Travel Tip: Don’t Split Your Airline Tickets

June 6, 2022, 9:45 PM · This might not be a theme park-specific travel tip, but it can affect anyone planning to fly to their next theme park vacation. Especially if you do not live in a major city or if you’re new to booking airline reservations.

The Internet is filled with suggestions and tips on how to save money on airfares. Follow them all, and your vacation can turn into an early season of “The Amazing Race,” as you hack together tickets between cities like Dr. Frankenstein creating his monster.

But there's risk to that. If you don’t live in a city whose airport offers multiple nonstop flights to your destination, you’re probably looking at having to make a connection (or two!) to get where you want to go. The easiest thing is to use something like Google Flights to search for flights to your destination and book whatever’s cheapest.

But some sources might advise you to look at buying separate tickets between your home airport and your connection city, then from your connection city on to your final destination. This is more common for international flights, but from time to time you might save a few bucks doing this with a domestic itinerary.

Here’s the tip: Don’t do this. Why? If your first flight is delayed, causing you to miss your connection, the airline is obligated to rebook you and get you to your final destination, but only if you booked your trip as a single ticket.

If you booked a “split ticket,” with separate tickets for each leg of your trip, you’re out of luck if you miss any connection. You’ll have to pay for a new flight. And your fellow passengers on single tickets may be booked automatically into scarce seats on later flights before you even get the chance to look for those alternatives.

Splitting tickets also can leave you with rushing to make nightmare hikes across large airports, which typically cluster gate assignments to airlines and their partners. Airports literally are designed around the assumption that people won't split tickets.

The only time when a split ticket can make sense is when you are planning to spend some extra time in your connection city - at least an overnight stay. That extra time gives you some wiggle room should your initial flight not get you to the connecting airport when you planned.

It’s the same principle as not booking your flight the same morning as your cruise departure day. You can get away with that if you live in a major city that offers multiple nonstop flights daily to your cruise departure city. Book the first flight out in the morning, and you will have options should that flight get canceled or delayed.

But if you have to make a connection, or there’s just one nonstop a day from your hometown, you’ll be less at risk of missing your departure if you fly out the day before. In addition, booking your airline flight through the cruise line provides you extra protection.

As always, you do you. Some travelers are willing to risk big inconvenience to save a few bucks here and there. It’s all part of the game for them. But if your priority is getting to your vacation on time, don’t get cute trying to finesse your way there. Book you and your family on a single ticket all the to your vacation destination.

Even if it costs you a few extra bucks to do so. Consider that a form of travel insurance.

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Replies (5)

June 6, 2022 at 11:46 PM

Very helpful advice. Thanks Robert.

June 7, 2022 at 6:15 AM

I had multiple times that my stopover had problems. Sometimes my flight would be delayed to Orlando or back to Amsterdam. I always went to guest services and they book you on another flight resulting even being a bit earlier in Orlando one time. Never a split ticket for me but always trying to get the best deal and not sticking with 1 airline company to collect points or crap, in the end you pay the "free" flight.

June 7, 2022 at 6:17 AM

i often book one way on 2 different airlines as it can be much cheaper, but have never even considered splitting legs on departure or return on different airlines for this very reason. good advice.

June 7, 2022 at 8:52 AM

I have rarely observed much in the way of savings by splitting legs, granted we live in a region served by three major airports and rarely fly to regions not served by a major airport. I guess we take that luxury for granted, because booking flights through a single carrier (often Southwest for domestic flights) is always the cheapest and most convenient solution. For our upcoming trip to Texas, flying from BWI to DAL on non-stop Southwest flights was cheaper than any other alternative (including Spirit, JetBlue and other low cost carriers), and of course on SW, you get free checked bags, a $30 savings (or more) compared to most other airlines.

I occasionally have seen savings on "open jaw" itineraries (arriving and departing from different airports/airlines), but it's typically pretty minimal and often undone by other costs of a trip like rental car, parking, or other ground transportation.

Another issue I would be worried about with split flights would be any checked baggage making it to your destination. There are enough issues with baggage handling when you're traveling on multiple legs with a single carrier that trying to add another airline into the mix hoping that they'll properly transfer and deliver your bags to your final destination, I would have little faith of that succeeding.

Ultimately, I just don't think you're really saving that much by trying to split itineraries unless you're flying internationally.

June 8, 2022 at 9:37 AM

If you’re in the UK using the rails system however to get between parks Do split ticket, as these protections exist on UK rail.

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