Booking your flight is one of the most important aspects of vacation planning, and it affects the rest of the trip. Choose the wrong dates, the wrong airline or simply a bad time, and you’ll pay for your mistake. You might pay too much or wait longer than necessary at the airport. Here are our top flight booking tips for the savvy traveler.
Plan As Far in Advance as Possible
Book your trip as early in advance. Flight booking is cheaper if you book at least three weeks in advance. Trips will be even cheaper if you book several months in advance. Some people are afraid to book that early because their travel plans may change. One solution is to book through an airline that lets you change the flight without penalty. Another is to get travel insurance. This adds extra protection, such as reimbursing the cost of tickets if the flight is canceled due to bad weather or civil unrest at the destination.
Take Advantage of the Tools Available to You
Set price alerts when you’re planning your trip. You will get notices of deals when flights become available, and you could get information about discount airlines. This could help you find “hidden flights”, such as when you’re offered discounted seats on flights mostly full of student and professional groups traveling to a conference.
Use tools that help you take advantage of airline miles to get a discount. Use tools that help you compare direct flights to connecting flights, so you don’t waste time sitting in an airport in the mere hope of saving money. Before you book your plane tickets, use a travel portal that lets you compare airlines instead of only comparing flights by the same airline.
Travel in the Almost Off-Season
Tourist destinations often have seasons. For example, family friendly destinations tend to be busy during the summer and school breaks, because that’s when families can go together. If you don’t have such schedule restrictions, travel when everyone else is at work or in school. Flights and hotel stays will be cheaper. However, very few people want to visit Alaska in the winter or Arizona in the summer. The solution is to travel in the almost off-season. Visit the summer destinations in the spring or fall. It may be warm enough to enjoy the water, many of the tourist destinations are open, but you won’t have to pay as much or need to fight crowds.
You could save a lot of money by being flexible. One option would be landing in a nearby city and taking a train, taxi or rental car to the destination. Another option is traveling in the middle of the week instead of a Friday or Monday. If you’re traveling at the last minute, consider budget airlines instead of just shopping the name brand airlines.
Take Advantage of Deals
You shouldn’t be over-spending while promising yourself you’ll eventually use those travel miles tied to your high credit card balance. However, you should be trying to use your travel miles and any airline loyalty program points when you book your next flight. Research the options before you book the flight. For example, you might be able to get a discount using your points and miles if you fly on a Thursday instead of a Friday. Or you may be able to redeem these rewards to get a free upgrade to first class or discount on luggage fees.