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Save Money On Airfare

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Save Money on Airfare

Save Money on Airfare

Yesterday, I mentioned how the wife and I recently traveled to Boston for free on my wife's frequent flier miles. I felt like that was a bit of a cop out. I should do better. I didn't offer you any useful information for saving money on airfare - other than try to get a job that allows you rack up frequent flier miles. Today, I'm going to make things right. Below you'll find some tips on saving money on airfare. Hopefully a couple of them will be helpful.

Save Money on Airfare with Online Tools

The Internet is packed with ways to help you save money on airfare:

  • Find the Best Prices - I've found Kayak to be the most complete online airline search. It's not 100% and you still want to search sites it doesn't cover like Southwest.
  • Name Your Own Airfare - If you are flexible on your travel time, you could take a shot at naming your own price with Priceline. This works best if you look for the lowest price first on something like Kayak first.
  • Know When to Book your Flight - Farecast tries to predict whether flight prices will go up or down. Enter where and when you want to travel and it will tell you whether you should book now or wait for a lower price.
  • Join a Wholesale Club - Yes, there is a wholesale club for airfare. For $50 a year you can join cFares. cFares has discount international flights that I've heard are exclusive. You can also set up a search for a flight and cFares will continuously look for the price you set. If it finds it, it will put it on 24-hour hold. This is not to be confused with Priceline, where you would be locked into the price you choose. Note: I have not tested this service as I do limited international travel.

Save Money on Airfare by Being Aware of Fees

Each airline has it's own set of fees and charges. Here's a good compilation of the most popular airlines.

  • Fly Southwest - Southwest has very few fees. They allow you to change flight times easily, perhaps the only airline with that policy.
  • Keep You Reservation - If you have to change a flight, you'll pay a fee (except for Southwest as previously noted). If at all possible look to stick with the reservation you've already made.
  • Food - You used to get a free meal on a plane. That's gone the way of the dodo bird. Now most people buy food on the plane or at the terminal. The prices there are not typically the best. You can bring food from home, just be careful about liquids (see next item for more information). You will get a drink on the plane, so you can take advantage of that.
  • Pack Efficiently - Nowadays you have to pay for almost any baggage you need to check. This is particular poor because you now have to follow TSA's 311 rules for carry-on bags. I always try to bring sunscreen with me to save money, but that typically requires checking.

Other Ideas on How to Save Money on Airfare

  • Frequent Flier Miles - You can use frequent flier miles to get free flights. You can get frequent flier miles by flying, but you can also get them by...
  • Using a Reward Credit Card - Some popular cards include: WorldPerks Visa and Delta Sky Miles
  • Check Smaller Airports - When I lived near Boston, I would often fly from Manchester or Providence taking advantage of cheaper flights. Even though, I live 8 miles from the San Francisco airport, I often check San Jose and Oakland. It's often well worth it.
  • Consider One Way Flights and Different Airports - You want to use all the options available to you if you can
  • Travel Off-Season - Everyone wants to go England when it's warm, but you can save a lot of money by going during the winter.
  • Travel During Off-Peak Weeks - Traveling during school vacations and holidays can be pricey. Look to steer clear from these busy travel times. You'll also save yourself a lot of travel stress with the reduced crowds.
  • Military? Fly for free - If you are in the military, you can take advantage of the SpaceA program. This allows you to fly for free with some restrictions.
  • Get the Most Leg Room - While not much of a money saving tip (unless you go for first class for extra leg room), give SeatGuru a look to find specific rows and seats that have more space on your particular plane.

So there you have it... the best tips I could come up with. What are your tips for saving money on airfare? Drop me a comment below.

Photo Credit: zen118

Last updated on February 22, 2009.

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10 Responses to “Save Money On Airfare”

  1. Goal Hunter says:

    I fly a fair amount in Canada, which is where I live. In Canada the two major airlines have an email list you can subscribe to, and the often send out 24 hour sales at 50% off. If you have a long lead time you can just wait for one of these seat sales to come along, maybe once per month. The fares don’t get cheaper than at these times.

    Another option is that both of these airlines allow you to cancel for $40. So if you are stuck flying in a week or two and fear that a seat sale might no come then book the lowest fare you see but keep looking for a fare that is more than $40 cheaper.

  2. I agree about Kayak, it’s my favorite site too. As for farecast, I remember raving about it when it first came out, but in my experience it’s not very consistent. I wouldn’t rely on it to make these kinds of decisions.

    I would also suggest that people try to play with their dates and locations: try flying out of one airport and arriving in another””it sounds counter intuitive but it just saved me and my wife around $600 for our upcoming honeymoon.

  3. kim says:

    I used to always recommend kayak (i travel a lot) but i’ve started using farechase.yahoo.com. I’ve noticed they always come up with the same price as kayak or about 30% of the time..it’s even better than kayak! I highly recommend that you use it…i think it’s able to find cheaper prices because they don’t limit you to one airline. in other words, if the price is cheaper…they will fly you in on one airline but on your flight home it may be another airline. this seems to give them an edge.

  4. I really only fly on Southwest anymore and I use my Southwest Visa card for just about everything. I earn points fairly quickly that way and usually manage to come up with a couple of free tickets each year, which really helps out with my travel budget!

  5. Man, I had no idea these sites existed! I travel every three months to LA, so I’ll be sure to keep these tools in my arsenal. I don’t know if kayak offers bundles, but prior to my learning this site existed, I used to always try and bundle my flight and hotel for a better deal. The only time I wouldn’t do this is when the particular conference I was attending offered a significant discount on the hotel.

    I was also going to mention traveling during off times during the week itself. You’ll get a better discount on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays in most cases.

    Thanks for the info!

  6. rrgg says:

    Southwest is very often not the cheapest.

    Southwest fought hard to keep their fares off of the aggregator sites, and there’s a reason why.

  7. @rrgg – I think that totally depends on your market. Southwest is almost always the cheapest for me flying out of Texas to my most frequent domestic destinations.

  8. Note: US Airways charges for drinks now. You can’t get tap water, either, for “free”. They only provide bottles — for a “nominal” fee.

    A little old lady on one of my flights needed some H2O to down her medicine but they won’t give her any (even tap) because everyone coach needs to purchase their drink. So just FYI to everyone, especially since you can’t bring any water from home, you need to have forsight since at least US Airways doesn’t give away anything free on the plane (at least for my domestic flight — it was just under three hours, so not so long, but long enough to need hydration, ya know?)

  9. Lazy Man says:

    That’s terrible. At least you can bring a water bottle and fill up at a water bubbler (as we say in New England) or a water fountain (as the rest of the world seems to call them).

  10. Jessi says:

    Another way to save money on your flights is to check if the price you found is the least expensive one on letmebook.com. The guy manually searches for the cheapest flights.

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