Why Slow Travel is Cheaper

As I mentioned in my prior post, An Update on my Plans, I booked a flight home this September. I wanted to share with you a little bit about the financial side of this flight home, because I think it’s interesting.

In general, it’s much cheaper to fly in and out of large airports in major cities than it is to fly out of medium sized airports. For crossing the Atlantic, flights to New York are much cheaper than flights to Cleveland, even though most of those flights connect through New York. Here’s a few examples.

A search on kayak.com for Rome-Cleveland, one way, yields less than impressive results. The cheapest flight is $897, but nobody in their right mind would buy it. It takes 40 hours and has layovers in Istanbul, Turkey and Toronto, Canada. The second result is more reasonable, only taking 17 hours, but it still has two layovers, one in Ireland and one in Boston. And the price isn’t so great for a one way flight.


If we search Rome-New York, we get better results, but still not too great. The prices are better but they both have layovers. The cheapest direct flights are still running around $1,000.


If I try Milan, Italy’s second busiest airport, I get something much better. A direct flight to New York on Emirates (which is a superior airline to any of the above) and for a better price.


This is a pretty good deal, but let’s try another place altogether… how about London?


Wow. $337 to cross the Atlantic? I’ll walk home from New York for that price.

Last week, I looked up who exactly this Norwegian Airlines company is, and it turns out they are the first company bringing the “budget airline” concept to transatlantic flights. (Kind of like Spirit Airlines in the US) They charge extra fees for things like baggage and meals, but if the stars align you can still come out ahead. I noticed on their website they also fly London to Boston so I checked that too. When I saw the price, I fell over in my chair. When I climbed back up to my computer, I decided to book it and worry about transportation from Boston to Cleveland later. I booked a direct flight from London, England to Boston, Massachusetts, for $234.30.



My travel plans in August and September are pretty open ended, and I want to go to London at some point, so I can simply plan things out so that I’m in London at the end of the trip. I had a few options for after I cross the pond – I could have booked a separate flight from Boston to Cleveland to get me home, or also explore options like Greyhound or Amtrak if I’m trying to save a little cash. But there’s a problem… what if the flight is delayed and I miss my connection? If you have a flight booked on the same ticket and you miss your connection, the airline takes care of you. But if it’s a separate ticket, you’re out of luck.

If my flight over the Atlantic arrived late in Boston, I’d have to eat the cost of the old ticket and buy a new ticket to Cleveland, same day, for a high price that might wipe out all of the cost savings.

The solution? Two nights in Boston. I booked a Jet Blue flight from Boston to Cleveland on September 14 for about $94. This way, if the Norwegian flight across the Atlantic is delayed, I’ll have two days to spare. Yes, I’ll have to pay for accommodations, food, and activities in Boston, but it’s still a net savings.


This is why travelling slowly is cheaper. I will use this same concept to travel all around the world this year. By being flexible with dates and locations, you can travel at a fraction of the cost. The problem is, if you have a family and a job and a busy life, it’s very impractical to travel like this. But if you take an extended amount of time off from work or quit your job, it becomes much easier to travel cheaply. Put more simply, time is money.


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