenix, I usually have to connect somewhere, often Philadelphia, and it’s not a problem. One time several years ago, I flew to London on Icelandair and decided to stay in Reykjavik for several days. That wasn’t a problem either, since Icelandair offers a stopover in Iceland for no extra charge on all its fares. This was different, though, since stopovers in the U.S. aren’t usually included in the discount fares of most major carriers.

I thought I would have to buy two round-trip fares, one from Phoenix to Philadelphia, and one from Philadelphia to Rome. However, when I priced the trip that way, it was quite expensive. The round-trip fare from Philadelphia to Rome was almost as much as it would be from Phoenix to Rome, plus I had to cover getting to Philadelphia and back. Furthermore, I wasn’t sure what my rights would be if I missed the connection in Philadelphia coming home.

Eventually I decided to try pricing the trip as a multi-city itinerary, Phoenix to Philadelphia to Rome to Phoenix. It’s a good thing I did. The multi-city itinerary with three one-way fares on USAirways was cheaper than any combination of round-trip fares I had been able to find. In fact, it ended up being the cheapest ticket I’ve bought to Europe in at least five years, although I would attribute at least some of the price difference to season.

The lesson to be learned here is to check the one-way fares, even when it doesn’t seem obvious to do so. I’m still not sure what we did was the best or the cheapest way, but it seemed to work for us this time.