10 Ways to Save Money When Flying
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Nov 3, 2012

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10 Ways to Save Money When Flying

Christmas is upon us, it is the season of vacations. Since gas prices are on the rise again, finding last minute travel escapes within your budget can be tricky. Deciding how to get to your destination can be as important as where to go, with regards to cost and saving money

It used to be a given that driving was always the cheapest way to get from point A to point B, but with gas prices between $3.30 and $5.00 a gallon, it’s not always the least expensive route. So how to find the best airline prices, when you decide to fly? 


Find the best airfares

General tips for finding the best airfares, include booking late Tuesday or Wednesday morning. The idea behind this is that people who book their flights over the weekend, but don't pay within the 24 hour period required, leaving these seats and their discounted prices available to be purchased. When I am looking for a flight I will watch the rates for several days so I know what a good fare is when I find it.

Flying on off day and off times 

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are off peak days and flying midday instead of first thing in the morning can result in reduced prices. Fortunately most airline sites and sites like Kayak show you the flights during the day to be compared. Most sites also let you check flights over a period of a few days so you can select the best day to leave. Flying during the off season, or shoulder season of your destination can also reduce rates by as much as half.

Looking at alternate hubs


 Leaving from less popular airports can result in big fare savings, sometimes. Once I drove an hour to the next city and flew back through my home airport but saved nearly $200 in flight costs.

Don't rely solely on consolidator sites like Expedia

I always start my search with Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak etc. Whichever is your favorite site. I generally try them all but the reality is they usually have the same fares and the same airlines. I have tried wholesale consolidator sites that promise the lowest flights but have not seen any major savings with them. I booked a flight for my daughter to Korea last summer through a wholesale consolidator and the service was terrible. We had flight troubles (canceled flights and trouble re-booking) both ways through United and got zero customer service from United and the consolidator. Not an experience I would want to repeat!

Check the discount airline sites

Often discount airlines, like Southwest, do not list on sites, like Expedia, so it is necessary to check the airlines website directly. Once I find the fares I like I check the individual websites for the airlines, discount airlines that fly out of my home airport (as well as any airports within driving distance). I also learned that if you book through a third party site like Travelocity and need to change the ticket, there are additional fees. If the price is the same at the consolidated site and the airlines site, I recommend booking directly with the airline. When I booked through Expedia and had to change a ticket I was charged an extra $25 because it was booked through Expedia in addition to the $150 ticket change fee. If you are booking a trip through multiple airlines, however, the consolidator sites can be the best bet for price, convenience, and transfers.

Make sure you are comparing apples to apples

Overseas travel can be particularly challenging when comparing flights because of fee disclosures. It is getting harder and harder to get away from fees. Each website needs to be checked for fees from baggage to seat assignments. European flights do not always include fees like taxes and fuel surcharges so the $50 ticket can turn to a $150 ticket before you know it. When comparing double check all extra fees so you know the true price of the ticket. Unfortunately there is no quick or easy way to do this besides looking on the site of the top three flights you are considering. Only taking a carry on bag, not requiring advanced seating, and bringing food and headphones on board will reduce the additional fees paid for flying.

Look for combined discounts


Look for combined discounts  especially if you are going to a popular city. Once I booked a trip to Las Vegas and was able to get the flight and hotel with a few meals thrown in for the standalone price of the flight. This is mostly true of tourist destinations but include international destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean.

Use those frequent flyer miles

Frequent flyer programs are made fun of in TV ads, but a free flight is a free flight. If you sign up for various programs with your carrier, like dining programs or shopping programs, you can accumulate miles with everyday spending. I also make sure I am getting credit for miles even when I do not fly the carrier I have a frequent flyer program with. By checking the partner airlines when you book, you can often add those miles to your main frequent flyer account without having to sign up for another program. While I don’t fly enough to get many free trips I do get enough miles for a free flight every couple years.

Making a phone call

Airlines now charge an additional booking fee to speak with a live operator and have them help you book a flight. I have learned, however, that sometimes they can find flights and discounts that I am not able to find online, making it worth paying the fee. If they do not come up with better pricing, I can always go back to the website and book the flight through the best source there. Hint, after doing flight searches, delete your cookies from your computer. I have found that after searching for flights, when I go to book, the lowest flights are gone. Yet after I delete the cookies, the lower price is back on my screen. Airlines deny this, but I have found it to be true.


Learn the rules

When buying a ticket understand the terms. Is it non-refundable? What are the extra fees I might have? It has been my experience that airlines rarely bend the rules. That means, as flyers we need to know the rules. If you buy a non-refundable ticket, consider travel insurance rather than hope the airline will take pity when an emergency arises. What weight can your baggage be? Be prepared to take things out if you are over. Shoes can weigh three to five pounds, put them in the carry on. Do you need to print the boarding pass ahead of time to avoid a fee? Understanding the rules can save you a lot of money. For example, if you check a bag, $25, bag is overweight, $40, get your boarding pass at the airport $5, buy a meal on the plane $5, get an early reserved seat $15. Suddenly that cheap ticket you found has cost you an extra $90. Learning where the charges are and how they can be avoided saves both money and frustration when you are flying.

Traveling and saving money are two of my favorite things! I hope these tips will help you save money on your next flight!


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Ritesh Warke