We’re thrifty people. We like to stretch our dollar (or euro, quetzal, krona) as far as we can, yet still have good fun and adventure along the way. Saving money and finding deals is not always easy. It takes time, patience, and sometimes a willingness to scrutinize every possibility you can imagine. And even when you thought you found your perfect price, you still aren’t satisfied and continue to go back and recrunch and reanalyze. At least that’s been our experience.
In our years of booking flights online, we’ve come across a few ways that help us get the best possible cost and the most value for our money. Some are easy to implement and can be utilized right away, while others take a little extra time and work.
1. Know Your Airline Options. Go to the airport website that you’d like to fly into, and find out ALL of the airlines that fly in and out of that particular hub. Not all airlines are included in the flight search engines (expedia, kayak, travelocity, etc.), so you want to make sure you are aware of each and every option at hand. Also know that there may be more than one airport near your destination, so be sure to check them all.
2. Plan and Book Trips Early. When you book well in advance, I’m talking up to a year, you will save money, most of the time. In general, the closer you get to your trip, the higher the price (yes, crazy sales happen). So it’s smart to make travel plans far in advance, especially for high travel times like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Be aware of your family’s holiday schedule and plan according.
3. Research and Study Flights. Spend a few weeks researching the flight that you are interested in without any intention of actually booking, of course making sure that you are giving yourself plenty of time. Get familiar with the flight patterns and options. This will give you more confidence when it’s actually time to pull the trigger.
If possible, many say it’s important to clear your search history. Search engines get to know the flight you are interested in and searching for, and may increase the price when you go to look it up again. They do this to make you think need to book right away (for fear of the price going up even more).
4. Avoid Travel on Sundays. Unless it’s a holiday weekend (or Christmas happens to fall on a Sunday), everybody wants to fly to their destination on Sundays, so of course prices are going to be higher. If your schedule allows you to be flexible, fly on other days of the week.
5. Join Frequent Flier Programs. When ever you fly a particular airline, even if you think you’ll only fly with them once, it’s always smart to take the time to join their mileage program. Any chance to gain “miles” is an opportunity to save money later on down the road. If you have kids, make sure you sign them up for a their own account too! You are never too young to start accumulating miles and start saving, though most programs start at 2 years of age.
6. Be Smart when Utilizing Miles from Frequent Flier Programs. Once you start accumulating miles on frequent flyer programs, it can be tempting to get excited and book with “awards” right away. It’s important to step back and weigh your options first though. You want to get the most bang for your mileage buck. Be savvy and use your miles for bigger ticketed flights. We save our miles for cross-country trips, flights to Hawaii, and even international destinations.
With Alaska Airlines, we are also able to use miles to gain discounts on flights. For example, we can receive 50% off a flight if using a certain number of frequent flyer miles. We’ll often take this option instead of depleting our entire mileage bank on just one trip.
7. Consider a Linked Credit or Debit Card. This day and age, we’re using our credit and debit cards all the time, why not capitalize on that frequent usage and get a few rewards along the way? Research the card that works best for you and your lifestyle. Some cards even offer deeply discounted companion tickets so someone traveling with you gets to come along without a lot of extra cost.
8. Be Loyal. It can be tough to stay loyal with all of the amazing sales that seem to pop-up all over the place, but we’ve found that the more we travel with our chosen airline, the more benefits we receive. Obviously the miles accumulate much faster when you try to stick with one particular airline thus giving you more options to save.
Then if you’ve really worked hard (and flown quite a bit) you can reach a more elite status with that airline, and gain even more benefits and perks. Choose wisely though. Choose an airline that makes sense with where you live and the areas that you frequent.
9. Fly Non-Stop. When you only have one leg, you are making your travel less complicated and sometimes you can also save quite a bit of money. When we fly from our home on the west coast to family on the east coast, instead of flying to the smaller airport via a connecting flight, we make the larger airport our destination, rent a car, and drive the rest of the way. For example, we fly from Seattle to Atlanta, and instead of flying on to Charlotte (where family lives), we drive. In situations where we need to rent a car anyway, it’s more cost effective.
10. Check Back for Price Drops after Booking. Believe it or not many airlines will refund you the difference (in a credit for future travel) if the price of your flight drops after you’ve already booked. It pays to check back frequently, and often just requires a call to the airline on your part. Be careful though as some airlines do charge a fee in order to get the refund. This may help in deciding which airline to go with!
Do you use any of these ideas? How do you save on air travel?
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