In this installment of Airline Secrets, we’ll continue looking at out-of-the-box ways to book travel whether using cash or miles. In particular I wanted to talk about nested trips, which is a technique with limitless possibilities that can help frequent travellers come out ahead.
Most people think that booking travel involves choosing between Round Trip, One-Way, and Multi-City, but the reality is that there’s a much wider range of options available to you, especially if you happen to be planning more than one trip at a time. The term “nested trips” encompasses all the possibilities beyond a single Multi-City booking, and it can be well worth your time to experiment with the possibilities in order to extract significant value.
Fair warning – this is a pretty advanced article with lots of juicy trip-planning talk!
A nested trip is simply any occasion when you book two or more itineraries such that they overlap in some way; that is, one booking is nested within the other.
You can think of the classic “side-trip” as an example. Travellers who frequently visit Europe know that it’s a common practice to book a roundtrip to some European city and then secure cheap flights to other places on low-cost carriers like Ryanair or EasyJet. Doing so is usually much cheaper than trying to string together all your desired European destinations on a single multi-stop ticket.
However, nested trips can get a lot more interesting and ingenious than that. One example is “back-to-back ticketing”, which is a booking practice that airlines don’t particularly like, akin to hidden city ticketing.
For any given route, airlines typically file dozens of different fares, with more restrictive fares priced lower than less restrictive fares. One of the restrictions you’ll commonly see on cheaper fares is a minimum stay requirement of, say, three nights (i.e., you must stay at your destination for at least three nights before taking the return flight home).
That makes sense, since the cheaper fare with the minimum stay would most likely be booked by price-sensitive leisure travellers who are looking to go on a vacation; in comparison, business travellers would likely require a shorter stay, and would be willing to pay a higher price for said shorter stay because their work is paying for it.
By leveraging back-to-back ticketing, though, some creative folks (whose travel patterns happen to involve the same destination more than once) are able to skirt around the minimum stay requirements and book their shorter trips for the lower price.
Here’s how this works. Let’s imagine a price-sensitive business traveller (perhaps she’s self-employed or unusually altruistic to her employer) needs to make two very quick trips from Ottawa to London, spaced two weeks apart.
If she booked this as two simple round-trips, she’d have to pay the relatively higher fare – the one with no three-night minimum stay requirement – for both bookings.
Ticket 1 (2 nights, $$$):
Oct 1: YOW – LHR Oct 3: LHR – YOW
Ticket 2 (2 nights, $$$):
Oct 14: YOW – LHR
Oct 16: LHR – YOW
On the other hand, if she booked one round-trip from Ottawa to London (with the return leg two weeks later), and nested a second round-trip from London to Ottawa in-between, she’d be able to pay the relatively lower fare – the one with a three-night minimum stay requirement – on both bookings!
Ticket 1 (15 nights, $):
Oct 1: YOW – LHR
Ticket 2 (11 nights, $):
Oct 3: LHR – YOW
Oct 14: YOW – LHR
Oct 16: LHR – YOW
Airlines frown upon this sort of behaviour, since your back-to-back ticketing is costing them the revenue they’d otherwise earn if you had booked the tickets the normal way and had paid for the less restrictive fare. They’ve been known to suspend frequent flyer accounts of passengers who routinely employ this practice.
Ricky’s love for travelling and learning more about the world is unbounded. He’s on a mission to document and understand every square inch of the globe, and travelling on points will be an essential tool along his journey.