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Airfare option anxiety

I'm putting together an 16 day itinerary (two weeks plus two travel days) for a group of 4 to southern Germany around May 14-30 ish 2019, with flexibility on the exact dates. Flying out of Salt Lake City but open to the arrival airport (draft itinerary lands us in Frankfurt). I'd like to keep the flight under 17 hours and 2 stops or fewer if I can.

Here's my issue, I'm a novice flyer. I'm tech savvy but have only flown a handful of times, all direct and domestic (super straight forward). I'm finding looking at international flight totally baffling. It's not a small part of the budget so I really want to purchase wisely (to me that means cheaply). Here are some of the things I could use some pointers on:

  • open jaw v. round trip. I see the logic of landing in one city and flying out of another, but round trips seem to be consistently cheaper (by $200-$500 per ticket). The cost difference more than covers an extra train ticket or even hotel stay. What am I missing? We are staying in southern Germany so maybe round trip is okay since we're never getting too far from the originating airport?

  • Where to buy. Right now I'm using the Google tracking feature. Is it better from a consumer protection standpoint to purchase tickets directly from the airline? Or are the third party sites better for their prices? Which do you use?

  • traveler status. I hear about TSA prechecks, becoming a global traveler...I don't even know all the different clearances. Anything I need to worry about considering that I'll have travel companions and likely won't be traveling internationally frequently? (I'll be sure to have a valid passport and ID of course)

  • connections to a European carrier. It seems like this is a necessity. Will the connections built into my ticket allow for sufficient time? Will checked bags have to be claimed and re-go through security? I really don't know how that works. Pitfalls to watch out for?

  • I feel pretty comfortable with figuring out the rest of my itinerary, but I feel in the dark on airfare. I am trying to learn though! Is it worth it to consider recruiting the assistance of a travel agent? Am I just needlessly freaking myself out?

Feedback is much appreciated. Thanks in advance!

Posted by
18162 posts

Personally, I'd prefer to make my own decisions about flights rather than paying a travel agent. I figure it's my money and comfort at stake, and I know how much time I'm willing to spend in an effort to minimize the money and maximize the comfort. But I know we have at least one experienced poster here who likes to use travel agents.

Whom to buy from: All other things being about equal, I think we'd agree that it's best to buy from the airline flying the plane. The reason buying from a third party is sometimes not ideal is that if your flight is canceled or massively rescheduled, you'll usually have to work through the third party, not directly with the airline. However, sometimes the savings are so great that many of us would be tempted.

All third parties are not the same, however. Expedia, for example, is a reliable company. Places with names like CheapoAir, maybe not. So it would be good to ask on this forum before buying from a third party, to be sure there aren't any special concerns about the one you're looking at.

Another quirk is that when you're taking a code-share flight (KLM airplane, Delta flight number), sometimes buying from the US airline is a bit less expensive. The wrinkle here is that in some cases (not necessarily with KLM/Delta), you may run into a problem selecting your seats at the time of ticket purchase. Sometimes that can be done the next day, in which case it's not a big deal unless you want premium economy, business class, etc. Other times you may have to wait until you check in for the flight to choose your seats. I ran into that issue last year. If you do a bit of Googling you can sometime predict when problems like that will occur. It can apparently depend on how well the two airlines' computers talk to each other, or don't.

Multi-city flights usually save a traveler precious vacation time, but if you're covering a small area, a round-trip ticket may not waste much time. It's a matter of weighing the savings vs. the time you'll spend to return to the original airport. Sometimes this can be finessed by traveling right on to your farthest destination on your arrival day (when you're too jetlagged to accomplish much anyway), but that is dicey because of the timing. Who knows whether your flight will land on time? Will you speed right through Immigration, or will it take two hours? If you're moving on by train, will you just miss the transportation to the departure train station and have to wait? How long will that wait be? Because of all those uncertainties, it's difficult to know what time departure is safe for an onward train ticket (or flight if you need to fly), so many travelers end up not being comfortable heading straight to their farthest destination and have to do a longish return trip on the last full day of their vacation, making it a relatively useless day.

There are minimum connecting times for each airport for each type of flight. You should not be sold connections under those limits. That doesn't mean that experienced flyers are necessarily OK with the minimum connection times. What I do is look for the tightest connection I see through the airport for my routing and add an hour to it. I try very hard to avoid shorter connections than that. That number will vary with the airport where you're changing planes. It will be higher for London-Heathrow and Paris-Charles de Gaulle and lower for places like Dublin, Amsterdam and Munich (I think; I haven't doubled-checked that).

If you buy a through (single) ticket from SLC to Frankfurt that routes you via London, your bag should be checked all the way through. Always look at the baggage tag to be sure you see the correct airport code.

Be sure you're comparing comparable tickets. The new "Basic Economy" tickets do not cover a checked bag. That can add $60+ to the fare. US airlines often allow free seat selection; I'm not sure that applies in Basic Economy.

Posted by
2348 posts

When you have some possible flights, come back here and post before you book. Someone may find problems that you don't see.

Posted by
15763 posts

Checking matrix.itasoftware.com (part of google flights) I see round trip on May 13, returning May 30 for $1100. It is a Alaska/Condor with plane change in Seattle. Not sure if you buy the tickets from Alaska or Condor.

You can map out a circular route. Start somewhere near Frankfurt that you can reach on cheap and frequent regional trains. What are your ideas of places to visit?

Posted by
342 posts

acraven, what a thorough, informative response.

Posted by
637 posts

Hi Abby,

Planning a trip for a group is challenging, but can be fun. My answers to your questions also reflect that it is more challenging to deal with air issues with 4 people. I know that first hand when I had my trip from Rome delayed 12 hours and I had to scramble to get 6 people (4 of whom were flying on miles) a new flight.

  • Round trip versus Open Jaws. Round trip may be the least expensive option, but I recommend that you factor in the total costs of round trip to compare. These include: transportation back to the departure airport, any difference in hotel costs as you are likely going to need to spend the night near Frankfurt, opportunity cost in siteseeing as it typically takes 1/2 day out each time you change locations.
  • I use google flights to identify the best flight and then I typically book through the airlines. Others have had good luck with Expedia, etc., but I like to be able to go directly to the airline if I have a delay/issue.
  • TSA pre is not necessary if you don’t travel often. TSA is still giving out some TSA free access, but it is not guaranteed and not for everyone in your group. This past June, everyone in my group of 6 got it going over, but not on the domestic leg on the return. If you don’t have TSA pre, then allow plenty of time to get through security. Most international airports, including Frankfurt and Munich don’t have TSA-pre. Global Entry is nice, but not necessary if you don’t fly often. Note that if you get TSA pre or Global Entry and your travel companions don’t, they can’t go in your line.
  • Connections overall: do not do two connections if you can avoid it. Two connections increases the travel time and the risks for delayed flights, lost luggage, and burns your time/energy. If you book a ticket, it is easier for you to book a flight that has a code share. For example, I have booked tickets out of SFO on United and then changed to Lufthansa, but it was on the same ticket with a carrier code share. This allows for your luggage to be checked through and it is easier to get a flight changed than when you book seperate tickets on seperate airlines.
  • Connection time: even if the airline allows it, don’t book anything less than an 1 hour and ideally I book at least 1 hour 30 minutes. Because I fly out of SFO (which is always delayed), I try to have at least two hours between connections. Just because the airline allows you to book something it isn’t the best option. Also when you book, look at what your options are if you miss the connection. Is there another flight that day? If not, it is better to have a long layover in an airport than to miss the flight entirely and have to wait to the next day.

Other things to consider when booking airfare:

  • Does anyone in your group have any status at all on an airline? If so, you may be able to use that status to help defer some of the costs for things like baggage. Also, I used my status to get my group all upgrade to Economy Plus at no charge.
  • Does anyone in your group have travel perks through your credit cards (these can include status, checked bag fee coverage, lounge access). Check on the benefits of your cards in advance and see if they can help you with airfare.
  • Does the option you choose for your airline allow you to book seats in advance, if so, do so. Then before you leave (a week prior) and even 24 hours before confirm that they do not change your seats. They changed our plane out 24 hours before departure and messed up my seating plan. I spent 45 minutes on the phone with United getting all my economy plus seats back. Others traveling weren’t so lucky, the lady next to my husband in the middle seat got her seat bumped and by the time she found out about it all that was available was a middle seat.
  • Download the apps for the carriers you are traveling with on your phone, sign up for SMS messages to get informed of any delays/seat changes, etc.

Sandy

Posted by
4697 posts

First of all, try to avoid any connections in the US if possible. Delta has direct flights from SLC to Paris and probably other cities in Europe (haven't looked), I'd greatly prefer to change planes in Paris than in some US city and risk a missed connection that delays my trip. If you fly from SLC to Europe, you'll most likely arrive in the morning and have all day to get another flight if you are late and miss your connection.

As noted above: "Open Jaw" prices should be checked as "multi-city" not as two one-way flights. If you still find you can save a lot of money booking as a round-trip even taking into account a train ticket back to your original city (and another night's hotel?) plus have the extra time, go ahead and book the round trip. But if you have only a maximum number of nights for your trip, and booking as a round-trip means eating half a day or a full day of your whole travel days budget, maybe it's still worth paying the extra for an open-jaw ticket. There's no right answer here - weigh the options and decide for yourself.

I would check open jaw prices both ways (swap the incoming/outgoing cities) - see if one combination is cheaper than the other. Sometimes it is.

Always try to book directly with the airline on their website, if possible. Avoid booking with a third party travel website unless you are saving a TON of money.

FYI, you get a 24 hour "free cancellation" grace period after you book a flight to Europe, in case you change your mind or a better fare comes up to 24 hours after original purchase.

When you buy these tickets is kind of a personal preference. Some experienced travelers do book their tickets way ahead of time.
I would never buy tickets this early for next May, myself. Partly that's because I hate to commit to anything like an overseas trip until I have to. But, things can change, and you might not want to book so soon unless you are getting a great deal on a fare sale or something. Fare sales do happen. Hard to predict.

Posted by
901 posts

You have received much good info from unthread contributors, so I won’t add to their info. But, regarding your question about TSA Precheck and Global Entry —
Purchasing either cones with a fee. At times TSA Pre on any given flight is given to people seemingly at random , so you may receive this without paying extra. IMO never worth paying for. Global Entry, which is good for 5 years, comes with a $100 fee and requires an interview (which takes months to schedule), comes with automatic TSA pre-check, and also speeds your return through customs and immigration when returning to the USA. In my opinion, this is only helpful if you plan to travel overseas frequently. However, there is a an app, called mobile passport, available for no cost on your cell phone, which will also speed you through immigration on your return. For this reason, I would recommend that you download this on your cell phone and use it when you return. Only one person per family unit need download this app, as it covers all people residing at the same address.

Posted by
7 posts

What a great community, I can hardly keep up with the replies. Thank you

I'll definitely be purchasing a carrier code share type ticket. And keep my eye on the connection time. Checking on credit card benefits is a good idea too (I'd likely be the only one, but it's worth checking)

I thought I had been price checking open jaw via "multi-city" and found pretty significant saving with round options, but I can be mistaken. I will also consider extra travel and accommodation costs with round tickets.

Right now the itinerary is loopish to try and benefit from the round trip while not cutting too much into vacation time:

Arrive to Frankfurt (1 day - sleep, rent car)

  • Rhine (3 days)
  • Freighburg (4 days)
  • Lake of Konstanz (2 days... maybe)
  • Munich (3 days- drop car, get on train)
  • Nuremburg (2 days)
  • Frankfurt (fly home)

(If folks want to critique the itinerary you can- still very rough, but this post is mainly about airfare).

Good to know I don't have to book right away. I'm planning on booking in December but just want to get a feel for prices. The first time I ever flew I was randomly selected for TSA pre check. I didn't even understand what had happened to me, and I wondered why everyone complained so much about airport security. I learned better my next time around!

Thank you

Posted by
996 posts

Just adding (and I may have missed this in the above posts), that if you have TSA PreCheck it can save you time on all your domestic flights. I only fly a handful of times a year. When it works, it's great. When TSA seems to be in training mode at our local airport, it may take longer if you're one of the lucky ones randomly selected for additional screening.

Changing planes as part of an itinerary is not always stressful. It does require making sure that you have enough time to make your next flight. It also requires you to pack to your best interests. We always check one bag. Sometimes the bag doesn't make it on time. I always pack a spare shirt, spare underclothes, etc., in my carryon bag so that if the checked bag is delayed, I'm not totally required to spend my first day somewhere buying replacement items. If anyone in your group is checking luggage, suggest that they pack accordingly.

Posted by
2331 posts

There is much good advice above.

A couple of thoughts on flights:

  1. I've connected to my ultimate European destination through both US and European hubs and have not had trouble with either. I'm a loyal Delta guy and have enormous confidence in the company's ability to generally run on time. Having said that, I always book a 3 to 5 hour layover for connecting through a US airport (like Atlanta or JFK) to allow for a late-arriving flight at the hub. I would book a minimum of 2.5 to 3 hours for a layover at Amsterdam or Paris if traveling with infrequent travelers. My goal is to never run from gate to gate at an airport!
  2. If you fly on Delta from Salt Lake City through a European hub, I would recommend an itinerary through Amsterdam over one through Paris. The Amsterdam airport is easier to navigate and passport control is generally more efficient. Plus... Air France pilots (connecting flights), along with French air traffic controllers, like to strike and can disrupt travel plans.
  3. May 14-30 on Delta website: Round trip Frankfurt $1900. Open Jaw using Multi-City function Frankfurt/Munich $1889. I would expect fare sales to bring that price down -- check frequently -- they can be pretty random.
  4. As noted in a comment above, Condor does offer a SLC to Frankfurt itinerary via Seattle, using Alaskan Air to feed the Seattle flight. Right now, an itinerary that lets you choose seats is around $1475, which is quite a bit cheaper than the Delta flights.

Thoughts on Germany itinerary:

  1. Overall, I like it! I would consider going straight to the Rhine by train after arrival at Frankfurt airport to gain an extra day later for Lake Constance (aka "Bodensee" to German speakers).

  2. You can easily get by without a car if you choose to do so. Train connections between all your areas of interest are good, and public transportation within each area is good, too. Train travel after 9 am for small groups within a federal state is quite inexpensive on regional day tickets ("Länder Tickets").

  3. If you stay in most Black Forest towns other than Freiburg, you can take advantage of the Konus Card, which allows for free travel on regional trains and buses within the Black Forest. I stayed at Gengenbach.

  4. There are lots of towns to choose from on Bodensee. I stayed at Meersburg and liked it quite a bit. Lindau is also quite attractive (but lodging is somewhat expensive). Insel Mainau is a nice stop if you have flower lovers in your group.

Posted by
3514 posts

I typically fly with Delta and agree with trying to use Amsterdam for connecting flights over Paris. I like the airport better than Orly or CDG and I, too, am always worried about France and strikes.

I always book my own air. I'm not sure that travel agents have that much of an incentive or take the time to find the best options. Plus, I like to play around with my itinerary a bit. That said, if I am having difficulties or have questions, I call the airline. Often I get someone helpful. Sometimes they'll even book something complicated for me without charging me the fee. (Occasionally, I'm traveling with one or more family members, flying different itineraries and/or different payment methods--usually miles) If it turns out that there would be a booking fee, I thank them and then book online.

Usually when planning a trip, I use Expedia or Orbitz to get a general idea what my airline and flight options might be. Then I go to the specific airline websites. (I do the same with accommodations. I'll check a few websites to get an idea of pricing, etc., and then typically will book directly with the hotel/inn on their website)

I travel a fair amount and I do not have precheck, though at least a 1/3 of the time, I'm preassigned to the precheck line. About the only time I wished I had TSA precheck was when I was at Chicago O'Hare at 5pm on a Friday of a popular travel week. But, in all my travels, that was the only time we have used O'Hare.

When traveling, allow yourself ample time at the airport and when in doubt, ask questions. I err on the side of asking too many questions or what some people [often my kids ;) ] might consider to be "dumb" questions. As a result, I've never really had any mistakes with transportation when traveling and in general, I find almost always, people want to be friendly and helpful.

Posted by
5954 posts

We are staying in southern Germany so maybe round trip is okay since we're never getting too far from the originating airport?

I think this is right -- that you're okay simply flying into and out of Frankfurt with this itinerary (or something similar). Trains in Germany are excellent and reliable, so there would be no problem getting from Nuremberg back to Frankfurt for your departure flight. Someone who knows Germany better than I (that would be almost anybody!) could perhaps weigh in?

I think, with a two-hour train ride into Frankfurt Hbf, it would probably be preferable to go to Frankfurt the last night before your departure, but again someone can correct that.

You're already halfway there by thinking about all this and asking questions so far in advance -- this research will put you in a great position when it's time to buy. And people are really taking the time to provide you thorough, sound advice.

Sounds like a fun trip!

Posted by
2910 posts

A lot of people suggest open-jaw flights when they're starting in one part of the continent and ending in another. In your case, you're sticking to the lower half of Germany, and remember, Germany is like, the size of Montana. I see no reason to complicate and spend more money doing open jaw for this trip.

One thing to keep in mind, if you fly Lufthansa you can get an option called "rail and fly" when booking that gives you a high speed rail ticket for 30 euros for your day of arrival and departure. If you decide not to rent a car, this can be handy as it's a lot cheaper than a normal train ticket.

Also while I recommend Lake Constance (Bodensee), as not enough international tourists visit this gem, look into options of where to stay along Europe's second-largest lake. The city of Konstanz is fine but it's far from the most charming place on the lake. I prefer Lindau and Meersburg is also popular. Both are well known with German tourists so I suggest booking a hotel well in advance in either location.

Posted by
9215 posts

Understand that not all third party sites are the same. Booking.com acts like a travel agent. You pay the hotel.

Expedia is different. You buy from Expedia. If there is a problem you have to deal with Expedia directly and not the airline/hotel. One hotel I know has a couple of bunk bed rooms. If you book this hotel through Expedia you will probably get this room since they don't give you choice when booking.

Posted by
3151 posts

open jaw v. round trip. I see the logic of landing in one city and
flying out of another, but round trips seem to be consistently cheaper
(by $200-$500 per ticket). The cost difference more than covers an
extra train ticket or even hotel stay. What am I missing? We are
staying in southern Germany so maybe round trip is okay since we're
never getting too far from the originating airport?

Not sure how consistent that is. I will be flying open jaw JFK -- CDG, AMS -- JFK in a few weeks. When I bought my tickets on Delta which was last week, the open jaw was much cheaper than my original plan which was roundtrip between JFK and AMS. The cost savings was $95. Always check.

Posted by
2525 posts

As mentioned, round trip flights for Salt Lake City (code SLC) and Frankfurt (code FRA) can be had from Alaska/Condor with a change of planes in Seattle (code SEA). Airfares for dates that seem to work, are less than $1,100 per person plus any extras you may wish to purchase. Tickets are purchased via the Condor website...easy. The advantage is the ticket includes both airlines and not separate purchases. Buying separate tickets and when a hiccup happens, such as your first flight on airline X is delayed, thus missing your second flight on airline Y, that can be an expensive headache to cure.

Posted by
5010 posts

Lots of good advice above, I'll just add this: when choosing flights, be careful about becoming completely obsessed with one criteria to the exclusion of all others: price.

Sure, monetary cost is a consideration for everyone, but I see too many people who make it their only consideration, and then they come back complaining loudly about how horrible their flight experiences were. If all you care about is saving every penny, don't be surprised if you get flights that almost make you wish you had stayed home.

At least for me, in addition to financial cost, I factor in other costs: comfort (or lack thereof), efficiency (connections, routing, layovers), and other factors. Be very aware of what your ticket actually buys you - there are low-ball tickets on many airlines that do not include things that many people take for granted, ie a checked bag, a carry on bag, being able to pick your seat (any seat, window/aisle, etc.), never mind food or even water. Some charge extra for all these things, even for paying with a credit card or checking in at the airport. There are flights that you couldn't get me to take no matter how cheap it might be (or even if they paid me).

Bottom line: Don't be blinded entirely by an eye-popping low price - consider price and other factors before you buy any ticket, and be sure you understand what you're actually getting (and what you're not).

Good luck.

Posted by
11234 posts

You've gotten lots of great advice, but I want to emphasize - in bold - the single most important piece:

When you have some possible flights, come back here and post before you book. Someone may find problems that you don't see.

Many times, we see people ask questions about flights after they've bought them - and then it's too late.

As for connections, I think the key for reducing stress is to allow more time than you "need." Simply plan to have 1-3 hours to kill at your connecting airport, beyond the minimal recommended time. That way, if there's a snag, you still make your flight; if not, you have some time to read, shop, eat, or just rest.

Similarly with security, if you're not a frequent traveler, it doesn't pay to spend the money for TSA Precheck, Global Entry, Clear, etc. (I travel internationally twice a year, and I haven't gotten any of these yet). Just plan to get to the airport 2 hours before a domestic flight and 3 hours before an international one. Again, you'll probably have time to kill, but it's better than the alternatives of running and sweating, or missing your flight entirely.

I'm fond of the saying, "when dealing with airports, you can be stressed or bored. Choose bored."

As for particulars of what you have to do when changing planes at an airport, it depends on the specific flights as well as the airport. For instance, United and Lufthansa are in the same alliance, and often code-share flights. if changing your were to fly SLC to Newark to Frankfurt all on United, you don't go through security in Newark, because these are all in Terminal C. But if you were to fly United from SLC to Newark, then change to Lufthansa to fly from Newark to Frankfurt, you would have to go through security, because you would land in Terminal C but leave from Terminal B. It's not a big deal - unless you've booked a very tight connection.

Again, post any flights you're considering, and people familiar with the airports can give you details. Some airports have these details on their websites (Heathrow has a particularly good "connection tool"), but others do not.

Also note that when returning to the US, regardless of your final destination, route, etc, at your first US airport you have to go through immigration (passport control), then pick up all checked bags, then go through customs. Just outside the customs door, there is a "baggage recheck" desk, where you can deposit your checked bags. You then have to go through security to get to your next flight (you've left the "sterile" area). So, if connecting through the US on the way home, be sure to allow several hours at JFK, ATL, ORD, etc. This is another advantage of taking the Paris to SLC flight - you go through these formalities in SLC.

Posted by
632 posts

(I'll be sure to have a valid passport and ID of course)

Note that for most countries you have to have a passport that is valid for 6 months after your scheduled return flight

First of all, try to avoid any connections in the US if possible.

I'll echo this advice. If you first land somewhere in Europe and worst comes to worst as far as connecting flights (your incoming flight is delayed and there are no seats available on later flights that day) then you can take a train. And there are far more flights within Europe than across the Atlantic. If a weather cancellation or a plane issue happens on a connecting flight in the US then you have wait for the next flight out, an issue when hundreds of people have to be rescheduled.

Posted by
3514 posts

Regarding open jaw--They are nice in a lot of situations. But, they are often cost prohibitive for me. I typically am able to construct a loop. So for example on one of our trips to France. We flew in and out of Paris. We did Paris to Alsace to Burgundy to Loire to Paris. We had a car which makes things more flexible especially in big countries like Spain and France that have their trains set up as spokes. In many situations for example going from Alsace to Burgundy, you have to train back to Paris to get to Burgundy.

Posted by
137 posts

There's so much good advice here. I'm also facing airfare anxiety - last trip I booked too late to get the best flight for a decent cost, right now, I think I'm too early, so I'm checking it frequently. Also am considering the issue of open jaw vs round trip (SEA-Rome; Naples- SEA vs SEA-Rome; Rome-SEA) just factoring in the costs. Trains in Germany are usually very reliable; a rental car also is great when there are 4 of you - it depends on where you want to travel. We wanted to go back and visit parts of Austria and Bavaria where trains didn't run directly and involved buses/taxis, so it was less costly for four of us to rent a car. Just my two cents: I will never go through a third party to book airfare again. I booked airfare to/from Greece though a 3rd party, a flight was cancelled from Athens to NYC where I was to connect to SEA. The 3rd party re-booked my return flight from Athens with an invalid connect time of 45 minutes through JFK, then to Atlanta, then to Salt Lake City and then to Seattle. Once I started keeping track of time, I had spent over 5 hours on the phone trying to make it right. A travel agent gave me the magic words "invalid connect time" and found a flight from Athens to St.Paul/Minn, then to Seattle. I got a $50 voucher to use on my next trip through the 3rd party (as if). When I was planning a trip for 4 to Germany, we agreed to use a travel agent for our airfare and were pleased (I didn't want to face the wrath of the others if things went wrong). Normally, I book through the airline directly.

RE TSA Precheck: I fly about twice a year, often with lots of photography gear, laptop, tablet, etc. I also wear my heavy hiking shoes rather than pack them. I hate having to take all of my carefully packed lenses out of the neoprene cases, turning on the camera, the laptop, the tablet, the phone, taking out liquids, taking off the hiking shoes, jacket, watch, fitbit, walking on the floor in stocking feet where others have walked, especially in bare feet, (I have this thing about exposure of my feet to other people's feet ), going through the metal detector then the big x-ray, then getting massively patted down, then going back to the rollers to find my multiple bins, then struggling to safely repack all of the lenses, camera, laptop, tablet, phone, liquids, and shuffling to find a bench to retie my shoe laces that are dragging behind me while people are getting frustrated by the length of time I'm taking. So I LOVE TSA Precheck. It's worth the $85 for five years to avoid that hassle to me! I almost wished I had done Global entry for the extra $15; however, I've returned from two international flights this year where customs was accomplished at the departing European airport (Amsterdam and Dublin) and it was a breeze getting home and just picking up my checked bags - no waiting in lines, no pick up your bags, go through customs, return your bags, go to the next baggage carousel and pick up your bags. That said, the airline you are flying on has to participate in the TSA Precheck program. If they don't, no TSA Precheck for you. I fly mostly via Delta and they participate; sadly Aer Lingus, which has less expensive fares, does not.

Posted by
11929 posts

One issue with flying open-jaw is that the flight list does not display the prices for each flight offered. When you book RT, most airline booking forms will displY a range of possible flights for the outbound and in Lund flights, each with a price. And generally the lowest is automatically selected, but you should look at all of them as it may not be the best choice.

For a trip within southern Germany, a round-trip flight would be fine. And personally I would choose a Delta/KLM flight that goes directly from Salt Lake City to Amsterdam, changing there to a short flight to your German city of choice. Or you could fly Delta/Air France through Paris, but as noted above the Amsterdam airport is easier to negotiate.

On the flight home, having your plane change in Europe is not as important as it is on the outbound flight. So I would pick the most convenient departure time, not one at 7 am! Generally this will mean having your long-haul flight first, say Frankfurt to Atlanta, connecting there with a flight to SLC. I would be OK with that for the homeward flight.

Also consider David's suggestion of Condor from Seattle (or Portland) to Frankfurt. They are a low-cost carrier and the price may be $100s of dollars less than Delta/KLM ( which isaround $1800 for your dates). My son and his family flew over to Germany on Condor in Economy this past summer, and my husband and I flew home in Business Class. All of us were satisfied with the flight and the service. The planes were newly refurbished and comfortable, and the flights were smooth and on-time. The food in Business Class was fine; Economy less so but they said it was OK.

Alaska service from SLC to either Seattle or Portland to connect with Condor should be reliable, but I would like to have three hours between flights just to be sure.