Flying is fun. Well, maybe not as much fun as it used to be but it’s still exciting to board that big bird and jet to destinations beyond the horizon. No doubt there are more hassles now with security and tickets cost more as airlines struggle to keep their heads above the clouds of rising costs.
Airlines are cutting back on giveaways and laying off personnel. They’re also tacking on baggage fees and adding extra charges for atypical check throughs such as golf clubs and pets. Children traveling alone now pay more because they have to be watched and cared for. But, there are ways to fly smart and save if you’re creative.
Be flexible. If you can fly any carrier, any time, and almost anywhere you’ll come out dollars ahead. Don’t be choosy (assuming you have a choice) about which airline you fly. Shop, compare and buy the cheapest ticket. Airlines offer specials but check the restrictions and dates to fly. Ask about taxes and fees that can inflate the base cost.
Fly off-peak days such as Saturday and Tuesday through Thursday. Business travelers usually fill up the plane on the other days so don’t fly when they do. Stay over a weekend if possible. Don’t fly on a Monday or Friday. That’s when people are either leaving or coming home. Avoid flying on holidays for obvious reasons.
Buy your ticket in advance. We’re talking two to four months in advance. This gives the airline a chance to plan ahead on how many passengers they’ll have and how many to feed (if you’re lucky enough to get fed.)
Before you depart, check to see if there has been a reduction in the fare since you bought your ticket. If so, call and ask if they’ll offer you a refund of the difference or a travel voucher for a later flight.
Depart before sunrise or after sunset and your savings will get brighter. Sure you’d rather depart at 10AM perhaps, but get up a little earlier and catch the redeye that takes off at 3AM and pocket the savings. Besides, you’ll get to your destination earlier.
Connecting flights with layovers are usually cheaper than direct flights. Direct flights are more convenient and may get you there a little sooner but think of the fun of seeing new and different airports. You may have a long enough layover to make a quick tour of the city.
Collect air miles especially if you’re a frequent flyer with various programs offered by the airline and credit card companies. Some have partnership agreements allowing you a bigger choice on which airline to fly. Keep track of your air miles with records and receipts as airlines have been known to lose miles. And, remember you don’t have to just fly to build air miles. Other purchases can work as well.
Pack efficiently and don’t check through luggage if possible. Utilize your carry-ons and do without luxury items that take up space. You must be decisive and make a few sacrifices but good deals are out there.
Flying is an adventure – enjoy it!