My husband and I have been blessed with a career that allows us the flexibility to travel often. Our job is extremely stressful and we often work under tight deadlines for our clients, working long hours and usually 7 days a week. Often, knowing we have an upcoming break/vacation is what motivates us to get through a job! That said, our income limits how often we can travel and where we can go so getting deals on flights is the first step to an affordable vacation.
1. FLEXIBLE DATES
I know, this one is hard for some people, but it is the key to low airfare. When we decide we’re going to plan a vacation, we set a window of dates. For example, we’ll say, I think we should go somewhere tropical in October. Then, I sit down at the computer with a glass of wine and some good music and star searching.
Most affordable airfare within the US involves traveling on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Often, full week trips, Tuesday to Tuesday, for example, bring lower fares. This isn’t the case for international destinations however. Certain airlines often only run flights on particular days, so it’s important to quickly narrow down which days of the week flights travel to that particular country. Even if it’s possible to get there on another date via connections or multiple airlines, it’s best to go on the dates the carriers run their routes directly.
I usually start with Kayak. Kayak will search multiple airlines on various websites and find the lowest fare for you. *Kayak does NOT include every airline, best example is Southwest.
Once I search a couple of different dates I narrow down the cheapest formula, example: Aruba from St. Louis October 7th-14th being $541/pp vs. the 12th-19th being $651. I check the airline name, visit their website and enter the same dates. Most airline sites will allow you to choose flexible dates as well. I search these to confirm whether or not leaving or returning earlier or later will make it cheaper.
2. FLEXIBLE AIRLINE, FLIGHT TIME AND AIRLINE PERKS
I always take the cheapest flight, sorry, but I’m that girl. I’ve flown Frontier, American, Delta, United, Spirit, you name it. And if the cheapest flight leaves at 6 am, I’m there! I just want to get to my destination, I don’t care how. Some people don’t like flights with layovers, but I don’t mind them. It breaks up the day, allows for a food and restroom break and some great people watching.
TIP: always check airlines baggage and extras fees. I recently booked a trip with Spirit. By the time it was said and done, the flight was $200 more than originally advertised. Since it was still the lowest overall fare, I booked it.
3. MILEAGE POINTS AND OTHER DISCOUNTS
Check with your workplace, especially if you’re employed at a large corporation, to see if they have any airfare discounts. I am a real estate agent and earn points when I purchase flights through Remax’s website. Find a points card that works for you. Southwest has a great credit card program, and so does Capital One. Often if you wait and sign up for a credit card during a flight, you’ll get their best promotional rate!
4. FLEXIBLE DESTINATIONS
I know, this one seems unreasonable for most, but when people always ask how I got such a good deal, this is one of the ways. Like most people, I have about 75 places I’d like to visit. Unless we’re headed somewhere specific for an event, I jot down 5 or 6 places.
Aruba, Barbados, Antigua, St. Thomas
Colorado, Maine, San Francisco
You get the idea. Go with the destination that offers the lowest overall price and check that one of your list. You’ll hit the others next time. Once you’ve spent enough time searching flights to various locale, you’ll know when you come across a good deal. I saw tickets to Hawaii the other day for $425!!! That would have been a bargain but we just didn’t have money to spend on the rest of that trip.
5. DON’T BOOK EARLY, OR LATE
If I know I’m headed somewhere in, let’s say, 6 months. I’ll start researching flights right away to get a baseline. Usually about 3 months out, on a random Wednesday (they say this is the best day to search for low airfare) I’ll find a price so low I’ve never seen before and say, “I’m booking it!” one good example, we searched for honeymoon airfare to Honduras for months, consistently the price was $650/pp. One day, during a random search, I ran across $359/pp so I booked it immediately!
6. TRAVEL DURING LOW SEASON
I know, the beach sounds so enticing mid January, and if you can find a good deal then, GO! However, that’s typically not the case. Although it can be risky to travel during low seasons due to weather, you’ll get better prices, deal with less of a crowd and still have a great time. I try to book as close to the beginning or end of a low season to ensure good weather/conditions. Research typical weather for the area you’re headed to and you’ll have a better sense of whether or not it’s a good time to visit.
Hopefully these tips were somewhat helpful. Happy flight hunting!!
Check back next time for tips about getting the best lodging deals, my opinion on Air BnB and more!!