So, you are ready to book your family vacation. You hop online, find the cheapest fare for your travel dates, and book. Think you’ve gotten the best deal even though you’ve searched every rate online? Maybe not! Here are some helpful hints to consider.
Committing to the ticket
There are many places to find ticket prices online. You can book directly with the airline site or use comparison websites like www.kayak.com or http://www.orbitz.com/. Each site has its won unique features and options. I will not review all of those here. Just be aware there are many places to search for rates and then factor in all my other hints.
My personal preferred method after working in the hospitality industry is using the comparison sites to find a great price and then booking directly with the airline. Sometimes booking with broker sites such as Expedia makes it harder when you have to make a change to the reservations. They may charge change fees or give you a hard time if you have to cancel a flight. I just find it personally easier to deal with the companies directly.
Found the cheapest rate? Don’t book it yet!!! You need to consider these factors:
Try to be a day or 2 flexible with your flying dates if you can. Rates for each day of the week can be different. Typically, midweek (Tuesday – Thursday) will be cheaper. More business class folks fly on the other days.
Here is an example for a search I did for Tickets from Baltimore to Anchorage:
So, if you are flexible with your date dates, you can save a few bucks.
Also, some websites may offer a price guarantee. If the ticket goes on sale for a lower price, they will refund that money. Make sure you take advantage of that offer if your method of booking offers it.
Depending on the area you are flying in and out of, you may have airport options. I live near Philadelphia and Baltimore, so I always get prices for departures from each airport. There can be a hundred dollar difference between the two cities. Make sure you consider this for both departure and arrival cities!
For my example again on a Thursday:
So, if we can fly from Philly on a Thursday instead of Baltimore on a Sunday, that is $120 dollars saved on ticket price
Luggage is the huge hidden price that can get you. This is one of the main factors that you need to consider before you simply pick the cheapest ticket price. Since airline policies change so readily (just heard one today for United Airlines), I will not list the current policies here. Just know you should check them out before you book.
I am flying in May. My mother in law booked us the cheapest flight from Philadelphia to Montana. She did not factor in the rate to check baggage on this airline. There are 3 of us flying – My husband, 16 month old daughter and I. I am thinking we will need to check 2 -3 bags. That will cost us $60 each way. $120 in hidden fees! Perhaps an airline that does not charge for baggage would have been a cheaper option for us.
If you are flying with small kiddos, it is good to know each airline’s policies on children, especially under 2 years. Many children under age 2 may ride for free if it is on the parent’s lap. Some companies may even let you check car seats and/or bassinets for free. Diaper bags may also be checked for free. It is important to factor these things in when flying with children. It can save you money on renting this gear at your destination.
Always sign up for the frequent flyer programs. You may not regularly fly, but airline miles can rack up. Many Frequent Flyer Programs have additional ways you can earn miles. For example, Safeway in Alaska offers miles for Alaska Airlines. You can earn airway miles and get more bang for your grocery buck.
You may want to know what amenities your flights offer. Will dinner be served or will you have to buy something at the airport and bring it on board? Wil you have to pay for movies or other in flight entertainment? These are small factors, but may add to the price of your trip.
This is just the first in a series of articles I plan to compose about traveling cheaply. If you have any ideas that I can add or any topic suggestions, please let me know.