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Circle trip and open jaw tickets

Circle trips? Open jaw tickets? Sounds scary, but knowing about these can really save you time and money.

Many travellers spend hours researching fares, but do not know that how you set up your tickets can save you even more.

Here you'll learn about circle fare tickets and then open jaw tickets.

Circle fare tickets

You can really save when using circle fare tickets, which are also called circle trip tickets.

For example, if you want to fly from Miami to both San Diego and Las Vegas on the same trip, you don't have to buy a roundtrip ticket to San Diego and then another roundtrip ticket from San Diego to Las Vegas, in order to save money. And, you don't have to buy expensive one-way tickets for this type of trip either.

Instead, think of a triangle.

As long as the side of the triangle furthest from your starting point is the shortest, you are often able to combine one-half of three roundtrip fares. And, some airlines do not worry about the length of each leg.

For example, let's say

  • the roundtrip Miami - San Diego fare is $400,
  • the roundtrip San Diego - Las Vegas fare is $150, and
  • the roundtrip Miami - Las Vegas fare is $300.

Your "circle trip ticket" would use half of each of these for each leg of your trip. In other words, $200 plus $75 plus $150 for a total of $425.

Within Canada and the United States, circle trip fares are usually permitted if these conditions are met:

  • First, you must usually fly the same airline or its partners (e.g., United and United's "Ted") on all portions of the trip.

  • Second, the distance of the middle leg (in the example above San Diego to Las Vegas) usually—not always—must be shorter than the others.

  • Third, you must comply with the fare rules, such as staying over a Saturday night at the first stop.

    If the fares used have different rules, you must follow the most restrictive one. For example, if one fare says your trip can last 30 days, but another says just 21 days, your trip must end within 21 days.

  • Fourth, the fares used must be combinable in their rules, and not all are.

What is an open jaw ticket?

In the above example, suppose you wanted to drive between San Diego and Las Vegas.

You could still get a discount fare. This is called an open jaw ticket.

An open jaw is simply a portion of a trip between two flights that is not flown.

For example, a traveller from Tokyo may find that she can arrive in San Francisco but depart back to Japan nonstop from Washington, DC, for less cost than buying a separate ticket back to San Francisco to connect with a return flight to Japan.

This saves her both time and money.

Super popular open jaw segments (not flown segments on a ticket) are between

  • Calgary and Vancouver to visit the Canadian Rockies,
  • Denver and Las Vegas to explore the Colorado Rockies, Grand Canyon, and Utah national parks, and between
  • Los Angeles and San Francisco to drive along the California coastline.

You don't have to take the time to drive back to Denver, Los Angeles, or Calgary, in order to obtain a significant discount.

When can I use open jaws?

Usually, open jaws are permitted either solely within one country or from one country to one other country—but trips from Canada or the U.S. to Europe are exceptions. From Atlanta, you can fly into Amsterdam and out of Zurich at a reduced fare, as just one of many examples.

In North America, our Japanese traveller may find it difficult to obtain a good airfare from Tokyo arriving in Vancouver (Canada) but departing from Chicago (USA).

However, she should find it much easier to obtain a low fare arriving in Seattle (an under four hour coach ride from Vancouver) and departing from Chicago because she's travelling between just two countries.

Generally, open jaw tickets follow the same rules as circle trip fares—you have to use the same airline or its partners, the middle leg (the open jaw) must be shorter than the other two, the fares must be combinable, etc.

Circle trip and open jaw fares give you extra time to explore in depth the best places, while saving you money.


The best fares on budget airlines, such as Southwest, Westjet, and AirTran, are usually one-way fares.

As a result, you seldom have to worry about following the rules mentioned above when using these airlines. And, when other airlines fly these same routes, they often match these special one-way fares.

Happy travelling!

Go on to Cheap one-way (single) airfares.

For more airfare savings tips:

Go to >> Airfare savings introduction
Go to >> Finding cheap fares
Go to >> Last-minute fares
Go to >> Combining fares
Go to >> Open jaws & circle trips
Go to >> One-way (single) airfares
Go to >> Bereavement flights
Go to >> Weekend internet fares
Go to >> Budget airlines, or Southwest Airlines
Go to >> Bucket shop fares
Go to >> Visit North America fares

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