I’m a firm believer in “you get what you pay for” and this is especially true (most of the time) with flights/airlines. However, there are times when you just want to get away and it’s all about the budget – who am I kidding, when isn’t it all about the budget?
So while for some, surfing the net or binge watching Netflix is a guilty pleasure – mine is pricing out trips. It may sound a little crazy but there’s nothing I enjoy more than researching destinations and then figuring out the cheapest way I can get there without sacrificing the overall quality of the trip. I’ve learned the hard way that the accommodation portion of the trip is not somewhere to skimp (barricading the hotel room door and sleeping with ear plugs and a pillow over my head to drown out the neighbours and/or sirens) is not my idea of a good time. So that leaves transportation, which can fluctuate greatly. Here are some things I learned:
- low cost carriers aren’t that bad – now this statement obviously is not going to be of the same opinion of someone that has had a bad experience, however we do a lot of flying – and “knock on wood” we have always made it to where we needed to be. Yes we have been delayed, yes we have been “nickled and dimed” and yes we have been quite crammed together in our seats, but for some of the deals that you can get, it’s a risk that we are willing to take. For example, I just booked non stop flights to Dallas for $53 each way, and we have also flown to New York, Boston and Florida for less than $30 each way. I think that as we have seen in the news so much recently that there are no guarantees on any airline anymore, (and thankfully we have never been punched or dragged off of a plane.) 😉
- check constantly – it used to be said that you will get the best prices by buying in the middle of the week, but my experience is that it basically comes down to supply and demand – this is especially true around popular times to travel like the holidays or Spring Break. Flight prices can change hourly, you can drive yourself crazy, so once you have found a price you are good with – book it and don’t check again – there’s nothing more annoying than buying your tickets and then looking the next day and seeing that they are $100 less (which happens quite often.) If you don’t have the time to stalk the airline sites, apps like “hopper” or “airfare watchdog” will do the stalking for you and alert you of price drops.
- change your date – many times you have no choice on when you are travelling but if you can be a little flexible you could possibly save yourself a great deal. Another example, when booking our March Break flights the prices were crazy going Saturday – Saturday, but by leaving on the Monday or Tuesday the prices were drastically cheaper.
- log out – now I know many that think that I am a conspiracy theorist but I can honestly tell you that from my experience, if there’s a flight that I’m watching over time, it’s almost as though the airline knows I want it. This just happened to me last night as a matter of fact, I needed three seats – if I punched in “2 seats” they were $53 each and when I punched in “3 seats” they were $119 each. So what did I do? I bought the 2 seats at $53, I checked back again and another single seat was $119, once I logged out and went back in for a single seat, wouldn’t you know it – it was $53. So conspiracy theory or not, prices fluctuate and it definitely can be a gamble.
- another tip I often use is using Kayak, this travel related search engine will compare several different airlines and give you times and prices – all you have to do is punch in your dates and destination – this is very helpful when comparing your options.
- change your airport – obviously this will not always be an option but if you have the ability to drive to a different airport, there is a possibility of saving some money. For example, though the Detroit airport is much closer for me to get to, I can sometimes save a large amount of money flying out of Toronto (which is a 3+ hour drive) – this is especially true for European flights. Do I really want to drive to Toronto to catch a flight? Not really, but I have saved more than $400 per flight in the past so that makes it worth it to me.
- Connections – depending on where you are going and whether you have the time, connections aren’t that bad. Yes, it can be stressful worrying if your first flight is running late, but if there is enough time between the two and there is not a really important reason for being there at that specific time (ex. cruise leaving, a wedding or important event) than booking a flight with a connection can be another way to save money.
- wait for the “window” – it has been said that the best time to purchase a flight is around the six week mark. I have experienced this to be true many times, but in all honesty I have also had this backfire on me. My best advice regarding when to purchase a flight is when you find a price you are o.k. with just buy it. If, however it’s a flight that you can take or leave, you could wait it out but be prepared – you could get a great deal (or it could double in price). Like everything in the airline industry – it’s a bit of a gamble.
- Airmiles – I’m not sure about the U.S.A., but usually it’s not that great of a deal to redeem your air miles for flights (at least not in Canada). I have found that in most cases, the taxes you are charged end up costing close to what you would have paid on your own without redeeming your miles – so like everything else in the travel industry – do your homework, especially on flight prices before cashing in your hard earned miles. Note: in my opinion, the Airmiles program has really gone downhill and the best value for your miles is the “cash redemption” on gas, groceries or Cineplex.