July 20, 2008

Flying From Tijuana Can Cut Costs

By Matt Wrye

Thinking about vacationing along the coast of Mexico?

Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Playa Del Carmen - they're all yours for a $400-to-$700 plane ticket from LA/Ontario International Airport.

It's a tolerable price for a journey into paradise, some say.

But with rising food and energy costs eroding Inland Empire residents' monthly budgets, many of them are reverting to an old trick used by long-time savvy Mexico tourists: flying from Tijuana.

That city south of the border is drawing Southern Californians who don't mind driving three hours before hopping on a plane.

It's about 130 miles one way, or $20 to $35 in gas, depending on the vehicle you take.

"It was double the price to fly from Ontario," said Mayra Guzman of Pomona.

The group Guzman traveled with to Cabo San Lucas may have split $40 for gas and $100 for Tijuana Airport parking expenses, but she and her friends saved more than $200 on each of their Volaris airline tickets they bought off the airline's Web site.

"It's not that much of a hassle," she said. "The airport is right there. It's a 15-minute drive from the border."

Guzman's gone to Cabo from Tijuana twice, and she'll do it again this Thanksgiving.

Not everyone is this adventurous, but who wouldn't want to save a few hundred bucks?

"It's not a new concept," said Peter Belobaba, program manager of the Global Airline Industry Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Over the past decade, Southern Californians are joining an increasing group of vacationers who go the extra mile to save money on air travel, Belobaba said.

Domestic travelers headed for Boston often fly into Manchester, N.H., or Providence, R.I., then hitch a ride from there, and Canadian tourists on their way to Florida are known to catch flights out of Burlington, Vt.

"I'm not entirely convinced they fully comprehend the total expenditure they're incurring when they choose to drive two or three hours extra, endure the border crossing, and pay for parking," he said about Inland Empire residents. "It's an interesting consumer decision."

Redlands resident Kelly Bowden was skeptical about whether to join her co-workers on their excursion to Cabo San Lucas last month.

That changed.

"I wouldn't hesitate to leave my car at the (Tijuana) airport," she said.

She didn't have to this time around. Bowden's hotel, the Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter, referred her group to several Mexican taxi services, which she ended up using.

And it didn't hurt saving $530 by not flying out of Los Angeles International Airport. She, too, purchased her ticket from Volaris online.

"I was apprehensive, but it turned out to be a good experience," Bowden said.

Belobaba says a long drive to a distant airport isn't the best way to start a vacation.

"But for taking a husband, wife and kids on a trip, a hundred dollars less on each ticket can add up quickly," he said. "They'll make that extra effort and find a cheaper way to get down to the sun."

Price difference

$393.49 Round-trip ticket on Volaris from Tijuana Airport to Los Cabos Mexico International Airport, departing at 12:35 p.m., and return flight departing at 9 p.m.

$626 Round-trip ticket on US Airways from L.A./Ontario International Airport to Los Cabos Mexico International Airport, departing at 12:40 p.m., and return flight departing at 7:20 p.m.

- www.cheaptickets.com

(c) 2008 Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.