Travel Advise 101

8 July 2012

With me seeming to spend more of my life in airports than at my own apartment, I may have picked up a few travel tips along the way. In no way are these fool proof, or guaranteed to work, but they are beyond the typical tips of how to pack or when to fly.

Tip #1: Widen Your Flight Search
I thought I would start off with the most obvious one of widening your flight search to find cheaper fares. Nowadays airlines have even made these tools easier to use, with airlines like Delta showing +/- 3 days around your selected days by default. However you can go even further than this to try and find a cheap flight. One simple tip is to look at surrounding airports to see if they have any weird discount carriers or sales. A few examples of this was a Denver to Las Vegas flight this past December was over $250 on any airline. However, when I looked to fly from Ft Collins to Las Vegas (an airport 20 miles further away) on discount carrier Allegiant (which only goes into small municipal airports) I was able to fly the exact same days for $133. Same goes for flying into large cities such as Los Angeles (LAX, SNA, ONT, LGB, etc), New York (LGA, JFK, EWR), and Chicago (ORD, MDW) where the cab ride to your final destination may be a bit longer and more expensive, but the fare difference makes up for it. Nonetheless, in the end, I always say time is money and take trade offs where they make sense.

Tip #2: Buy It, Then Decide
While the most obvious change with the aviation bill in Congress this past year was taxes are now included in advertised fares, that was not the only big change that is now required. While a few airlines did it prior to this year, it is now required by law that airlines give you 24 hours where you can change or cancel your flight free of charge. What does this mean for you? Well say you find the perfect flight to visit your friend or family over the weekend and there is only one seat left. Rather than wait for them to call you back and have your fingers crossed that the flight is still available, just book the flight. If something does not work out in the end, you now have 24 hours to call the airline and either make a change or get your money back. Note: most of the time you will have to call to make the change, making changes online will still try and charge you the $100+ change fees.

Tip #3: Adventurous Flight Schedule
Everyone always wonders how I travel so much, and how I have the money to do so. For me, flying it comes down to booking the stranger flights and saving the $10 here and there. One of the easiest ways to do this is to fly on discount fare days. The most obvious ones for domestic travel are Friday night through Saturday, as well as Tuesdays and Wednesdays (and occasionally early Monday morning). I have saved a lot of money taking a weekend trip on the 9pm flight Friday night and home at 5am on Monday morning. The times may not be the most ideal, and waking up at 3am is never fun, but they can be hundreds of dollars cheaper. These flights are also the ones that airlines will put on last minute sales, so never count your trip out even a few hours before you want to leave for a weekend.

Tip #4: Hack Your Way
This one has become more obvious lately, with airline comparison sites even including it as a search option now, the concept of booking two one way tickets. This is especially a good deal when flying between hubs of two different airlines (ie. Atlanta – Denver, Delta – United) because the flight into the hub will always be cheapest on the hub airline. This is also very helpful when flying into larger cities where you can fly in and out of two airports on two one-way tickets to better fit your travel schedule. It only takes a few extra clicks to check one-way fares and can save you hundreds in the end.

Tip #5: Hop to a Hub
US carriers are infamously known for being the least lavish when it comes to international traveling. What makes it hard for most travelers is that many international carriers (Singapore Air, Icelandair, etc.) do not fly into your home city, and booking a codeshare flight (where you ‘fly’ on a ticket for a different airline than you are) is one of the easiest ways airlines grab an extra buck or two from you. Whenever I am traveling internationally I always check for international fare sales into other major airports on either coast you are heading towards (LAX, ATL, JFK). Sometimes you can find dirt cheap flights from those cities, and then use a low-cost carrier like Southwest to get there on the cheap. Just make sure to give yourself plenty of time on the layover as you will have to recheck your bags to a different airline, etc.

While these tips mostly apply within the United States, they should get you started flying cheaper and more often. Of course, when all else fails, dating/marrying someone that works for the airlines is always an alternative. Safe flying!

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