Airfare Savings: Alternate Airports For Less - My Family Travels

Shave dollars off your airfare bill and grief from the crowds by avoiding the major hubs; instead, fly in and out of convenient regional airports.

Savvy international travelers and families who’ve used charter services to Europe already know that cheaper fares mean flying to England’s Gatwick rather than the newer Heathrow, or arriving at France’s Orly instead of the more convenient Charles de Gaulle. Now you can turn tricks the charter companies use to your own advantage. Join business travelers as they blaze a discount-fare trail across the frontier of America’s unknown regional airports.

If you’re using‘s best fare finder or any other Internet booking engine to shop for a good deal, try plugging in the regional airport codes shown below to get fare comparisons, or mention to your travel agent that you’re interested in trading convenience for lower price fares.

Here’s a list of some of America’s largest airports and their lesser known alternatives:

CHICAGO: Even the world’s busiest airport, O’Hare (ORD), gets competition from the smaller Midway (MDW), now served by Southwest, Delta, Continental and ATA.

DALLAS: The enormous Dallas/Ft. Worth International (DFW) serves almost 10-fold the number of travelers using Love Field (DAL), but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a great fare on Southwest into the heart of the city.

DETROIT: Past winter weather delays have given Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) such a bad reputation that some travelers are using Windsor Airport (YQG) in next door Ontario, Canada, served by Air Canada or the small Detroit City Airport (recently renamed Coleman A. Young International Airport).

HOUSTON: Houston Intercontinental (IAH) is efficient and comfortable, but you may find better rates at downtown’s Hobby Airport (HOU) on Southwest, American, JetBlue, AirTran and Delta.

LOS ANGELES: Los Angeles International (LAX) may be gateway to the stars, but Southern California has several other runways to offer. The Burbank/Glendale/Pasadena Airport (BUR) is favored by several of the movie studios for its proximity to downtown LA and the Valley; Long Beach Airport (LGB), kingdom of JetBlue, is a good option for those heading to DisneyLand or LegoLand. Other local airports include Ontario International (ONT), east of downtown, and John Wayne (SNA) in Orange County.

MIAMI: Miami International (MIA) is one of our favorite airports for its multicultural offering of travelers, restaurants and shops, and it often has the best fares to southern Florida. However, some families may find savings by booking the much easier-to-navigate Ft. Lauderdale Airport (FLL), about 45 minutes drive north.

NEW YORK: The obvious destinations to explore in this very busy travel market include JFK (JFK) and Newark (EWR) for international flights, and LaGuardia (LGA) for domestic flights. But now that low-fare king Southwest Airlines has begun serving Long Island MacArthur (ISP), and several commuter lines are flying into Stewart International (SWF) in Newburgh, NY and Westchester County Airport (HPN) in White Plains, the increased competition may change the picture for domestic fares.

Notes Michelle at CarefreeTravel (800/727-4874) in NYC: “ISP is not really viable for some families because there is no public transportation into New York City. So, paying for a car service might eat up any savings you had. Also, if you’re flying out on a Friday or Sunday during the summer, traffic into Long Island is quite bad. That’s why travelers should always use a travel agent — not just to hunt out bargains, but to give you pointers you might not otherwise know.”

SAN FRANCISCO: When we found we could save $300 on a family trip from LA to San Francisco by flying into Oakland International (OAK) rather than San Francisco International (SFO) it was an easy choice. Both Oakland and the smaller, nearby San Jose International (SJC) are both widely served by US airlines as well as by carriers to Asia and Mexico.

WASHINGTON, DC: Although shuttle customers and regional visitors prefer the more convenient and beautifully renovated Reagan National (DCA), both Dulles (IAD) and Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) are within a 45-minute drive of the capital. BWI has been increasing traffic with connections on Southwest, America West, United and Frontier.

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