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How to Plan a Layover in Vancouver for Cheap (San Francisco to Montreal)?

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Anybody who have worked in travel agencies or have extensive experience booking flights in North America, can you help me out?

I am trying to find the cheapest way to go from San Francisco (Or any other major California city) to Montreal via Vancouver in May. I was once told that if I have a ticket west coast-east coast or vice versa that goes through Vancouver, I can simply just change my layover from whatever amount of time (1h, 3h, 7h, whatever) to how ever many amount of days (like a week or two weeks later) without additional costs. I have done that once 4 years ago but don’t know if I can still do that or with which airline.

I was also wondering, if I have a flight ticket west coast to east coast with a layover any other city (like Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Atlanta, whatever), I can have it go through Vancouver either for free or for a very small fee.

Anybody knows anything about this? With who I can do this? How?

I have tried using my usual tools (Skyscanner and Google Flights but doing a multi-city purchase is not the solution, it drives the costs up like crazy).

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