Easy Airline Travel Tricks To Save Money
Things you can do to put a little cash back in your pocket when flying.
Let’s be honest, travelling can be expensive. On top of the expense of hotels, food, and entertainment, the cost of just getting to your destination is often times the largest expenditure. Tack on baggage fees, change fees, and food and beverages; the price of an airline flight gets to be very expensive. There are a few things you can do to potentially save money on your flights, or at least get a better deal than the guy sitting next to you!
Use Online Travel Agencies (OTA) to Shop Multiple Carriers
This is the first step to finding the best deal. Unless you are brand loyal to one or two airlines, this is the quickest way to find the cheapest available flight, and a good starting place for some other tricks. I personally like to use Kayak.com as they shop multiple airlines and find the cheapest flight for you. Keep in mind that some carriers, like Southwest Airlines, are not affiliated with any OTA. You must use their website to book a flight.
Use the Airline’s Website
It is more advantageous for consumers to use an airlines brand site as opposed to an OTA. First, you can become a rewards member and rack up miles that can be used for free flights later. Miles can be worth anything from 1-5 cents depending on how they’re used. Rack up 1,000 miles on a trip and that can be worth $10-50 on a later flight. Many carriers do not allow you to earn points if you use an OTA to book your flight. Secondly, it is often times easier to deal with the airline when a problem arises than it is to work with the OTA. Once the flight is booked through the OTA, they will often times refer all questions and/or complaints to the airline. Since the airline pays a hefty commission to the OTA, they make less money on you, which could negatively affect the customer service you receive. As someone who works in the travel industry, I’ve seen OTA bookings fall through the cracks since it has to interface with two different systems. This will some times causes problems and you could end up in a very inconvenient situation.
Shop Flights to Smaller Cities Where Your Destination Airport Might be a Layover
This little trick worked like a charm on my honeymoon. The return flight from Cabo was pricier than we wanted to pay to get back to Dallas, TX. I shopped other cities nearby and the non-stop flight we wanted continued to Austin, TX. The airline needed to fill seats on the Dallas to Austin flight and offered a cheaper rate for someone travelling from Cabo to Austin with a Dallas layover. We bought the tickets and got off the plane in Dallas. We saved a little over $100 by doing so. Find out where the flight you want is flying to next, and see if there is an opportunity to save a little money.
Search Nearby Airports
Most of the large cities in the United States have more than one major airport. This gives you the ability to shop different airports for the best possible rate. Become familiar with neighboring airports that you could fly into, and repeat the exercises mentioned above.
It can be very advantageous to be loyal to one or two airlines. This allows you to earn miles that can be used for free flights later. The more you fly with one or two carriers, the more they will start to cater to you. Free flights are like money in your pocket if you travel often. As you build loyalty with these airlines, they will cater to you in the way of waived baggage and change fees.
Get a Nice Carry-On
This will also help save you a few dollars every time you fly. I know that using a small carry-on is difficult for long vacations, but for shorter trips, efficient packing and good carry-on bag can save you a lot of money.
Get an Airline Credit Card
I am certainly not advocating debt with this one, but using an airline affiliated credit card can help you rack up miles quickly, and can even get baggage and change fees waived for you. Most airlines give you a hefty sum of miles just for signing up (usually 25,000). Pay close attention to the offers that come out;, a few times a year an airline will have 50,000+ mile offers. I saw a card that matched all the miles you had at another carrier up to 100,000 miles (the offer was shut down early due to too many applicants). If you cannot pay off the balance every month, then you’ll lose money from the finance charges, so be careful with this one.
Be Flexible and Use Opaque OTAs
If you could care less about brand loyalty or arrival time and just want the cheapest ticket, then this is the best solution for you. Using sites like Priceline, Hotwire, and Package features on OTAs can get you a great deal on airfare. Get a good idea as to what the retail price of your flight is and watch some of the opaque bidding forums out there. They will give you a good idea as to what price to bid. If you do not see a similar flight on these sites, start at 40-50% off retail and work your way up, adding different times, airports, and dates to get the best price possible. The Package feature on many OTA sites will package your flight, hotel, and/or car rental into one bundle, discounting each and giving you a final price.