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Tuesday, February 7th 2023

"I'm a travel junkie who's hooked on deals from YYZ." - Chris Myden



2012
11
December
The Official Guide For Canadians Flying Out Of U.S. Airports (from Toronto & area)


This guide will attempt to encompass everything someone living in the Toronto area might want to know about flying out of U.S. airports.

If you see anything in this guide that looks incorrect, out of date, or could just simply be improved with better info, please don't hesitate to contact me and I'll fix / update it.

Flying out of Niagara Falls, NY (IAG)

How long of a drive is it?

According to Google Maps, Niagara Falls airport is about 90 minutes from Toronto (139 km each way). map link

Don't forget to account for border-crossing times in each direction. You can find estimated wait times online.
estimated wait times at U.S. border
estimated wait times at Canadian border

Tips:

- If you travel to the States a lot you may wish to get a NEXUS card for $50 (US) for 5 years and eliminate the line ups at borders and airports. [Info on how to apply for NEXUS]

Are there good deals to be had?

Niagara Falls is served by 2 airlines, Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines.

strengths:

Allegiant Air can have low prices to Florida (the only destination they fly to from IAG), while Spirit Airlines can have low prices to a few select U.S. cities (Las Vegas being the most popular choice). Spirit also flys to Central and South American destinations such as Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Peru). But you should also know that Spirit is generally considered the worst carrier in North America. Not in an unsafe way, just as low-frills and budget as it gets when it comes to comfort.

weaknesses:

It's a regional airport, so it's strengths are serving the relatively few destinations listed above, served by those two airlines. Also, when comparing costs, be aware that Allegiant and Spirit charge extra for absolutely *everything*, including even carry-on luggage now.

How much would I have to save for it to be worth the drive?

This is a tricky question, because the answer is different for everyone, based on the variables involved. But costs you should consider factoring into your comparison (besides the roundtrip flight price) include:

- extra fuel costs (how fuel efficient is your vehicle?)
- baggage costs
- parking your vehicle at the airport
- cost of hotel if it requires an overnight stay
- how much your time is worth
- extra vehicle depreciation

I've created an Excel spreadsheet to help calculate what the true savings are when flying out of Niagara Falls:
click here to download the spreadsheet in Excel format
or
try the U.S. Airports Savings Calculator via Google Docs

screenshot: (click to enlarge)

Go to the YYZ vs IAG worksheet and enter in a few variables to calculate what your true savings would be. Using common averages, I've found that if the flight from Niagara Falls is about $100/person less than a similar flight from Toronto, the average person is only breaking even.

In my opinion, when the flight from Niagara Falls is at least $200 less per person than the flight from Toronto, it becomes worth the drive. This is based on my calculations using average factors, and 2 people in a vehicle. You can see the example in the spreadsheet that was used to draw this conclusion.

How much is parking?

Parking is currently $12/day, or $60/week according to the Niagara Falls Airport website.

Is there any public transportation from Toronto to Niagara Falls (IAG) airport?

Greyhound.ca offers bus service to Niagara Falls Int'l Airport for $28 roundtrip, departing from Bay & Dundas.

Update Jan 20, 2015: It appears that Greyhound no longer offers bus service from Toronto to Niagara Falls airport.

Links

Niagara Falls Airport Website


Flying out of Buffalo, NY (BUF)

How long of a drive is it?

According to Google Maps, Buffalo airport is just under 2 hours from Toronto (175 km each way). map link

Don't forget to account for border-crossing times in each direction. You can find estimated wait times online.
estimated wait times at U.S. border
estimated wait times at Canadian border

Tips:

- Some have found that passing through the border at Fort Erie (Peace Bridge) may involve a slightly longer drive (15-20 min) but can save more than this amount of time at the border. [map link]

- If you take the Queenston / Lewiston bridge, have USD with you (specifically, $1 bills) because there is a toll on the 190 and they don't take CDN.

- If you travel to the States a lot you may wish to get a NEXUS card for $50 (US) for 5 years and eliminate the line ups at borders and airports. [Info on how to apply for NEXUS]

Are there good deals to be had?

Buffalo is a major U.S. airport, with practically every airline you can think of. There have been some truly amazing deals out of Buffalo in the past, notably to international destinations.

strengths:

Being a relatively large U.S. airport, with so many airlines serving it, the chances of a great deal out of BUF are high. It's usually a question of whether the price differential is great enough to warrant the approximately 2 hour drive each way.

How much would I have to save for it to be worth the drive?

This is a tricky question, because the answer is different for everyone, based on the variables involved. But costs you should consider factoring into your comparison (besides the roundtrip flight price) include:

- extra fuel costs (how fuel efficient is your vehicle?)
- baggage costs
- parking your vehicle at the airport
- cost of hotel if it requires an overnight stay
- how much your time is worth
- extra vehicle depreciation

I've created an Excel spreadsheet to help calculate what the true savings are when flying out of Buffalo:
click here to download the spreadsheet in Excel format
or
try the U.S. Airports Savings Calculator via Google Docs

screenshot: (click to enlarge)

If you've downloaded the Excel file, please note that you will need to switch to the YYZ vs BUF worksheet at the bottom of Excel.

Go to the YYZ vs BUF worksheet and enter in a few variables to calculate what your true savings would be. Using common averages, I've found that if the flight from Buffalo is about $125/person less than the flight from Toronto, the average person is only breaking even.

In my opinion, when the flight from Buffalo is at least $225 less per person than the flight from Toronto, it becomes worth the drive. This is based on my calculations using average factors, and 2 people in a vehicle. You can see the example in the spreadsheet that was used to draw this conclusion.

How much is parking?

Parking is currently around $11/day, $55/week at Buffalo Airport. There's a coupon on their page to save a whopping $1/day.

According to ParkRideFly off-airport parking ranges from $7 to $8 per day.

Is there any public transportation from Toronto to Buffalo airport?

Greyhound offers bus service for $28 roundtrip

MegaBus offers bus service for about $20 roundtrip. Occasionally in the past they've offered crazy $1 fare promotions. Booking through the U.S. site is cheaper than booking through the Canadian site.

Links

Buffalo Airport Website


Other Airports

Rochester, NY

(ROC) - 2 hours, 45 min drive from Toronto. Airlines flying out of this airport are fairly identical to the ones flying out of Buffalo, so I can't see any real advantage or reason to include it in this guide. I've also never seen a deal out of Rochester that wasn't available out of BUF or IAG. If someone thinks I'm wrong for not including this airport in the guide, please let me know.

Detroit, MI

(DTW) - 4 hours drive from Toronto. Again, the airlines serving DTW are fairly identical to the airlines serving BUF. However, I have seen some really insane deals out of DTW in the past that weren't available out of BUF. The trouble of course, is that 4 hour drive! I've included Detroit in the spreadsheet, and calculated that the flight would need to be about at least $400/person cheaper to be worth the drive. So if it's a really, really insane deal, not available out of a closer U.S. airport, DTW can be worth a look.

See Something Wrong?

If you see anything in this guide that looks incorrect, out of date, or could just simply be improved with better info, please don't hesitate to contact me and I'll fix / update it.









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