Are you planning a trip that requires multiple flight stops? Very often the order in which you visit these cities is not important. Knowing this to be the case, you are probably trying to figure out what is the cheapest order for booking flights to your destinations.
Does the Order in Which You Visit Your Destinations Dramatically Affect the Overall Price? The answer is definitely YES. We have undertaken our own research to present you with a case study using real-time data for destination cities and departure airports. This data presents a clear case that the order of destination has a significant bearing on overall costs.
So if you’re planning a multi-city trip, you need to begin with working out all of the possible combinations.
Working Out Possible Ordering
This is a process that becomes more difficult as the number of destinations increases.
Let’s say you initially only want to visit clients in London and Paris, and you are departing from Seattle airport. This only leaves you with two possible orders:
⦁ Seattle > Paris > London > Seattle
⦁ Seattle > London > Paris > Seattle
However, this number trebles to six possible itineraries if you realize you need to visit an additional client in Rome on the same trip. These outcomes are demonstrated in the diagram below.
The more destinations you add, the higher the number of possible routes becomes. Once you add 7 stops to your trip, the number of viable itineraries runs into the thousands.
As you can see, if you are planning a business trip with more than 3 stop-offs, checking every possible price combination manually becomes practically impossible due to the time and strain on human resources that it would take to complete.
If you’re a travel planner or employee in charge of their own travel arrangements this information leaves you with a whole host of questions:
⦁ Is there a set way to order destinations in order to save money?
⦁ Is there any need to check all possible combinations?
⦁ Does booking the shortest route from each airport always return the cheapest overall costs?
⦁ Are prices really that much different on domestic flights when compared to international destinations?
⦁ Are there any savings to be made on flights that are only a few days away?
⦁ Or is it only worth looking at optimum destination orders for trips well in advance?
We decided to construct and run our very own experiment to find out the answers to those burning questions so you didn’t have to!
Multi-City Flights Case Study: The Data Used to Run It
In this study, we used our proprietary algorithm to run through the data to tell us the answers to the questions posed above. Below are the data sets we collected and analyzed for the purposes of this study.
We started with departure airports of which there were 13:
⦁ Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
⦁ John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
⦁ Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
⦁ Denver International Airport (DEN)
⦁ Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
⦁ Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
⦁ Orlando International Airport (MCO)
⦁ Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
⦁ San Diego International Airport (SAN)
⦁ Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
⦁ Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport (MSP)
⦁ Nashville International Airport (BNA)
⦁ San Antonio International Airport (SAT)
Once the list of departure airports was finalized, we ran two sets of destinations, one domestic, and one international:
⦁ Atlanta (ATL) > San Francisco (SFO) > Las Vegas (LAS) > Los Angeles (LAX) > Dallas (DFW)
⦁ London (LHR) > Paris (CDG) > Frankfurt (FRA) > Rome (FCO) > Vienna (VIE)
Those departures and destinations were then run against two sets of dates:
⦁ 3 days ahead of departure
⦁ 4 months ahead of departure
Since the itineraries above each took in 5 destinations, that gave us 120 potential orders for each route.
We ran the data described above and have presented the results below. It outlines the optimal order for the destinations and the worst possible order for the same route.
The percentage column on the right-hand side indicates how much better an optimal order was than the worst order in terms of price. As you will observe, getting the order right could sometimes save you over 200% over the comparative airfare of the worst possible order.
As eluded to above there were some quite significant findings from the collection and analysis of our data.
So let’s break them down into the questions we set out to answer at the beginning of the study.
Does the Order in Which You Visit Your Destinations Dramatically Affect the Overall Price?
The answer is an unequivocal yes.
As you will have already deducted yourselves from the results above, there are massive savings to be made by ordering your destinations in an optimal manner.
The biggest saving was observed for European trips departing from Denver booked 4 months in advance, which would have saved you a staggering 290% on the worst destination order by using the optimum route.
In terms of breaking the results down by category, on average, prices for the worst ordered destinations for international trips starting in three 3 days’ time were 78% worse than the best combination.
This only increased when compared to international trips starting 4 months from now, coming in at 112% worse.
Interestingly, domestic flights displayed a reversal in that trend. On average, the 4 months’ figure stood at 64% worse, as opposed to the 104% worse for flights leaving in 3 days’ time.
Therefore, there can be no doubt that ordering your destinations correctly can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. This is great news if your company rewards you for saving money on your personal travel budget.
Is The Difference in Price More Pronounced for International Trips as Opposed to Domestic Journeys?
The answers to this question are much less clear-cut. It appears that the departure airport has a huge bearing on the amount of savings.
For example, Denver had particularly favorable savings in all categories, whereas other airports such as Charlotte offered up much lower savings across the board.
Overall, the savings are larger for international trips with a maximum saving of 290% on trips booked 4 months in advance and as opposed to a maximum saving of 80% on domestic flights booked with the same notice.
The gap isn’t as stark for bookings with 3 days’ notice, standing at 191% for international and 133% for domestic. This data would support the argument that much larger savings can be made on international flights.
However, interestingly, optimally ordering domestic flights seem to guarantee a higher proportion of savings. This is because the deviation between savings is much larger for international trips.
As demonstrated in the table below, the minimum difference in price in our experiment for international journeys was 30% for three days and 23% for 4 months’ notice respectively. Domestic minimum price differences were over double these figures, returning 80% for 3 days and 48% for 4 months.
Therefore, there can be no guarantee that you will save more money on international trips by correctly ordering your destinations than you would if you order them correctly domestically.
Instead, your savings will largely depend on your departure airport.
Are Price Differentials More Pronounced for Trips Booked at Short Notice?
For international trips, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between booking flights with a few days’ notice or 4 months ahead of schedule. Big savings can be made at either time interval and the minimum price difference figures are only 7% apart.
However, domestically the differential is much bigger. It can be argued based on this data that you are better served to wait until a few days before departure to book multi-city flights within the United States.
Maximum price differences increase from 80% to 133% and minimum price differences nearly double from 48% to 80%. So if you have multiple legs on your journey around the USA, you are statistically better off playing the waiting game when it comes to airfare savings
Is there a correlation between time spent in the air and price? Are the shortest (fastest) routes the cheapest?
The answer here is no.
Picking the quickest route does not mean you will pay the cheapest price. We found this to be the case for multiple airports including JFK. We’ve mapped out an international trip at 3 days’ notice from JFK below to illustrate the point further.
Need Help Planning Your Trip?
Hopefully, you have found our case study very useful and realized that no matter how far away or close your departure date is, you need to optimize the order of your destinations to make significant savings on your multi-city trip.
Luckily, there’s no need for you to run your own high-level data analysis in order to obtain huge savings on your flights. We can do it all for you!
All you need to do is email your trip details to us, and we will reply with the best possible order for your destinations, free of charge!
That’s right, you can save thousands of dollars off your next business trip at no cost to you whatsoever.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org now to start the process!