Open Jaw Flights: What They Are & How to Save Big on Travel

Are you overpaying on airfare? Hint: The answer is probably yes
1/25/19 | By Brandon Neth

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Booking a round trip ticket often seems like the most logical choice to save a little bit of money, but is it? It might surprise you to learn about this lesser known method for finding some of the best deals out there on airfare. 

The method: Open jaw flights.

Common sense would tell us that buying everything at once results in a cheaper price overall, but open jaw flights or round robin itineraries could be a much better deal. 

Here's a rundown of everything you should know and how to book one for your next trip.

What is an open jaw flight?

Open jaw tickets may sound complicated but they are actually pretty easy to understand.

In a typical round-trip itinerary, you depart from city A and fly to destination B, and then when you’re ready to come home, you fly back from city B to city A.

So, for example, flying from Atlanta to Houston for a trip, and then Houston back to Atlanta when the trip is over.

Simple.

Open jaw flights, on the other hand, are any itinerary where either your destination or departure location changes.

For instance, if you fly from city A to city B, but your return trip takes you from city C back to city A.

Going back to the example trip used above, an open jaw itinerary might look like this: Fly from Atlanta to Houston, and then New Orleans back to Atlanta when the trip is over.

Why is it called an “open jaw flight?”

"Open jaw" is kind of a strange term, isn’t it? For anyone who is curious about the origin of why it’s called an open jaw flight, here’s the answer.

When you map out your itinerary on a basic open jaw flight path, the two flights create a triangle that looks similar to a literal open mouth.

Here’s a gif to help you visualize:

It doesn’t have a deep, philosophical origin story, which may be disappointing, I know, but open jaw flights and round robin itineraries are both incredibly helpful travel strategies that can really help you stretch your travels – and dollars – much farther than the average plane ticket. 

3 Types of Open Jaw Flights

There are three main types of open jaw tickets you can book. Let’s go over them using the example of someone from the U.S. visiting the United Kingdom.

Destination Open Jaw

The destination you arrive at is not the one you return from. For example, flying from Washington D.C. to London but returning to Washington D.C. from Manchester.

Origin Open Jaw

Returning to a different city than the one you left from. It would be an origin open jaw flight if you flew from Washington D.C. to London and then returned from London to Atlanta.

Double Open Jaw

A double open jaw flight is a destination open jaw combined with an origin open jaw. So your return flight would be unrecognizable from your arrival flight. For example, flying to London from Washington D.C. but returning from Manchester to Atlanta.

What about round robin flights?

Open jaw flights are similar to round robin flights (itineraries that hop from city to city), but they don’t require you to find your own transportation between cities – it’s just one continuous itinerary.

Similar to what Adam did for his 3-week adventure to Asia, round robin trips (or multi-city bookings, as they are sometimes called), can be a great way to take advantage of a long stopover in multiple locations.

They may be useful for planning things such as visits to multiple families over the holidays or booking complicated segmented journeys to a single area, like Europe.

You may even be able to plan a grandiose around-the-world trip for $1,156!

Why would anyone want to travel like this?

At a glance, it may seem like an open jaw flight or round robin travel plan are silly things to do.

After all, why make things more complicated than they need to be? With open jaw flights you are on the hook for transporting yourself from one airport to another. Why bother with the extra hassle?

There are several reasons why someone might choose an open jaw flight.

The first, and most obvious, is that it allows you to see more cities on your trip. If you’ve got more than one destination you want to visit, a destination open jaw flight can let you spend more time seeing all you want to see since you don’t have to worry about returning to your original destination before flying home.

Similarly, an origin open jaw flight lets you include another domestic city on your itinerary before you return home. This can be great for people who have multiple family members they want to visit but can only afford one trip.

Open jaw flights are often cheaper, too, especially if your destination is an expensive one. Why pay extra to fly to a pricey location when you can land a few miles away for significantly cheaper?

The same goes for booking multi-city flights. If you’re an adventurous traveler with a serious case of FOMO, booking a round robin flight allows you the chance to cram in several extra stops along the way so you can experience the destination in person, without booking a separate trip or plane ticket for each place.

How to Book an Open Jaw Flight

Most people book their flights through aggregator websites that scour the internet for the best deals. And most of those sites give you two options: round trip or one way. So how does a person get themselves an open jaw flight without going to a travel agent?

You’ve got two basic options, depending on how much of the legwork you want to do yourself.

Option #1: Use a Special Search Engine

Matrix Airfare flight search

If you choose the automated route, you will be limited to sites like Matrix Airfare, which are optimized for finding open jaw flights. These sites can put together itineraries for you in a manner much like a regular booking site finding a round trip plan for you. Simply plug in your desired destinations and let the algorithms find your trip for you. Try swapping cities in and out to find the optimal price and flight times.

Option #2: Manually Search

If you’re a bit more dedicated, you can go the traditional route of creating your own itinerary using the “multi-city” option on most flight search sites. What you will be doing here is basically booking a bunch of one-way flights and putting them together on your own. There’s considerable room for error here, so be careful.

How to Book a Round Robin Flight

Planning a multi-city itinerary is similar to searching for an open jaw route, but you will have more options when it comes to searching for different routes you can take. Sites like Skyscanner and Kayak can be great tools for finding cheap multi-city flights.

The multi-city search on Skyscanner

Multi-city flights don’t necessarily need to be round-trip either. Some travelers also try booking past their destination, exiting during the layover, to take advantage of lower airfare deals.

The multi-city search on Kayak

When you’re ready to book, be sure to comb over your planned itinerary a few times before finalizing your ticket. These tickets tend to be more complex, so doing a double – maybe triple – check is a good idea.

What's the difference between an open jaw flight and a multi-city flight?

Open jaw flights are two separate flights where one ticket flies you in, and the other is used to fly you out from another destination. 

Multi-city flight tickets, on the other hand, fly you in and out of the same location to your next destination. It's just another name for round robin flights and could be more beneficial if you're trying to book a long layover for sightseeing or whatnot. 

Both can save you money on airfare, so the biggest factor in deciding which to choose comes down to what you're wanting to get out of your trip. 

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