How to Save Money on Air Travel

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airport terminalI’m in the airport on my way to Canada right now. While I’m bored, I figured that I should write to you about some of the ways you can save money in the airport since everything is more expensive inside than out.

Airline Tickets
I mainly use Expedia because of its flexibility in combining flights from different carriers. For example, I flew from Los Angeles to New York for a couple night stay on American Airlines, then to Canada on Delta. On the way back, I’m flying from Canada to Texas on an Air Canada flight, then a few days later to Los Angeles on Alaska Airlines. This way, I end up in 3 different cities for the price of 2.

The main money saving technique is exploiting the use of the online reservation services. Whether it is Expedia promo code or Priceline promo code, there is an option to try out your many different routes without driving someone and yourself crazy over the phone. You can ultimately plan and pick the best route if you are a little flexible with the dates and times of departure and arrival.

Car Rental
Nothing seems to beat the name your own price with Priceline. If you have done this enough times, you will roughly know the approximate price that your price offer will get accepted. If you are new at this, go to and click on name your own price to give the car rentals an offer. Note that this option is only available if you are renting and returning to the same airport, which applies to most people’s travels. If they don’t accept, then you just go back a couple days later to try a new offer. You will always end up paying a lower price than using conventional methods.

2006_a_clio_3.jpgOne of the things the car companies came up with is filling the gas tank up for you. The per gallon price car rentals charge is actually quite good, but the fine print says that you will pay for one full tank. So whether you leave ¼ of it empty or ¼ of it full, you will still be charged for the full tank. I honestly never opt for this option since I rather go fill it up myself, which is cheaper 99.9% of the time.

Where you actually rent the car actually makes a huge difference with pricing too. If you are renting the car from car rentals that are inside the airports, the before tax price will be higher. On top of that, car rentals inside the terminal will cost you extra taxes. So, it is often wise (if you can afford the lack of convenience) to rent a car that has a branch outside of the airport. If you do that though, be careful on the hours of operations since the ones that are not inside airports often have operating hours so make sure you don’t arrive to a closed car rental.

Inside the Terminal
Now that the TSA has disallowed liquids going through security, many people are forced to buy water bottles inside the terminal. Vendors know this, and I’ve seen the price of a bottle of water gone way up. For example, some of the shops out here right now are charging $3.00 per bottle of water… Something you can try is to actually just buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks, which can cost from $2.50 – $5.00. Then, you can ask for a cup or two of cold/hot water. Actually, they are supposed to be willing to give you water without the purchase, but you don’t want to set that kind of an example for your kids would you?

img_2274.jpgYou would want to eat before you get to the airport, since there is much more selection outside the airport. If you plan to feast, business class might not be a bad idea since you can actually eat and drink (even alcohol) all you want. Of course, it might or might not make sense depending on the deal you can get on this. (For example, the points needed to upgrade to business class might be worth it dollar for dollar but buying business class on an overseas flight would not make sense for just the free food).

Those of us that think the airport lounge is way too expensive definitely have a point, as they are $50 per day last time I checked. However, some of us might think it is worth it if we are actually staying inside the airport for a couple hours. The lounges supply drinks, snacks and a very comfortable environment. If you can live on the snacks, then that chunk of cash might not sound so bad if you were going to eat in those restaurants that give you crappy food for $20-$25 dollars anyway. On top of that, there are power outlets that you don’t have to fight for inside so you might save on having to buy those mobile battery chargers too.

Oops. They are making their last call so I have got to get on the airplane. I don’t need to explain to my co-workers that the reason why I missed my plane is because I was blogging. I will write again when I am in Canada.

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  • Shadox says:

    Fors saving on air fares, I recently started using Fare Cast ( – the unique thing about it is that it not only tells you the price of your ticket today, it also tells you whether prices are likely to go up or down in the near future, so you can buy at the best time.

    The interface is also very well designed, and when you buy the tickets, you buy them directly from the airline, so you can get their online ordering bonus. The downside: unlike expedia, it does not let you use multiple airlines for the same flight, and the farecasting trick only works for trips between two cities only.

  • MoneyNing says:

    Jenn: I believe it depends on the car rental since Hertz have economy sized cars most of the time if you reserve ahead of time. It’s usually the smaller shops that tend to do this. For example, Enterprise often does not have the right car when I go, especially when the site is not inside the airport.

  • Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says:

    The last two times I’ve had to rent a car, I reserved the most inexpensive model that they had. When I got to the car rental places in both instances I got upgraded because they didn’t have an economy car on hand-once to a PT Cruiser, another time to a small SUV.

    I don’t think they actually HAVE many of the economy models in the fleets, so when you reserve one you frequently get upgraded.

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