My answer always depends on a few factors:
1. What airline is this flight on?
- My first trick is a little website/app called skyscanner. If it’s on the big player airlines, I just look at skyscanner. Most people don’t have a clue about this amazing web tool to find the cheapest flights on the big airlines.
- Usually, the letters in the flight number tell me the airline and sometimes I check the airline website.
- But, then I look at the departure and arrival airports and figure out which airlines fly there. I always check the airline of choice first, but sometimes there are small airlines that have subsidized flights; Frontier, Allegiant, Spirit….they all have great rates. Yes, some of them you have to pay for your bags, but does that deter you from paying $100+ for a ticket? Not me.
- Then I check bulk fares. If you’re not a travel agent, you only have access to the public fares, but always check with a travel agent for bulk fares. They’re offered to a lot of the larger airports, so your agent can get them cheaper than you can sometimes if there are unbooked bulk fare tickets.
2. Are your dates and times flexible?
- If you can fly on a Tuesday instead of Monday, nine times out of ten (or more) it’s going to be cheaper!
- Flying earlier and later in the day is often times cheaper. Business travelers often know this, but if you only travel on vacation a few times a year, you probably don’t.
- If you can avoid flying Friday – Sunday, as a rule, it’s going to cheapen the ticket. But, some small airlines only fly on Friday and Monday for weekend travel. Don’t look for them on your favorite .com site, you won’t find them.
- Avoid flying during peak travel dates: Christmas, right before school starts, Thanksgiving…..it can save you tons! Go a week before or a week after peak travel dates.
3. Do you have flyer miles?
- WHAT? You’re telling me you don’t have a frequent flyer number?! Biggest mistake of travelers. I have a frequent flyer number for all the airlines I’ve flown in forever that offer one.
- If you are like me and have a frequent flyer number, but don’t check your miles often. You should. You can get discounted fares if you don’t have enough for a full ticket or upgrade.
- Or, just let your travel agent do it. I automatically enroll each of my clients in frequent flyer programs and track their miles. Call it another bonus of having a good agent!
- Don’t have enough flyer miles? Sometimes it’s cheaper to purchase the miles than to buy a ticket. You always have the option to purchase miles when you’re a frequent flyer!
4. Why are you traveling?
- Family emergencies give you priority on fare rates. Always pull the family emergency card (if applicable) when it comes to airlines.
- Business? Either you’re getting reimbursed or it’s a tax deduction. You may need the tax deduction, travel away!
- Vacation. Where people try and save the most money. But, it seems that you always want to leave at 10 am and fly home at 4 pm, and always on a long weekend. Right? Well, plan on not doing that and you’ll probably save money, have a longer, more quality vacation and get more bang for your buck.
5. Always travel light. You get charged for luggage ($20+ for an extra bag!). There are some great YouTube videos, like this one, on packing. I could write for days on packing, but here’s some quick tips:
- Learn how to pack right and you can get 7-10 days worth of clothes in your carry-on.
- If you’re traveling for longer than 7-10 days, you should be planning on doing laundry anyway.
- If you’re staying in a hotel, pack minimal toiletries. They have them at the hotel! I know it’s probably not your favorite brand, but it will do for a few days.
- Pack minimal shoes and wear the bulky ones on the plane.
6. Are you eligible for a discount? You may find that you’re eligible for something if you just think about it.
- Sign up for an e-newsletter from the airlines and follow their social media. They do offer cheaper rates and discounts to those that love them!
- Student Discounts
- Military Discounts
- Employer Discounts
- Membership Discounts like Costco, trade associations, etc.