Welcome to the first in our series on Making Travel Easy and Fun. Remember that getting there CAN BE half the fun! So let’s start with flight planning.
First Decide if time or money is more important
Nuts and Bolts To Saving some Green on Your Flight
*Travel mid-week or off peak times
*Make more stops
*Travel at inconvenient times
*Check other, smaller airports in the area. I recently saved over $200 by booking a flight to Costa Rica through Orlando instead of Miami.
*Don’t forget to factor in baggage fees! ie..my latest ticket was more expensive on Delta than American but since I have Elite status and don’t pay for my bags, it was actually LESS in the long run.
Making it FUN
If money is THE most important criteria in choosing your flight then expect to be on the most inconvenient flights with the most out of the way stops. This is true for all airlines but noticeably worse on some like Delta. So when you have to get up at 3:00am to make that 6:00am flight, remember that was YOUR CHOICE and don’t take it out on the counter clerk, your friend who drives you to the airport, or your spouse. Just keep thinking of the $50 you are saving. Then, on your next flight ask yourself…for $50 more, could my travel day have been more fun? Most of us would rather spend our money ON vacation rather than GETTING to it but a few more dollars could save your day.
If you can afford to spend just a little more money you can arrange your flights to make the most out of your day. For example, many airports have great restaurants. Plan your schedule to arrive at various airports over meal times and take advantage of this. Then you won’t complain about having to pay for peanuts on the flight or bad food. You can relax on the plane knowing you had a great meal on a traveling day (yes you can!) and didn’t subject yourself to airline food.
Here’s an example. You can get fantastic jerk chicken and a Red Stripe beer in the Montego Bay, Jamaica airport. Sometimes I fly Air Jam JUST for that. All the way down I anticipate this wonderful lunch! As well, you can’t beat the chicken and peas and rice in the Belize City airport. And Seattle…some great eats there too. Search out airport restaurants and plan accordingly! You can find some info at www.seriouseats.com
If you have to overnight on your way, fly through a city you’ve always wanted to check out, book an early flight and spend half the day touring some place new! I recently flew through Seoul and spent a day in the city. It helped with jetlag and I got to explore a new place. OR book your flight through a city where you have friends!
Use a portal to begin sourcing your flights. Our favorite is www.kayak.com. Here are some great reasons why:
Nuts and Bolts
*You can compare many airlines and prices fast and easily
All fees, except baggage are listed
You can track trends including prices over time and dates.
You can get fare alerts
There are lots of filters to narrow down your search
There are no fees to use it
Making it FUN
Most importantly, plan ahead. I like to check the fares and then pick what I think is a reasonable price and set up email alerts. I make it a game to get the price as close as possible to what I want to pay. Then I watch and wait and pounce at the right time. Understand that highly sophisticated computer programs set and change all the pricing in real time now so prices can change literally every five minutes depending on availability.
Plan it into your day to check prices. Prices are generally lower if you check on Tuesday or Wednesday as opposed to Saturday morning when everyone else is checking! Just take 5 minutes, have the site bookmarked and pull it down a few times a day. When the price gets close to what you want, grab it right then and there. After your coffee break it probably will have changed! I think of it as a grand game to get what I want rather than an inconvenience from the airlines. Might as well because it’s not going to change! And always remember, you are booking a ticket to FUN! Don’t forget to purchase your ticket using your airline credit card to get extra miles!
A couple things to note. Not all airlines are registered with all portals. For instance, if you want to check Southwest Airlines you have to go to their website. Second, you may find more flight options on the airlines website so that may be worth a check.
Nuts and Bolts
*Just as prices change quickly so does mileage availability- check often!
*Most airlines begin loading frequent flier seats into the system 330 days prior to departure. You can check then to see if you can get what you want. Otherwise, the best time to look is 6 months prior to departure.
*Elite fliers have access to more frequent flier seats so make sure you give the agent your FF number or enter it on the website.
*Overall, American Airlines is the easiest major domestic carrier to get FF seats on and at the lowest mileage cost. Delta is the most difficult and has the highest cost.
*Generally, you can get more bang for your buck using miles to buy international tickets. Divide the number of miles by the cost and get the value of your miles. Then you can decide if it’s a better deal to pay for the flight or use miles. For example
Salt Lake City to Los Angeles: 25,000 miles or buy it for $252. Value of mile = $.01
Salt Lake City to Tokyo, Japan: 60,000 miles or buy it for $1208. Value of mile = $.02
It is a better value in this case to use your miles to fly to Tokyo instead of LA.
*When booking simple mileage tickets, it’s easy online. However, if you will be doing international bookings with partner carriers you will need to contact the airlines. Remember, you can often add legs without adding miles. For example, I can fly international for the same number of miles from Salt Lake as I can from my home town of Missoula, Montana.
Making it FUN
There is nothing better than getting a free ticket. You are headed on a great adventure and are going for free.
Wow, almost a thousand words on this post and I feel like I’m just getting started!! Stay tuned, more about making travel easy and fun tomorrow!
What tips would you like to share on flight planning?