I travel. A lot. And I don’t regret that for a moment. But what does get old is people judging me because they think I can’t afford it. Asking is fine, but don’t make assumptions. That’s one of the main reasons I started this blog – to share my ideas on how I actually do afford to travel, and to travel as often and as much as I do. My biggest upcoming trip is for my husband’s and my first anniversary. We are spending 10 days in Europe – Paris, Munich, and Prague. The biggest obstacle to booking this trip was getting decent flights, so today’s Wanderlust Wednesday is focusing on just that – how to get the best flight deals (from my personal experience).
- Be flexible!
If you don’t read much further, at least read this. The best way to get deals on flights is to be flexible. Most travel search engines allow you to be flexible with your travel dates, so choose the +/- departure and arrival date functions to see if you can save money by leaving a day earlier or later. This can sometimes save HUNDREDS of dollars.
- Fly on weekdays and fly off-peak.
This one is pretty common knowledge. Weekends and holidays are jam-packed with travelers. Because of the increase in demand, there is an increase in prices. If you can manage, fly out on a Friday and return on a Monday or Tuesday. You’ll save heaps of money. Also, avoid school holidays. Because teachers and children don’t have school for February break and April break, travel prices double and sometimes triple during those weeks. If you aren’t a public school teacher and you don’t have small children in school, don’t travel then! Destinations will be packed anyway, on top of the over-priced flights and hotels.
- Fly EXACTLY ON a holiday.
Most people don’t want to spend the actual holiday traveling; they want to spend that day with their family and friends. Most travel arrangements are made for before and after the specific date for that exact reason. But if you can adjust your celebration plans, or if you don’t share those celebrations, fly on the actual date of a holiday. Because so few people want to, you’ll be able to save some cash.
- Check other local airports.
Depending on where you live, it may be significantly cheaper to fly out of an airport that’s an hour away from home versus your regular airport. Again, flight search engines give you that option now, so you can choose a few of the closest airports to you to see if that can save you some money. If you have a friend or family member to help you get to that airport, even better! You save money and get some quality time with them along the drive. 🙂
- Break up the trip.
This is my best example, by far. When I was first booking my flights to Paris, it was around $1,000 USD to fly from Syracuse to Charles de Gaulle. I did a lot of search modifications, but nothing helped enough. So, I decide to break up my trip. I booked two separate flights – one from SYR to JFK and a second from JFK to CDG. Combined, the two flights came to less than $250 USD. A quarter of the price! So before you go booking any long flights with connections, particularly international, check to see if you can break up the flights at one of the layovers. You can save a ton!
*Be careful to give yourself enough time at the connecting airport in case you need to collect bags and go through security before checking in for your next flight. If it’s international, consider the amount of time it may take to go through customs as well.
- Book two one-way trips.
For reasons similar to #5, you may be able to find better deals by booking two separate one-way trips than you can find for a roundtrip itinerary. Sometimes that may be using two different airlines or different airports; whatever the reason, you can save money! (Kayak.com likes to call these “hacker fares” and will include them in your searches by default.)
A few other general pieces of advice on booking flights:
- Weigh your pros and cons. If you take a flight back a day later than planned or leave a day earlier, remember that you will need to pay for an additional night at a hotel. Though, in my opinion, it’s almost always worth it!
- Set up travel alerts. Kayak and Google both offer great alert systems for flight searches and will send you emails when they notice a good deal on a flight you have researched.
- Research your ground transportation options. With the new wave of ride share programs, we have so many more options available to us. But choose carefully and check the following situations to see what works best for you.
a. Does your hotel offer a free airport shuttle?
b. Is there a shuttle bus that goes to several local hotels? (This is cheaper than paying for individual taxis.)
c. Are there extra fees for Uber and Lyft drivers? (When New York first got Uber, it was not allowed to be used at the Syracuse airport until an agreement was made. At Reagan airport in Washington DC, Uber and Lyft fares incur an additional charge. These restrictions are put into place so the taxi drivers aren’t run out of their businesses. It’s best to be informed.)
- Be careful of hidden fees. With so many budget airlines fighting for your business, make sure you know what you’re getting for with your flight purchase. Sometimes the flight price is too good to be true because it is! Certain airlines now charge for checked luggage, seat selection, meals, and some even charge for carry-on! Know what you’re getting for your money.
My favorite flight search engines:
Why? You can save your flight searches in folders by trip. And add specific flights to your watchlist. You can set up alerts for great flight deals on any flights with the given parameters you set up – flights at any time from a particular airport for example.
- Google Flights
Why? One of my favorite features with Google Flights is that you can choose your starting airport and a departure date, then look at a world map and see the costs to fly to any destination. It’s an easy way to look at lots of options if you’re flexible with your destination.
I hope this information has helped you and perhaps inspired you to book your next flight! I hope it’s somewhere wonderful.