One-Way Tickets vs. Roundtrip Tickets: Which Are Cheaper?

Maybe your itinerary is uncertain; you know the departure date but aren’t sure about the return date. Or maybe you want to fly to one city, maybe take a train to another and fly home from there. Or maybe you just want to fly one-way and drive home. How to buy the cheapest ticket? We’ve got some answers.

Sometimes, roundtrip tickets are a better deal

On some airlines, mostly large ones, roundtrip tickets are a better overall deal. A recent example on a big U.S. airline for travel from Los Angeles to Denver found roundtrips for $277 and one-way fares for $133. In this case, the one-way fare costs more than half of the roundtrip total.

Sometimes, one-way tickets are a better deal

On the smaller, discount airlines, one-way fares are often exactly half the total of round-trip fares. Fly one way or the other, doesn’t matter; you pay the same per mile.

How to find the best fare for you

You must compare prices: Most airfare comparison sites have a box to check off for one-way only or roundtrip only searches. Do searches for both kinds of fares, one-after-the-other, to see which is right for you.

More ways to save

Watch out for change fees: After you purchase any ticket – one-way or roundtrip – making changes such as moving travel dates around will mean paying an expensive change fee (of up to $200 on domestic flights). There are two exceptions: All airlines are required to allow changes within 24 hours at no charge, and Southwest remains the sole U.S. carrier with no change fee.

Buy fares for cheaper days: Cut costs on every kind of ticket by flying cheaper days. On U.S. domestic flights, cheaper days are usually Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays. On international flights, weekdays are typically cheaper than weekends.

Let technology work for you: A handy tool to find cheaper days within a particular month or season is the Getaway Map. Another handy tool is airfare alerts. Both are free, simple and take just seconds.

Final thought: No matter how you choose to fly, the more flexible you are, the better deals you’ll find. Safe travels.

Rick Seaney
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