Saturday, September 7, 2013

Traveling Cheaply, Part 1: Flights

As I sit in the airport, waiting to board my overnight flight to New York, I thought it only appropriate to do a post on traveling cheaply.  I love to travel and I wish I could do it all the time but it takes a lot of money!  Hopefully these few tips will possibly help you in going to that place you've always wanted to go to!

All About Buying Your Plane Tickets

So this first part about traveling cheaply is about finding the best deal on plane tickets.  After all, that is where the bulk of the amount needed for a trip is going to go.

1.  Search around.  Start looking early, if possible, but don't necessarily buy right away.  Pay attention to the fluctuations in prices.  Prices for plane tickets change daily, even hourly, and I'm not expert on that (you can find all kinds of websites that make predictions on when prices are at their lowest) but just try and be aware.  And make sure you compare different websites.

2. If flying round trip, try buying each flight separately.  This is what I did for this trip.  I got a much better deal by buying two separate one way flights because I had more flexibility in times and different companies.

3. If there are multiple airports in your destination, search for all of them.  This can be more difficult from the airport you are leaving from, depending on how you get there and if you are leaving a car, but it can be done at your arrival destination.  I'm going to New York, which obviously has many options for airports.  I fly into LGA and leave from JFK.

4. Take a red-eye.  This may be only for the younger and more sprightly travelers but it is a great way to save money.  First, it is just cheaper because less people like to fly at that time, they know it's miserable so they give you a discount.  The other way it helps cut costs is by saving you the price of another night at a hotel.  How, you ask?  Well take me for example.  I am leaving late Saturday night from SF to go to NY where I will arrive around 10:00 in the morning their time.  This is a perfect time to be able to spend the whole day in the city and not have time wasted from traveling and I didn't have to pay for a hotel stay for Saturday night because I was in the air!

5. Sign up for the free mileage rewards programs.  Why wouldn't you want to get rewarded for free for things you do?  I'm all about signing up for rewards programs that don't cost you anything, but make sure it stays that way -- IT SHOULDN'T COST YOU ANYTHING.  Meaning, the temptation is if you're signed up for one rewards program that you'll always want to fly from that company to build up the rewards.  But be smart about it.  If it cost you $100 extra to fly with that company sometime, skip it.  I don't think those miles are worth that much.  It's okay to be signed up with multiple companies.  You'll slowly build up the rewards but you should still take the best deal dollar-wise.  Usually you end up flying with the same one or two companies anyway depending on what's available in your area.

6. All the added fees.  Nowadays airline companies are looking for any way to make money off you.  You have to pay to check a bag, pay for extra leg room or exit row, pay a huge amount for a snack.  DON'T BE TEMPTED.  The only one I really understand paying for is the checked baggage.  Sometimes it's just too hard to put everything into a carry on size or the liquid thing is a problem.  But if you can, try and put everything in the carry-on size.  You'd be surprised how big it can be.  It's generally the medium sized bag in a suitcase set.  Plus, a little secret.  You can usually check your bag at the gate for free.  But with everything else, it can easily be foregone.  Try and get an aisle seat if you're worried about leg room.  Really any food at an airport is over-priced.  Pack your own food (just be careful of the liquid restrictions).

I think that's about it.  If anybody else has any other simple tips, feel free to leave a comment!

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