If you want to travel for a long time, learning to manage your money is a big part of that decision. The better you are at it the longer you can travel. There is no class in college or high school about budgeting. You learn with time and experience; I have gotten quite good at it for the last six years without a permanent home. And since I am always on the go, I have become quite acquainted with good websites for affordable tickets.
The time when gas prices were low and thus airplane fuel was as well is gone. The bad economy, the rising cost of living along with shrinking pay does not make things easier for the long term traveler or the occasional adventurers. As a result, airlines can’t afford to reduce flight tickets. Not only that, airlines have cut on routes and capacity while increasing prices with fuller planes. So there is less incentives for them to reduce prices.
It’s a constant struggle to find cheap flights and not be the person that paid the most on a particular flight. There are a few ways you can be the luck one who got one of the cheap flight tickets. Before I list some of the best sites to find bargain flights, here are a few tips to keep in mind when searching for a cheap flight.
Book Early And Fly On Certain Days Of The Week
Although I have gotten really good deals on last minute flights booked a week or two in advance, booking early offers the best possibility that you will get a good deal. It’s a great idea to book three weeks to a month or even longer in advance before your trip. This is a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how late some people wait to book a flight for a trip they already know will happen.
By booking earlier, a traveler generally saves, sometimes hundreds of dollars. Askmen suggests you can save as much as two hundred dollars if a flight is booked at the 21 days in advance or more time frame. But when booking sometimes, flying out some days are more expensive than others. Hopper did some research on this and it is fascinating. They made a list of the best and worst days to fly.
The middle of the week is usually a good time to fly because travel increases on the weeks and travelers return towards the beginning of the week. As a result, flight prices fluctuate higher on weekends and the beginning of the week. Often people don’t travel in the middle of the week so choose this time if you can because that’s when flights are at their lowest. My favorite days to fly are Wednesday and Thursday. These are the days I have saved a hundred dollars or more on flights.
TIP — Book late at night or early in the morning when no one is awake. I find that these are the times flight tickets are at their lowest.
Be flexible in your travel days and time. That means know which times of the year are good for certain travel routes and modes. Is it easier and cheaper to go by train, bus or plane? Can you fly at odd hours of the day? Being adaptable and not so rigid in your schedule is another great way to save. A flight that’s going to a destination at six in the morning could save you a couple of hundred dollars than if you were to take that flight at seven in the evening when it’s convenient for everyone. The little inconvenience could save you big bucks.
Atlanta is one of the busiest if not the busiest airport in the world but that doesn’t translate to cheap flights. For example, a one way flight from Atlanta to Berlin could be $689 dollars on average. The same flight going out of New York to Berlin may cost anywhere between $250 to $400 dollars or more depending on when you book. Not all sites may have this deal so keep reading and I will fill you in on which airline frequently has this deal.
So what do I do to get this bargain?
There is a bus that leaves Atlanta to New York and many other destinations in US several times a day for $60. I could fly to New York but that’s not a cheap flight for $230 on average; even at $150 as I often see, it’s still not at a bargain. So I take the bus and pocket the savings. Finding different ways to get to a destination is a great way to be flexible.
Give yourself a few days to arrive at your destination. If you can fly during a three day window, it’s much better than when you have to be at a place on a certain day. Prices change from day to day for a lot of airlines. Just two weeks ago, I looked up flights from NYC to Berlin Tegel and each day the flight price was different. But when I chose to look at the calendar of flights for the month, the tickets were much cheaper a few days backwards or forward from the day I wanted to fly. And being that I am always flexible and choose to also search nearby airports, I got a good deal and saved about $140.
Know Who The Budget Carriers Are
There are millions of sites out there that claim to be budget sites for booking flights. Just because the say they are doesn’t mean they are. Doing your research could mean the difference between a couple of hundreds more in your bank account or not.
I usually screen several sites before I book a flight. I look at the airline’s website price that’s offering the flight, I then look at the search engines, then I look at the budget carriers to see what kind of deals they have made with the airline. Some of them have great savings and others not so much. Sometimes when I look at the so called budget carriers, their prices are higher than the actual airline price itself. That’s how I know that is not a budget carrier.
Find Another Way To Get There
No one route is the right route. There are many ways to get to any one destination. And the more you know the better you travel. So be flexible with not just dates and times but with your routes as well. Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly to Paris from New York then take a budget flight or the night train to Berlin. There are lots of budget airlines in Europe and sometimes you can find flights for as low as $30. Raynair among others usually have great deals within Europe. These are just a few:
A great site and very good list of budget sites for flights within Europe was put together by Rick at rickstevens.com
When Flights Are Not Cheap
Finding another way to get to a destination is even more important during certain times of the year. During the holiday and summer for instance, flights are at their highest in prices. That’s when booking advance is even more important. So if you know you want to be somewhere in the summer, book your flight a few months before summer really kicks off. Because as soon as the warm weather starts coming, flight prices rise with the temperatures.
Sign Up For Flyer Programs
There is no reason not to sign up for frequent flyer programs or even credit cards that offer discounts and other incentives for flying. They are for your own benefit, just read the terms of the program before you join because are really good and others not so much.
You earn points for flying and those points turn into savings on future flights. That means:
sign up for newsletter & email promotions — you will get a newsletter that offer special discounts just for registering. These discounts often offer other incentives other than cash savings.
Put it on the card — once you have registered for a promotional card or an incentive card, use it. Put everything on the card (then pay it as soon as possible) because you do not get the incentive if you don’t use the card. And by paying off immediately or as soon as possible, you don’t run the risk of accruing fees if there are any associated with the card. By using those cards you earn mileage, points or whatever and you can later convert them to cheap or free flights.
Name Your Price
Know what you want to pay for the flight. Once you know this and have done your research on the average price on a particular destination, then it makes it easier to book. You can then begin looking for the site or booking agent that offers the price you are willing to pay.
People want to always find the best or lowest price then they wait too long and end up paying more. The airline prices always bounce up and down on a day to day or hours to hours basis yet most of us miss them. As in investing, don’t wait for the perfect or best price, wait for your price and then make your booking.
And be realistic and don’t shoot yourself on the foot by trying to low ball. That means if the lowest price for a particular destination is around $900, don’t set your price at $400. That’s not realistic. So be reasonable in setting your price. A good rule of thumb is if the lowest price is $900 and the average is $1100 it’s not likely that the flight will drop to $700. So set a price between the lowest and the average and when the opportunity arises, book it.
Let’s look at some of the frequent sites I use too book my flights.
Don’t forget to include nearby airports
- Google flights
Bookingbuddy combines a number of other sites that compete with each other to offer the best possible price. Not that the first two do not but I found myself using it even more than momondo lately. But which site offers the best deals for me when all these fail?
Norwegianair.com I use Norwegian air very often. They usually have that deal I was talking about earlier. In 4 out of my last 6 flights to Europe, I have used them. But be warned, I never buy their meal options or book a seat. Each of these options will cost you $40. In all my life I cannot say any flight meal I have had is worth $40. They nevertheless offer very cheap flights outside and within Europe.
Book Early And Know Your Price
When you know where you are going and what you are willing to pay to get there start looking for your flight. The earlier you book the better savings you will get. Book at certain times and days of the week and you are very likely to save a couple of hundred dollars. Do your research and find the best price using the sites I have provided and following the tips outlined here.
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Follow my journey as I head to Saudi Arabia next week on the 8th.