Flying on the Cheap

Flying on the Cheap

There’ve been several learning experiences that I’ve encountered in the short period of time that I’ve be looking in to traveling. One of the most interesting was that tickets don’t have to be expensive. I realize that for many, this is hardly a revelation, but I’d always been under the impression that flying was a costly ordeal.

My lesson begins with the two gents that I mentioned in And So it Begins. It was brief, and went down a little something like this: “Brooooo, you should totally do Hawaii first.” “I’d love to, but don’t have twelve hundred bucks to blow on a ticket.” *Incredulous look between the two of them.* “I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than three fifty for a ticket out there.”

ImageOh really?

Their philosophy was twofold.  Firstly, you never want to buy a round trip ticket, because you restrict yourself from countless opportunities that might occur a day, week, or month later than your flight leaves.  Secondly, you can time ticket prices much better when you’re looking at one way tickets.  They said that the sweet spot was two weeks out to really nail a good deal on relatively short notice.

We wound up distracted after they dropped that pearl of wisdom, and before I remembered to pick their brains any further, we went our separate ways.  I panicked for a second when I went to find plane tickets this week, but regained my composure and did a bit of Google Fu.

The result was finding this gem. Here’s the breakdown of the useful stuff (most of it directly quoted):

  • “Prices are at their lowest between 18 to 28 days prior to your trip”
  • “Domestic fares are lowest 21 days before departure…” About 8% lower than average fares available six months before departure. The average fare increases 5% two weeks before departure, with fares increasing 30% from their lows the week before departure.
  • International fares don’t fluctuate as much; 34 days before departure, fares are about 4% lower than the average at six months before departure.
  • Generally, the more you can tack on to your vacation package upfront—even including things like meals and tours—the better the savings over do-it-yourself pricing. By booking a package deal with an online travel agency, people save an average of $525 on their vacation, with an average of $1,000 saved for weeklong vacations to very popular destinations.  An OTA can hook you up better than an airline.
  • Make sure you price out the activities individually to ensure that you are getting hooked up.  Sometimes it’s not such a great deal.
  • “Mid-day Tuesday to late-day Tuesday or early Wednesday is a good 24-hour sweet spot where you can find the latest sales.”
  • Airlines release their last-minute weekend deals on Tuesdays
  • “Wednesday is the best day to depart, followed by Tuesday and Saturday.”  Experts cite savings of up to 10% when traveling midweek to midweek.
  • For a weekend trips, you’ll find that airfare is cheapest when you depart on Saturday and return on Monday.
  • Don’t specify departure times, because ticket prices can vary significantly based on departure times.
  • Layovers can result in cheaper flights.  Don’t be afraid of one-stop flights.
  • Two one way tickets can be cheaper than one round trip ticket
  • Check your fares after you book.  “If fares drop the day after you bought your ticket, you can cancel tickets within 24 hours of purchase without paying a fee or penalty, according to Department of Transportation regulations. The flights must depart more than a week in advance. If fares drop outside this 24-hour window, most airlines have a credit or refund policy but they may charge a fee.”

I followed the instructions, started looking at online booking sites (I found Orbitz to have the best deals). The result?  $376.28 to fly from Texas to Hawaii, all processing and transaction fees included. I know of more experienced travelers getting better deals, but this is mind blowing to me.  What’s even crazier were the deals I saw going straight from LA and San Diego.

I’ve still got tons to write on this subject, but I hope that if nothing else, this gives a little inspiration to those of yall who are worried that traveling has to be expensive, and maybe saves you a few bucks along the way.

If yall have any tips or experiences, please share them- I’d love to learn more!

-NSTB

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