Traveling Cheap – The Basics: Part 3, Flights

As I wrap up my mini series on the big three of common travel, I present to you flights. Many fear the idea of barreling through the sky in an engineered tube to get from place to place, others find the entire experience quite mindless. I, personally, fall in the “other” category. Taking off is the best thing ever to me (its like a giant race car I love it), but the whole ear-popping situation needs some work.

No matter where you rank, though, we can all agree that flying is expensive. We’ve all heard the strategies too: “Book on a Tuesday!”, “Book exactly one-and-a-half months early!”, “Take a helicopter!” (Just kidding, unless you own one then by all means…)

Flying over the Atlantic Ocean! [Photo taken by me]

In all seriousness though, finding cheap flights to go to all those dreamy destinations definitely takes the most effort in terms of travel prep. So how to be minimize the strife and maximize savings? Check it out:

1. Perspective

The first thing I always say that I have learned based on experience in perspective. Keep in mind where you’re traveling to, what days you’re planning on traveling on, and which airlines you’re looking at. On my recent trip to Canada we spent about $680 on flights. It sounds like a lot, especially if you’re traveling on a budget, but let me give you the context. This was $680 for TWO round trip tickets, WITH travel insurance and one direction being a direct flight. That’s pretty good if you ask me. So think about what you’re getting for the amount you’re spending, it helps justify the price but it also reminds you that in the long run, you’re getting a pretty good deal.

2. The Best Booking Period

As much as I joke, there is an actual booking period where you’ll probably dish out less money. Many people, like myself, question where the stats for prime booking days come from and in this article from Time last year, they used collected and analyzed data to lay it all out. According to a study done by CheapAir the best booking window is 21-112 days before your flight with 54 days being the optimal date. Many studies still argue that 3 p.m. EST on Tuesdays is the best time of the week, and for most airline sites this is true, but to get the best deal you really need to be checking everyday within that time frame.

Picture of our passports on our Canada-bound flight![Photo taken by me]

3. Speaking of CheapAir…

This is my personal flight booking site. If you are an airline rewards member and receive frequent flyer miles, use those! Free flights are the best flights! If you aren’t, though, then this is for you. We booked our Canada trip through CheapAir and loved it for the most part. Their lowest two-ticket-round-trip price was what we paid and in comparison to actually airline sites, CheapAir won by at most $700 in savings. Yeah… really. What we also loved was their Price Drop Payback. Everyday you check back, if the flights are lower than what you paid you can get the difference in site credit up to $100 per traveler. WARNING: this credit is for future flights, not the one you booked, though. CheapAir isn’t the only site though. We’ve discussed packages many times which many sites offer, as well as CheapAir, so I definitely recommend browsing around. We did.

If you’re not based in the U.S. check out this article from the New York Times that provides tips on searching for international booking sites. It’s a good read for everyone though since it ranks many U.S. booking sites and how they work best.

4. Baggage sucks so read the fine print

Comparing airlines is HUGE when booking flights. Whether you book alone or with an agent comparing airlines is a must. If you’re a nervous flyer you may want to stray away from prop planes and stick to the big ones.

(MATTHEW THOMPSON/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
If you’re not into paying extreme fees for bags, opt for carry-ons, or better yet, look at the differences in fees by airline. Reading the reviews and the fine print when choosing optimal airlines is important because it ensures a comfortable travel experience (usually) as well as letting you know what you’re in for ahead of time. We were pleasantly surprised on our Canada trip that my boyfriend’s oversized bag wouldn’t cost extra. Apparently on Air Canada all U.S. and Canadian military personnel get baggage free, even if it’s over weight. We didn’t find this out until check-in but it was quite the pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, most times the surprises are less than favorable, so doing your research ahead of time will save some strife.

With a lot of determination $400 flights to Europe and beyond are possible! You just have to embrace your inner thrift to find them! As always, these are the tips I share as I have found them the most effective, but I love to hear any from all of you too! Happy Travels!

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