Many travelers these days want flexibility in their itinerary — they don’t want to commit to a fixed plan four months before a trip. It takes a bit more work, but it’s possible to create a fantastic trip while keeping your mind and your options open.

I’ve just returned from a trip to the Middle East, and I had an unbelievable time. But booking the trip was a little tricky, since my plans changed right before I bought my ticket. I had intended to spend five days in Morocco with my friend Alma, then explore the country for a further five days on my own. But Morocco fell through, and I found myself looking for flights to Istanbul instead.

I was still spending five days with Alma, but I decided to leave Turkey after that (I’d been there before). I looked for other places to visit for the remainder of my trip, and I settled on Cairo and Dubai, and with a little creativity I was able to come up with an itinerary that worked well for me. Here are a few of the ways I managed to pull that off.

Shop around

While searching for a decent flight to Istanbul, I used three websites at once (Travelocity, Orbitz, and Kayak.com), entering different dates and routes. Not only did prices vary among the three sites (even for the same flight), but there were routes one site would offer that the others didn’t. But don’t limit yourself to websites. If you have the time, talk to a travel agent. Or several.

Try “nesting” tickets

Instead of incorporating every stop into one ticket purchase, I ended up buying two tickets: a roundtrip ticket from LA to Istanbul, and then a multi-flight ticket from Istanbul to Cairo, then to Dubai, then back to Istanbul. This way, I covered the first and last legs of the trip (the more expensive ticket and also the only certain part of the trip at that time) as early as possible to get a decent price, and then I went back for the shorter legs of the trip when I had a better idea of my plans and options.

But don’t be afraid to consider a multi-destination ticket

The three sites I listed above let you enter multiple destinations and dates. After a little tweaking, I was able to come up with an itinerary that allowed me to visit Cairo and Dubai, which worked better for me than if I had simply purchased a round-trip ticket to one location.

Spread the word

It helps to keep your options open.

Dubai became a destination simply because mentioned to a friend I was thinking of going there. Only then did I discover she was planning to be in Dubai during that time, making Dubai an even more desirable destination for me. I plugged that into the equation and eventually found a ticket that worked.

Watch for interesting connections

Istanbul had many direct flights to Dubai, but I noticed there were a lot of connections through Cairo (as well as several other cities). I looked into a stopover and changed a few travel dates, and I was able to spend two days in Cairo.

Be flexible

With Istanbul the only definite part of the trip at first, I looked at several other places to go for the days I was floating. There were numerous affordable flights from Istanbul to Romania, Warsaw, Athens, and several other locales. If I didn’t have to get a visa in advance, I would’ve chosen a flight to India and spent two days in Mumbai. It helps to keep your options open!

So, don’t despair if your travel plans fall through at the last minute — with a bit of investigative research, you could have a more interesting vacation than you had originally planned.

Your thoughts on "Six ways to get the plane ticket you want"

  • another excellent summary. trying to find the best deals takes a little work but it is worth it!

    on May 30, 2009 at 11:32 pm Reply

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