Stupid Tip of the Day: What Is an Open Jaw Itinerary — and Why Use One?

You have likely heard the term “open jaw” when describing a flight itinerary — but what exactly does the term mean; and why does it have that name?

Stupid Tip of the Day: What Is an Open Jaw Itinerary — and Why Use One?

An open jaw itinerary is one which the destination may be one city; but the city from which you are returning is different. For example, I recently had an itinerary from which the first flight departed from Atlanta to Reykjavik via New York, as no nonstop flights exist between Atlanta and Reykjavik; but the return flight departed from Lisbon back to Atlanta, which is a nonstop flight. I did this because I wanted to visit several countries in Europe; but I did not want to double back to Iceland just so that I could return to Atlanta, which would potentially have been more expensive in terms of both time and money.

The reason why this particular itinerary is called an open jaw is because that is how the itinerary is shaped…

Open jaw

Photographic illustration ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

…literally like an open jaw.

To book an open jaw itinerary, you could either simply book two separate flights one way — such as Atlanta to Reykjavik and then Lisbon to Atlanta — or use the Multi-city option in the booking engines of airlines or other tools which you may use to either research or book flight tickets.

A flight purchased inexpensively with either cash or points — or renting a car, traveling by train or bus, or using other modes of transportation — can fill in the space between the two points of an open jaw. For example, I flew as a passenger from Atlanta to Helsinki via Amsterdam last year and returned from Warsaw — which created an open jaw itinerary — but traveled from Helsinki to Warsaw via ship, bus, train and airplane to visit Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Minsk, Warsaw and Kraków.

That reminds me: I have more articles to write pertaining to my experiences on that trip — as well as other trips — from my massive backlog of trip reports yet to be written.

Click on the image for an enlarged view. Source: Google Flights.

Shown in the illustration above is an example of an open jaw itinerary being constructed using Google Flights.

Summary

Open jaw itineraries may not always save you money — in fact, sometimes they can actually be significantly more expensive than roundtrip itineraries — but they can almost always save you time by not backtracking to a destination to which you have already visited when you are traveling to multiple destinations.

All photographs ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

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