August 23rd, 2010 Jamie
Since we moved to the East coast I’ve been shocked by how much it can cost to fly home for a visit, and lucky for you that means I’ve been figuring out how to work the system. Here’s what I do–and please feel free to share if you have tips or helpful input, I’d LOVE to hear it!
Watch Prices Like a Hawk. I scan several sites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Priceline to find out which days are cheapest to fly–always search a few days before and after your ideal date, because a little flexibility can save you hundreds of dollars. I also usually try to fly during the week, when flights tend to be cheaper, and if I have time I start watching prices months in advance to so I know when a good drop comes along.
Check the Student Sites. They’re not always the best bet, but websites like Student Universe and STA Travel sometimes have students-only discounts that can get you to your dream destination without breaking the bank.
Know Your Airline. Travel sites are great, but some airlines offer even lower prices if you buy directly from their website (and you get to skip the convenience fee that some of the all-inclusive sites charge you). I usually end up searching for the cheapest days on travel sites, and then booking through the airline’s website to get the lowest price.
While you’re there, sign up for frequent flyer miles! It will take a while to accrue enough for a flight, but the programs are free so you may as well get more for what you’ve paid for!
One, Two, Three, Four? If you’ve got several airports within a reasonable driving distance of either your departure or destination points (we have three within a 30 to 90 minute drive of our house and two close to where both sets of parents live), be sure to check on the difference! I always search all our airport options on both ends of the flight before I make a choice–sometimes 20 minutes of extra driving to a different airport saves us a few hundred bucks per ticket.
Pack Light. The tough economy has really made airlines get choosy with their freebies, and checking a bag now typically costs you $25 a pop–and that’s just one way! Instead, take advantage of the carry-on rules: pack a roll-on bag (be sure to check on the max size so they don’t force you to check) and use a backpack as your “personal item” to give you a little extra space. If you’re going on a long trip, it costs much less to do one or two loads of laundry half way through than it does to check a big fat bag full of all the clothes you could possibly need.
One last note: flexibility is KEY. Flights are more expensive during high travel seasons (summer, winter holidays, etc.) so a little wiggle room, like being willing to fly within a span of time or on a red-eye, can make a big difference when you’re trying to save!