Last Updated May 25, 2021

CROSS-THE-OCEAN HACK: How to Save Big on International Flights

If you're looking to save big on your next trip to a far away land, a little flexibility could go a long way.

The Cross-the-Ocean Hack refers to a flight booking strategy where instead of booking a direct flight to your final destination, you book the cheapest flight to anywhere close, then purchase a cheap second ticket for your final leg on a regional budget carrier or rail/bus.

But while this strategy can offer big savings, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind to ensure this plan doesn't backfire. If you don't approach this strategy with caution, you could be left paying more than you would have for a direct flight.

To start, let's go over the basics.

Here's how it works:

Say you want to visit Paris and direct flights are $700.

You notice that flights to Madrid are only $400. 

Here's what you could do:

1. Book the flight to Madrid for $400
2. Book a separate ticket on a budget regional airline (e.g. EasyJet or RyanAir) from Madrid to Paris for ~$50
3. Save $250

Note: this "hack" works for any continent, but especially well for Europe, where an abundance of regional carrier and an extensive rail network provide many options for connecting. Some destinations in South America and Asia hold similar opportunities for cheap regional tickets.

Another benefit

Besides the obvious benefit of keeping more of your money, this approach also gives you the option to extend your layover for a day or two and squeeze another destination into your trip. After all, who doesn't want to visit two countries instead of one?

Just a few things to keep in mind

1. Even if you're just stopping in a country for a connecting flight, you'll likely still need to pass through immigration control to collect any checked bags before going back through security. So be familiar with immigration and entry requirements for any country you're flying into.

2. Leave plenty of time to make your connection. Since your tickets will be on two separate airlines, if your first flight is delayed and you miss your second flight, the second airline will be under no obligation to help you. In this situation, you would likely need to purchase another ticket, which could offset any potential savings.

3. Be very cautious of baggage fees on your second flight. Baggage fees and weight limits can differ on international flights and "domestic" flights within Europe or other continents. If your second airline (or bus or train) has a lower limit on luggage weight, the overweight luggage charges could possibly negate any savings, making this all pointless.

Bottom line

If you're planning an international trip and are interested in saving money and/or adding a second destination, the Cross-the-Ocean Hack is a flight booking strategy worth considering, as long as you're willing to balance all the considerations. Embracing this flight booking mindset instantly opens up more travel opportunities as you realize your target destination might be more affordable than you thought.