Finding Cheap Flights to the 'Old Country'

Posted February 5, 2009 by Zak Patten

Romania-sighisora Back before international air travel could fit somewhat comfortably into most everyone's budget, immigrants to these shores rarely had the opportunity to return home, and the journeys they faced were long and arduous (steerage, anyone?). Today, despite the economy, recent immigrants make such trips annually, if not more often. And if you're interested in traveling abroad, you can use this to your advantage.

The trick is to find a city where there's a big population of relatively recent immigrants from your desired destination and then check flights departing from there. It's not a guarantee that fares will be lower, but the higher level of demand from all of the people regularly traveling back should translate into savings on your part.

For example, say you live in Boston (as I do) and want to visit India (as I have). There's definitely an Indian community in Boston, but apparently not enough to warrant an Indian airline taking up residence here. A much better bet is to head down I-95 to New York, where I can take a nonstop Air India flight to New Delhi or Mumbai. Other examples that come to mind are Chicago for destinations in Poland, Los Angeles for South Korea, and Boston for Ireland.

But how to get to the gateway city and then home again, without taking too many flights and spending too much money? In the case of India, if I want to be really frugal, I can hop on a bus to New York for little more than the cost of lunch. Obviously, if I fly, the cost to me will be higher, as will the possibility of delays and cancelations. Driving my own car brings a different set of charges, such as paying through the nose for airport parking. So remember that flights from immigrant cities are not always the cheapest way to get to the Old Country—but they just might save you a few bucks.

(Photo: iStockPhoto/Octavian Babusi)

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Reader Comments

I had never thought of that travel strategy. I vertainly would not mind a little more domestic travel to save hundreds on the international leg. Thank you so much for the tip!

Posted on February 06, 2009 at 03:26 PM by snarky_schnoodle

I never knew that! Is there a certain time of year that is historically cheaper for traveling to these destinations?

Posted on February 10, 2009 at 08:54 AM by Erin

Excellent question, Erin. I don't expect there's a one-size-fits-all answer, but that you would want to find out when shoulder season is in your desired destination so that you get the ideal combination of decent weather and lower prices.'s vacation guides are a great resource for when-to-go info.

Posted on February 10, 2009 at 09:17 AM by Zak

"Shoulder season" - I like that expression. I've always been a big fan of traveling during these time frames. My wife and I always seem to get the best deals in May/June and September-November. - Plus, fewer tourists wherever you go! :)

Posted on February 10, 2009 at 04:52 PM by Mark

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