In an age where every airline is cutting back and cutting corners, is it still possible to save money on airfare? The answer is a resounding YES. It just depends on your ability to plan ahead, follow a few basic rules, and show some flexibility.
When you travel for business, it is much more difficult to save money than it is when you travel for pleasure. Business trips usually have a set itinerary, but vacations can be massaged a bit to get the best prices. If your trip involves a flight, wait to make hotel reservations until you have managed to find the flight prices you need, since they are often the most expensive part of a trip.
- Be flexible. If you insist on flying during peak hours on busy days, you will pay a lot more than if you are willing to fly mid week. Consider smaller airports since they often have better rates, although the planes are often smaller as well. Don’t insist on direct flights; flights with connections can be less expensive.
- Book early, but make sure you can get a better fare later. Many companies offer to match a fare if it goes down after your purchase. Keep an eye on the prices yourself, since no airline is likely to volunteer to refund you money. Booking early gives you the best options on seating, cheaper fares, and flexible scheduling the majority of the time, so don’t always wait for last minute deals.
- Comparison shop. There are multitudes of discount fare websites available, and while their prices are similar, they aren’t identical; one even gives you the option of stating your maximum price, which is a little strange. Once you have found the best price you can on a general search site, go to the specific airline site, as they may offer additional web based discounts that you can’t get anywhere else.
- Consider all the fees. Airlines are now trying to coax you into purchasing their “featured fare” over other fares that seem similar. Before you commit, check to see the final price after taxes, airport fees, and critically, baggage fees. One airline may offer a price that is $20 less per ticket, but then end up being more expensive by charging $25 a bag. Take two bags each and it really adds up.
Look at package deals, especially if you are heading to a common vacation destination. You can often get a hotel and car included in your plans if you book ahead, saving yourself a nice amount of money. Some packages provide free room and board for children traveling with a parent. While it isn’t a direct airfare savings, it does reduce the overall cost of a vacation.
Consider traveling after the area’s “season”. Heading to big resorts even a week after the season is over can result in a 25% savings or more. If you have children who haven’t begun school or no children at all, waiting an extra week makes good sense. An additional benefit is that you will find fewer people at your destination, and a more relaxed environment overall.
Air travel is a wonderful way to see distant places and enjoy new scenery. With a bit of work, some flexibility and an adventurous approach, you too can find some significant savings.