How To Save Money On Flights

Flying, airfare
Spoiler alert: It’s not by buying on a Tuesday.

How you get to your final destination can be a big part of your vacation budget and experience.  Clients ask me all the time how they can save money on airline flights.  Truth be told, there really isn’t a rhyme or reason to how airlines discount airfare.  So where did the Tuesday myth come from?  At the dawn of the internet, airlines used to manually load the week’s upcoming flights each Monday.  This meant that the rates were freshest – and cheapest – on Tuesdays.  Once people learned this, they began checking Tuesday morning to get the best seats, times, and prices.  Now that flights are loaded in real time, the Tuesday trick is null and void but the myth lives on.  Whether you plan months in advance or are looking to travel at the last minute, the real trick to find cheap airfare these days is to look often and use the following tips. 

Determine what BEST means to you.  The best flight for you might mean the lowest fare but there are other factors to consider.  What airports are preferable?  How many bags can you check for free?  If not free, what is the cost per checked bag?  What times of day work best for your family?  How many layovers are included?  How many hours will you spend flying and sitting in airports?  Each of these factors are different for every situation.  Determine what your priorities are and use those to filter out the flights that seem like a good deal until you realize you’ll have to be at the airport at 5 a.m. and fly all day with two layovers.

Use a good search engine.  Most of the well-known search engines, like Expedia and Kayak, have a financial stake in which flight you choose so I like to use an unbiased search engine like Google Flights.  Southwest Airlines is not included in any search engine, including Google Flights, so you will have to search separately on their website.  Finally, I use the Hopper app which allows me to check flights on my phone. 

Use a few hacks.  Airlines aren’t supposed to keep track of your search and pricing history and pricing history to change the rates that you see in your search engine – but they sometimes do.  A few of the major airlines have gotten caught doing this so be aware.  A few hacks will help you try to work around this if they decide to break the rules again.  Clear your cookies before you begin to search and use an incognito browser.  If you have an account with an airline or search engine, don’t log into your account until you have searched first and are ready to book the flight so the website can’t track your search results.  Finally, check the price difference between a round-trip itinerary versus two 1-way flights.  You can sometimes save a few dollars by doing this.

Monitor your flights. After you book your flights, if that same flight goes down in price within 24 hours, the airlines will give you a refund in the form of credits (usually good for one year).  The exception is Southwest which honors price changes until the day before you fly.  If you don’t travel often, this may not be a good option for you but if you or your spouse regularly travels during the year, this might be worth it. 

Book a vacation package that puts airfare with your hotel.  When you book your airfare and hotel together, you can often save money in the form of a reduced room rate.  So, you don’t technically save on the airfare but you keep more money in your pocket by getting a discount on your hotel.  If you purchase a cruise/flight package, many cruise lines will put your airfare into the payment plan which means you can make payments on the total airfare + hotel package instead of having to pay for everything up front.

How you get to your final destination is an important part of your vacation experience.  Make sure that you get a flight that works for your schedule and your budget. 



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