Airfare deals are getting more scarce every year. Sometimes it requires a little creative thinking to make a family vacation affordable. Using alternate airports is one such ploy. If you explore using airports other than the one closest to your house, you just might save a bundle.

What are Alternate Airports?

Using alternate airports means departing from a city that’s near–say, within 100 miles of–your home city.  Since airfares are based on competition in a particular market, not distance, driving a few extra miles can add up to big savings. For instance, the average airfare departing from Milwaukee is $108 less per person than the average from Chicago’s O’Hare airport, 100 miles away. That may not be worth the drive for a single traveler, but for a family of four, $416 is something to think about. And, that’s just the average. Similar savings exist all over the United States. A recent airfare search between Cleveland and San Francisco yielded the rather high price of $538; the same dates were available from Akron (32 miles away) for $398. Travel sites, such as make looking at alternate airports easy with a “check nearby cities” option right in the booking window.

Other Advantages to Alternate Airports

Saving  money is just one advantage to using alternative airports. Smaller airports generally offer cheaper parking. For example, the daily parking rate in Boston is $18. In Manchester, NH, the rate is $10; in Hartford, it’s just $6. Smaller airports are also generally less crowded, offer speedier baggage handling, and have fewer flight delays. Since there is less property to navigate, you usually have easier access to rental cars at these airports, too.

Examples of Alternate Airports

In addition to the city pairs mentioned above, below is an incomplete list of alternate airports to larger, big city airports around the United States. These airports are all within 100 miles of the larger city airport.

  • Chicago – Milwaukee
  • Boston – Hartford, CT; Providence, RI; Manchester, NH
  • Cincinnati – Louisville, KY; Dayton
  • Detroit – Toledo, OH; Grand Rapids
  • New Orleans – Baton Rouge
  • Cleveland – Akron
  • Miami – Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach
  • Tampa – St. Petersburg, Sarasota
  • Los Angeles – San Diego, Long Beach, Orange County, Burbank
  • Denver – Colorado Springs
  • Columbus, Ohio – Dayton
  • San Francisco – San Jose, Oakland
  • New York City – Albany, Islip, White Plains
  • Philadelphia – Atlantic City
  • Austin – San Antonio
  • Washington DC – Baltimore
  • Charlotte – Greensboro
  • Orlando – Daytona Beach

Do you have an example of an alternate airport you’d like to add to our list? How far would you drive to save money on airfare?

Save Money by Using Alternate Airports