Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting Deals Part I


My recent post about our $348 vacation sparked some real-life conversations on how to save money when traveling. I also forget sometimes that my obsession with travel and saving money aren't shared by everyone and that some of you might want some advice on the topic, so here goes. Today's topic is airfare:
  • Buy as early as you can and know that prices will typically increase as you get within 3, 2 and 1 week before flying. I usually see fares going up on Fridays, so booking on a Thursday can be cheaper.
  • Flying on Tuesdays and Saturdays are usually the cheapest. Consider when most people are traveling for a weekend (Friday-Sunday), business (Monday-Thursday/Friday) or week vacations (Friday-Friday), etc.
  • Sometimes booking two one-way tickets can be cheaper, Kayak.com now allows you to search and book fares easily this way.
  • If you want to try and score a free ticket or voucher in an oversold situation:
    • Scan the waiting area, look busy?
    • Position yourself near the ticket counter while you wait
    • Be alert, don't have your headphones on
    • As soon as they announce they "might" be in an oversold situation, march up to the counter
    • Politely as possible, ask what they're offering (vouchers, accommodations, meals, etc.) and when they can get you home (I have asked before if that is the best they can do and have been upgraded to first class and received more money in vouchers as a result)
    • Evaluate in your mind if you can afford to take the perks vs. hassle being offered
    • Get your name on the list and wait
  • On rare occasions, booking a package deal (car, airfare and/or hotel) can get you a lower rate but only if you really want the other items in the bundle. It takes longer but I always price each separately to see if I am really getting a good deal.
  • Book directly through the airlines' websites - they avoid the middleman fees from Expedia, Orbitz, etc. and pass the savings onto you in many instances.
  • Consider the frequent flier benefit - booking the cheapest fare is great but having miles (like I do) on ten different airlines doesn't do you a whole lot of good unless you really saved a significant amount. Picking two or three main airlines is better for accumulating some miles you may be able to use later.
  • Be aware of alternate airports you can fly into and estimate the costs of transportation with a local bus, taxi, train or public transit company to the place you are traveling too. A little hassle can sometimes save you a lot of dough.
  • Consider the baggage fees (especially on longer trips). They can vary from airline to airline and round-trip can tack on as much as $60 for one bag onto the cost of your ticket. Airlines rely on you forgetting about this since you pay it later on. If you have to check bags, checking in online ahead of time can save you a few dollars. (Or fly Southwest, where bags fly free!)
 Hope you got a new tip or two! Tomorrow we'll talk lodging. Thanks for checking in!

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