View Full Version : Flying out of Syracuse vs. Ottawa - Pros and Cons

08-16-2011, 04:57 PM
For our upcoming March 2012 trip, we've been looking at the Westjet prices for direct flights from Ottawa and they're not looking too good. For our family of three, it looks like it's going to be somewhere in the $2500 neighborhood. From Syracuse though the prices are more in the $1200 range. It might be worth $500 - $600 for the convenience of flying out of our 'home' airport... but $1300?

As we try to decide on one vs. the other, I've tried to come up with a list of Pros and Cons. Have I missed anything?



- 20 minutes from home
- If the flight is cancelled, we can go home to wait for the next one
- If we wait, Westjet (or Air Canada) might have a seat sale which would narrow the price gap.


- Price - Seems to be at least double for our family of 3.
- $100 - $150 to park at the airport
- More time lining up / waiting in the airport (international flight)



- Price - Seems to be about half as much for our family of 3.
- Less time in the airport (domestic flight)
- Check in for our return flight at the resort! (domestic flight)
- If we do it now, it's done... We can book our car rental and finalize our hotel reservations and there's no more thinking about it and waiting for seat sales.


- 3.5 hour drive from home... in March (snowstorms are possible)
- We'll regret not being home when we land on the return trip and are driving for 3.5 hours.
- ~$200 for a hotel the night before the flight (park and fly package). May not be required depending on which flights we choose.
- ~$50 for a tank of gas to drive there
- Possible waits at the border crossing (would likely be going through late in the night both times though)
- If our bags didn't arrive on our flight back... that could cause problems.
- There might be a Westjet seat sale.

Any advice or opinions would be greatly appreciated.


08-16-2011, 06:24 PM
Honestly, if I'm travelling to a destination in the US I always fly from the US. Airport taxes are less, it costs an arm and a leg to cross the boarder by air, and the boarder crossing is less of a hassle by car. Personally I wouldn't cross the border by car just to double back by air, as your example shows it can often be double the price.

My two cents are: Fly Syracuse and spend the savings on upgrading tickets, dining plan, tours or souvenirs.

08-16-2011, 07:35 PM
Syracuse is a great little airport! It has been our airport of preference for flying to WDW for the last 20 years! In fact DS and his family, including in-laws (9 adults 2 children) flew out this morning for a weeks vacation! They all drove down to SYR around 2 am for their 7 am flight! Everyone was too excited to sleep! His flight left right on time and I am sure he is enjoying the villa pool at WH right now.
I am also taking the same flight down to WDW in 4 weeks on a girls trip and am really looking forward to it.

Don't forget to add to the pros that you cross customs at the border, are able to purchase duty free merchandise and can also purchase groceries and do a little cross-border shopping on your way back!

Yes, you can drive through some snow in March, but NY state snow removal crews are experts at keeping 81 N open! In fact, we drove through worse weather last January from Pearson airport when we returned from Australia! 401 snow removal is hit or miss most days!

Try it and I am sure you will be a convert! :lovestruc

08-16-2011, 10:08 PM
Well it is possible to get flights from ottawa for less.. closer to $1200 for the three of you.. the but they most likely will not be direct. You could also wait to purchase your syracuse flights as this is really early and they too are bound to have a sale. I would figure that you could get a lower priced hotel in syracuse .. $200 seems awfully high, even with a park and fly deal.
Your other option from Ottawa is to go to Plattsburgh with Allegiant or direct air.. very cheap, but they do not go to MCO, so that is a factor if you had not planned on renting a car.
Regardless I think it is way too early to buy for next March

08-16-2011, 10:10 PM
Another option is Plattsburgh NY-also a 3 hour drive from ottawa. We flew from there last fall and had a great experience.

2 airlines flying to Orlando area (one to Orlando Sanford and one to Lakeland)
Amazing prices can be found (I think we paid less than $150CDN per person taxes in)
Tiny airport with cheap parking (it had free parking until recently)
Avoiding MCO

Smaller airlines with limited flights. If theres problems you may be delayed a day
You'll have to rent a car since you don't fly into MCO

08-16-2011, 10:56 PM
- If we wait, Westjet (or Air Canada) might have a seat sale which would narrow the price gap.

- There might be a Westjet seat sale.

Any advice or opinions would be greatly appreciated.


Opinion: :lmao::lmao::lmao:

Reality check: I am assuming by March, you are referring to March break? There will be no seat sales on Westjet or AC out of Ottawa. That is the one of the busiest weeks of the year for Ontario departures; there are no deals in Ontario. DW is a teacher, so we always fly March break. We also like to fly direct to avoid the weather issue and transfers. March break is too short to risk a snowstorm, missed connection, or waste a day making connections in far away airports. We usually purchase airfare as soon as it is released for March break, before they can start marking it up as the demand curve rises.

Actually, this year we are going to Cabo (first non-Disney March break in 4 years). We booked air this past week and got what was probably the last economy seat on the Toronto flight (business class was still available for around $6k return for 2); we almost waited too long!

Good luck with your decision, but if you decide to fly from Ottawa, don't wait to make the booking!

08-17-2011, 12:02 AM
we always go to Syracuse from Gatineau. It's so much better to not have to worry about customs when going to the airport. I have found that jetblue always have seat sales and IMO is the best airline out there at the moment. For our trip next week, the cheapest I could find from Ottawa was $530 each while from Syracuse it was $214.

08-17-2011, 08:25 AM
Another possible advantage of Syracuse and/or Plattsburgh is that their March Break often doesn't line up with ours, so their high-demand March week isn't the same as ours. Thus possibly better fares.

08-17-2011, 05:20 PM
Another vote for trying Plattsburg to Lakeland. We are doing it in January - direct flight at 2:30 PM so no need for park and fly hotel, cheap parking and very cheap Direct Air flights. They are around $150 pp. Lakeland has car rentals there and I am really excited about flying from small airport to small airport and avoiding MCO. Plattsburg is about 45 minutes directly south of Montreal and easy to get to.

08-19-2011, 11:06 AM
Thanks for all of the responses. I think we've pretty much decided on going with Jet Blue out of Syracuse. Our trip is at March Break, but we have enough flexibility to leave a couple of days early and come back a couple of days late. I've always wanted to try out Syracuse. Maybe I'll be a convert like lots of others I've read about. Fingers crossed for no snow storms!

I did look into the Plattsburg option with Allegiant out of Plattsburg, but they're only accepting bookings up to Feb 14th right now and I'd kinda like to get this done.

Thanks again.

Josh Hendy
08-19-2011, 09:44 PM
It's a lot longer drive, but we actually flew out of Philadelphia (PHL) in late July/early August. We took 2 very easy days to drive down. DW and DDs did a ton of shopping at Carousel Center in Syracuse where we spent the night. This stuff spent the rest of the trip in the trunk of the car which was more convenient than bringing it on the plane.

We saved almost half by flying out of PHL, and also the flights were at much more convenient times and of much shorter duration than the cheapest flights we could find out of YOW. On the way down it was a direct flight, on the way back a very short stop at Charlotte. We couldn't find any really cheap flights at SYR, ROC or the other airports closer to Ottawa.

If we had flown from Ottawa, the only cheap flight (which was almost twice the price of flying out of PHL) got into MCO at 12:30am which would basically ruin the next day's touring plan 'cause there's no way we could have got to park opening at 8:45 am. We would have had to fly out of MCO at some ungodly hour like 6:00 am, something really ridiculous.

I forget what the parking cost at PHL but I think it was a bit more expensive than at SYR or ROC. The lot is really huge, packed and far from the terminal but the free buses run frequently. There seem to be several private lots near the airport (I saw their shuttles) and I'll bet these are cheaper than the official lot and maybe have better security too. We didn't get robbed BTW. ;)

On the way home we arrived back at PHL at 12:30 pm, ate lunch at the airport and hit the road by 1:30 pm, rolling into our driveway just before 11 pm. I didn't find the driving too taxing at all, just had a couple of extra coffees on the way and lots of chatter to keep me alert.

Highway I-81 in NY and PA is a pretty good quality road, better than Ontario 416 or 401, although hilly from the PA border to Clarks Summit where you exit. In Pennsylvania, highway I-476 a.k.a. PA Turnpike Northeast Extension is a bit worse than the 401 with narrow medians and narrow shoulders, and heavy traffic as you get close to PHL. It reminds me of driving the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto. Avoiding weekday rush hour is definitely recommended.

A snowstorm in March would be a drag, but if you allowed 2 days to drive to PHL then you could easily do most or all of the driving on whichever day has no snow forecast.

As others pointed out, you can fill up with gas, groceries, liquor (up to a 40 oz bottle per adult) etc. before you cross back into Canada, so you might possibly save enough on these items to make up for the extra cost of gas and hotel ... if you even need a hotel.

One other really great thing you can do is order stuff online before your trip and pick it up at the UPS store in Ogdensburg on the way down or the way back. The savings by ordering from (for example) amazon.com compared to amazon.ca can be HUUUUGGGGGGE. :rotfl: Just make sure you the delivery dates line up with your travel dates, and that the UPS store will be open when you pass through.

08-22-2011, 08:13 AM
I too am trying to figure out the best way to travel from Ottawa to Orlando for our family of 5 .... thanks for this post!

08-22-2011, 06:40 PM
I did look into the Plattsburg option with Allegiant out of Plattsburg, but they're only accepting bookings up to Feb 14th right now and I'd kinda like to get this done.

Thanks again.
It is Direct Air from Plattsburg I was referring to with the deals, not Allegiant.

08-22-2011, 07:46 PM
Great info. I'm on the hunt too. Just crazy what AC and Westjet want. I'll be looking into Direct Air or Allegiant. Thanks all.

08-23-2011, 08:00 AM
Have done it both ways over the years. We live in Pembroke, so it is about 2 hours to YOW and about 4 and 1/2 to SYR. We go in January-February, so the weather can be an issue. We have also flown out of YYZ a few times. It's about the same distance as driving to SYR.

About the only thing Ottawa has going for it over Syracuse is the driving distance to the airport, but that is a considerable advantage in winter.

Otherwise, I would take Syracuse... crossing the border by car, better and cheaper airport parking, efficient airport, TSA quick and reasonable, very good airline, curbside check-in available with jetBlue, decent hotels close by for about $120.00 a night, domestic flight helps with Magical Express return flight, immediate seat selection with jetBlue.

Westjet's prices are quite high. We usuallly have between 6 and 10 family members and friends traveling together, so the savings gained from flying out of SYR can be susbstantial. And now they have changed their winter departure time on the one direct flight from YOW to MCO...it doesn't leave Ottawa til about 5:30 p.m. So you get into Orlando at about 8:40 and to your Disney hotel at about 10:00 or later. With small children, this does not work for our group. By contrast, jetBlue has two daily non-stop flights from SYR to MCO and back, with better arrival times for us.

Right now, I am looking for flights again. We are going to WDW for 10 days, end of January. Our daughters asked me to try for an Ottawa departure because they are tired of the drive to and from Syracuse with little children. But they quickly added that they are willing to fly out of SYR again, if we can't get a decent price on a direct flight out of Ottawa.

My guess is we will be flying jetBlue out of SYR again.

Good luck with your trip plans.