One way to save money on flights is to add a stopover on the way to your destination. Rather than book a round-trip with one airline, you search for each leg of the flight yourself to find a cheaper route that includes a long layover. But this can be time consuming. CleverLayover does the work for you.
It's sometimes cheaper to book multiple-city flights with stopovers than it is to book a round-trip flight from Point A to Point B. For example, I once went on a trip from Rome to Santorini. It was cheaper to fly from Rome to Athens to Santorini, so I booked a multi-city trip with a long layover in Athens. Bonus: I got to explore an entirely different city.
Frugal travellers have been doing this for ages, but it takes time to search all the possible options for routes. You have to look at different airlines, different dates, and different cities. That's why a group of Harvard Business School students developed CleverLayover, a tool that does all this work for you.
You enter your origin, destination and travel dates, and the tool searches all of the flights that go through hundreds of airports around the world. The result: you get a handful of different route options that include layovers. CEO Phil Hu recently explained the idea of the site to Conde Nast Traveller:
Hu's analysis showed that combining tickets from non-partner airlines leads to cheaper airfare for 70 per cent of all routes worldwide. And when better deals are found, those savings average 20 per cent, or about $US400. (During its soft launch, the site has returned cheaper options on 33 per cent of all searches, with an average savings of $US300.) "If you look at flight search in general, there hasn't been a huge innovation in the industry since meta search," said Hu. "We built this search engine that's able to search the entire graph of all possible flights and find you the savings. And we do that based on several graph-search and machine-learning algorithms that are required. Because you can't just search a couple of thousand flights at once."
But let's say you miss a flight. Since you're not booking with the same airline for each leg of the trip, the airline isn't obligated to help you make your connecting flight with a different airline. Note this isn't a drawback of the tool as much as it is the method: if you found a multi-airline route yourself, it would be the same story. But to avoid this problem, CleverLayover includes a "protect against delays" option.
I tried the tool using an imaginary trip from Houston to Tokyo, travelling from July 31 to August 14. The cheapest round-trip, nonstop option I found on Google flight search was $US1976. But Google Flights also showed a round-trip ticket for only $US961 with a stop in China. Here are a few options I found with CleverLayover, though:
Prices are about $US60 cheaper, with longer layovers in China. You can hover over the grey bar, which indicates the layover, to see just how long each layover is. These routes don't show up in Google Flight's search because, again, CleverLayover has compiled routes that include different airlines. I also tested a route from Los Angeles to Tokyo, and the saving was about $US300, with stops in Vegas and Vancouver.
If you're a fan of the layover method for booking cheaper fares, or at least squeezing another destination out of a trip, this tool can make the process a lot easier. Check it out for yourself at the link below.