Trick to Finding the Cheapest Flights: Alternative Airports
We all know these airport codes: ATL, JFK, LAX, IAD, HOU, ORD. Maybe you fly through these airports on a regular basis. Good ticket prices can be found at the major airline hubs, especially for discount airlines, but airlines sometimes offer better deals at smaller airports to attract interest in less-traveled routes. You might also be able to find lower fares at airports that serve several carriers, not just Delta, United or American almost exclusively.
That's why you should consider these alternative budget airports the next time you fly.
Look for Discount Airlines
Discount airlines fly from major airports and smaller airports, took. Southwest Airlines can be one of your first considerations for domestic and Caribbean flights.
If you want to country hop in Europe, you can also consider booking a seat with one of the many discount airlines like Ryanair, Aer Lingus or EasyJet. You may need to take a train ride or bus to get to these smaller airports, but the savings can be amazing if you can book a short-haul flight with your British Airways Avios miles, and British Airways is a transfer partner of Chase's Ultimate Rewards program.
Look for Alternative Budget Airports with Google Flights
Flight search engines make it easier than ever to find more affordable airports. You might have to take a bus or rent a car to get to the airport, but the drive can be well worth the savings.
One of the quickest ways to compare flight prices is with Google Flights for your origin and arrival airports.
Google Flights notices I can save $163 per ticket by flying from a nearby airport.
After putting your departure and arrival cities into Google Flights, Google will compare the prices of nearby airports within 200 miles of either city. In this example, a flight from Knoxville, Tennessee (TYS), to LAX costs $493 roundtrip. Or, if you're willing to drive 106 miles (90 minutes down I-75) to Chattanooga Airport (CHA), you can save $163 per ticket.
If you have the extra time, live nearby or have several travel companions that also need a ticket, that additional 90-minute drive can be worth it.
When you prefer a bird's-eye view, you can also use Google’s flight insights tool to filter prices by airport. The results will display in ascending order beginning with the lowest price. In Orlando, for example, you might have several different options to choose from, including Tampa and Jacksonville.
If you plan on visiting Vegas, San Diego, or one of the surrounding areas, it can be cheaper to fly into one of these cities first. Maybe you can do a multi-city fare to save a drive on the back end, or you just drive back to where you fly into because the savings are worth it.
The Best Alternative Airports
This is only a partial list of alternate airports, but you should put these on your short list to save a few dollars or points for a future trip. And you might even avoid the traffic jams and hustle-and-bustle that seem to follow major airports, too!
- Athens, Georgia (AHN): 83 miles
- Macon, Georgia (MCN): 88 miles
- Birmingham, Alabama (BHM): 153 miles
- San Antonio (SAT): 76 miles
- Houston (HOU): 176 miles
- Houston (IAH): 169 miles
- Bedford, Massachusettes (BED): 21 miles
- Manchester, New Hampshire (MHT): 51 miles
- Providence, Rhode Island (PVD): 61 miles
- Greer, South Carolina (GSP): 84 miles
- Greensboro, North Carolina (GSO): 98 miles
- Raleigh, North Carolina (RDU): 158 miles
Chicago O'Hare (ORD)
- Chicago (MDW): 21 miles
- Chicago (RFD): 73 miles
- Milwaukee (MKE): 86 miles
- Dallas (DAL): 17 miles
- Colorado Springs (COS): 92 miles
- Cheyenne, Wyoming (CYS): 103 miles
- Toledo, Ohio (TOL): 70 miles
- Flint, Michigan (FNT): 73 miles
- Lansing, Michigan (LAN): 91 miles
- Grand Rapids, Michigan (GRR): 149 miles
- Houston (HOU): 29 miles
- Austin (AUS): 169 miles
- San Antonio (SAT): 214 miles
Kansas City (MCI)
- Topeka, Kansas (FOE): 74 miles
- Omaha, Nebraska (OMA): 170 miles
- Wichita, Kansas (ICT): 219 miles
Las Vegas (LAS)
- Bullhead City, Arizona (IFP): 95 miles
Los Angeles (LAX)
- Long Beach, California (LGB): 24 miles
- Burbank, California (BUR): 30 miles
- Orange County (SNA): 41 miles
- Ontario, California (ONT): 55 miles
- San Diego (SAN): 125 miles
- Ft. Lauderdale (FLL): 26 Miles
- Naples (APF): 120 miles
- Ft. Myers (RSW): 143 miles
- Burlington, Vermont (BTV): 125 miles
- Manchester, Vermont (MHT): 305 miles
New Orleans (MSY)
- Baton Rouge (BTR): 71 miles
- Sanford, Florida (SFB): 30 miles
- Daytona Beach (DAB): 69 miles
- Tampa (TPA): 90 miles
- St. Petersburg/Clearwater (PIE): 90 miles
- Gainesville, Florida (GNV): 126 miles
- Jacksonville (JAX): 170 miles
- Allentown, Pennsylvania (ABE): 74 miles
- Newark (EWR): 92 miles
- Baltimore (BWI): 100 miles
- New York City (LGA): 114 miles
- New York City (JFK): 117 miles
- Newport News, Virginia: 59 miles
- Norfolk (ORF): 85 miles
St. Louis (STL)
- St. Louis (BLV): 36 miles
- Bloomington, Illinois (BMI): 171 miles
San Francisco (SFO)
- Oakland (OAK): 30 miles
- San Jose (SJC): 32 miles
- Sacramento (SMF): 101 miles
- Bellingham, Washington: 108 miles
- Vancouver (YVR): 152 miles
- Portland (PDX): 160 miles
Tampa Bay (TPA)
- St. Petersburg/Clearwater (PIE): 11 miles
- Sarasota (SRQ): 52 miles
- Sanford (SFB): 118 miles
- Daytona Beach (DAB): 143 miles
- Fort Myers (RSW): 145 miles
Washington, D.C. (IAD)
- Washington, DC (DCA): 27 miles
- Baltimore (BWI): 56 miles
- Richmond (RIC): 127 miles
- Philadelphia (PHL): 151 miles
The flight search makes it extremely easy to find discount ticket prices when you click the "Nearby Airports" option. In the past, the only way to fly cheaply was to use a discount airline like Southwest, JetBlue or Spirit. While these discount carriers still offer great deals, the legacy carriers offer competitive rate for these alternative airports that are just a little bit off the beaten path.
Johnny Jet is a travel blogger and expert who travels up to 150,000 miles and visits 20 countries every year. For more travel tips from Johnny, visit his blog.