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Saving Money on Flights vs. Paying Extra for Convenience: TPG Readers Weigh In

March 17, 2019
7 min read
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TPG Lounge member Anthony I.W. recently asked the rest of the group to share where they draw the line between saving money and paying extra for convenience when it comes to booking flights with cash or airline miles.

"I'm curious, how does everybody value cost versus convenience when paying cash for a plane ticket? How much extra would you pay for a flight from a closer airport or with more convenient layovers? How do you personally determine if a more expensive ticket is "worth it" by virtue of it being more convenient?" — Anthony I.W.

Here’s a look at some of our favorite answers. (Some responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity).

Saving Money is Always the Bottom Line

Some TPG Lounge members said it's worth it to drive a few hours out of the way or work in an extra connection or two when booking a flight. For them, saving money matters most.

"I live about 50 minutes from Seattle and 2.5 hours from Portland. I would never consider flying out of Portland (PDX) for a domestic flight, but if I'm flying out of the country and looking at business-class flights, I will consider it. Last winter, driving the extra 90 minutes saved me about $1,500." — Noah L.

"I have this debate all the time. My home airport is BHM (Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport), which is already an hour from where I live in Tuscaloosa. It’s a bit more expensive but worth it both for being close and for the fact that it’s a super easy airport to get through. I’ve got friends who will drive about four hours to save $100 at Atlanta (ATL) or Nashville (BNA). Beyond that, it’s a matter of how well an itinerary works with my schedule more than price or convenience. Obviously, cheaper is always better but if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work." — John F.

"I pay for shorter tickets. Usually the points are more of a deal for business-class long-haul flights. If points get me a business seat on the long-haul portion, I'm not too worried about how many stops there are. Cost always rules the day though, whether it's a low amount of points or a low amount of money." — Michaela W.

"Always fly out of Denver International Airport (DEN), which is an hour farther from home than Colorado Springs (COS). Tickets from COS are $200 more and often it's just a shuttle to get to DEN." — Mark B.

Flying from DEN vs COS could save you a lot of money, as one TPG Reader learned. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Flying from DEN vs COS could save you money, as one TPG Reader shared. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Nothing Beats Convenience

For other members of our TPG Lounge, it all comes down to convenience, having fewer layovers to worry about and less stress, whatever the cost.

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"I only use points for plane tickets but I don’t mind paying more (in points) for convenience. Whichever flight allows us to arrive and return the most rested and fits our schedule is best. Being exhausted means being stressed and lowering the immune system." — Connie C.

"I am in Albany, New York, and it is much cheaper to purchase tickets from NYC, however the drive, traffic, subways and stress are not worth it. Instead, I pay anywhere from $75-$200 extra a ticket to drive 10 minutes to the airport. It's worth it for me." — Michael M.

"I feel very fortunate that I can pay for convenience. I'll pay quite a lot more for direct flights and to use DC's National Airport (DCA), a 10-minute drive away, vs Washington-Dulles (IAD) or Baltimore-Washington (BWI), a 40-minute drive with terrible traffic. The cost difference would have to be significant (as in the $500 range) for me to consider a more inconvenient flight. I will, however, drive to IAD to get a nonstop flight rather than take one from DCA that requires a stop (e.g. international flights). Flights with stops always have the risk of delays and missed connections." — Beth P.

"Hubby and I pay more if the schedule works better for us. We have a small regional airport that’s basically a room with six doors, and we walk across the tarmac to a plane. Our next closest airport is two hours away and is often the same price or only $50-$100 per ticket cheaper. My time is more valuable than 'saving' $200 and having to drive four hours round-trip. Our only low-cost carrier is Allegiant and I can’t stand trying to plan a trip around their limited dates, so I always vote to pay double to fly Delta." — Emily B.A.

"Beyond survival, money is relative. So, if it’s with in your means, go for it. Trust me, flying Into Burbank instead of LAX will save hours of your day and years on your life." — Randall C.W.

One TPG Lounge reader's advice: avoid LAX at all cost. (Photo by Ryan Patterson)
One TPG Lounge reader's advice: avoid LAX at all cost. (Photo by Ryan Patterson)

Additional Things to Consider

Several TPG Lounge members brought up a number of other factors to think about when making these kinds of travel-related decisions, like how much they value their time, whether or not they're traveling with kids, how long they'll be staying, how much time is needed between connections and additional expenses for parking or hotel stays.

"I always look at what my time is worth. I would pay extra money for a nonstop flight or fly into a more convenient airport. The more layovers you have, the more chances for delays, cancellations or frustrations." — Michelle S.

"My biggest determining factor is kids or no kids. If it's just hubby and I on vacation, we don't mind the layovers or long drives for alternative airports. Especially with lounge access, we kind of enjoy layovers for free eats and drinks." — Erica L.

"For me, it also depends how long I am staying at the destination. If I am visiting my family for four days, I will pay extra for a nonstop. If I am staying 8-10 days, I might go for a cheaper flight with a connection." — Lisa B.

"It depends on the difference in price. For our international travel, we often find that driving 3.5 hours from Detroit to either Toronto or Chicago can make a big difference in airfare prices. The decision point becomes how we will feel driving back after a long trip and if the airfare savings are more than parking fees and/or a potential hotel night when we land depending on how tired we’re feeling. It's also never worth gambling the drive during the winter months given the weather." — Karen G.B.

"Like many others said above, the length of the trip — both flying and total trip time — as well as departure/arrival times and connections all factor in for me. I’ll even take a longer connection in some cases so I don’t have to worry about the stress of missing the next flight if there isn’t another one afterwards." — Kim S.

Featured image by Getty Images/EyeEm