Travel Tip #2 – Airplane Mode

While there are people out there who have their preferred airline and refuse to travel on any other carrier, most of us just want to find the best deal. Either way, I think it’s safe to say that buying a plane ticket can eat up a chunk of your travel budget. It doesn’t help that airlines are charging for even 1 piece of checked luggage on domestic flights.

Here are some tips when purchasing your plane ticket.

General Information


1) Know where to look – Have I mentioned how much I use kayak.com?? Yes? Okay, I’m going to mention it once again: When you start your flight search, start at kayak.com!! If anything, it will help you narrow down your options by flight times, departure and arrival time, layover times, number of stops, and price. Most importantly, it searches all the search engines for you, including the airline’s own site. Why go anywhere else to start your search??

2) The difference a day makes – If your travel plans are flexible, try searching for flights on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday. People are less likely to fly on those days so you can find some good deals. Flights on Friday and Sunday are going to be more expensive, but for most people, it’s hard to avoid flying on those days.

*Bonus* – Word on the street is that the best day/time to purchase your airline ticket is between midnight and 1am on Wednesdays. Also, Tuesday seems to be the busiest day to purchase plane tickets.

2) Know your flight itinerary – It feels like every year, between Thanksgiving and New Years, the news covers stories of stranded travelers in the Northeast trying to get home for the holidays. So why on earth would you buy a ticket with a layover in NYC that time of year?? ALWAYS check the layover city and time before you purchase a ticket with stops. Try and avoid stops in cities like NYC, Washington DC, or Chicago during the winter months (if you actually want to make it home that is). Also, no one wants to sit in the airport for hours, but make sure your layover gives you time to deplane, find your new gate, use the bathroom, and grab a snack before boarding. Of course, your best bet is to fly non-stop (if it’s available). This option may be a little more expensive, so it’s up to you to weigh your cost vs. time preference.

3) Reward yourself – Every airline has it’s own free reward program and if you planning on flying, you should know about them. I, not unlike George Clooney’s character in “Up In The Air”, don’t fly an airline without getting points for it. I’ve got memberships with American, Southwest, Continental, and Delta, just to name a few. These reward programs help you earn miles/points every time you fly which (once you earn enough) you can use to fly for free anywhere that airline flies. The more miles you earn, the higher your membership level gets and the more perks you get! For example many airlines wave the baggage fee for their elite or platinum reward members.

I've been a Southwest Rapid Reward member for over 10 years!

4) Boost your miles – Now, I don’t just get miles/points from the flight itself. I also get points from my credit card when I purchase the flight. See, every reward program partners with a credit card that gives you points for every dollar you spend. When used responsibly (I can’t stress this enough!) you can earn miles on your preferred airline quickly and it doesn’t cost you anything extra. I’ve always had airline reward credit cards and I’ve used those points for roundtrip tickets all over the US and even a couple flights to/from Europe.

*Bonus* – When you join the airline’s reward program, you’ll probably start getting promotional offers for their credit card. These promotions include X number of bonus points for joining or no fee for the first year.

Domestic Flights

1) Two words: Southwest Airlines – I love this airline! You should too, and here’s why…the first TWO bags you check are free, the staff is always friendly, no change fees if you need to adjust your travel plans, fly 8 round trip flights in 24 months and you get a free flight plus drink coupons, you can pick your own seat…oh, i could go on all day. Best of all, if you plan early, you can get some great deals to some amazing destinations. When planning a trip in the US, I always check Southwest first.

My favorite Southwest plane - The Shamu!

2) Watch those fees – The extra fees on airlines have gotten a little out of hand and it feels like there’s a new fee added every day. It is important to familiarize yourself with them so you don’t get surprised later. Sometimes booking a flight on Delta may seem cheaper, but when you add in the checked bag fee, you find that you’re paying more than what was a slightly more expensive Southwest ticket. Other fees to keep in mind include ticket change fees (usually between $75-150), seat selection fees, and inflight food fees.

For the ultimate guide to domestic airline fees, check out this chart I found at SmartTraveler.com.

International Flights


1) London to Rome for £10! – At this point I hope you’re thinking, “Wait, what’s the catch?” The catch is that you will be charged for everything else, including checking in online and water on the plane. Let me introduce you to RyanAir and EasyJet. Two of the top low cost airlines in Europe, these airlines offer REALLY cheap flights in exchange for a sort of al a cart flying experience. I have nothing against either of them, but it’s important that you know what you’re getting into before you book. For me, the whole experience made Southwest look like the Ritz Carlton of airlines, but I flew from London to Dublin to Glasgow for about £30.

*NOTE* – If you’re an American traveling on RyanAir, you MUST get your passport checked and your ticket stamped at the check-in desk BEFORE going through security.

2) Watch those fees (part 2) – The same rules apply to international flights. At face value, RyanAir seems like the cheap option but sometimes with all the fees, you’re better off flying British Airways (if they’re not on strike). Luckily, I have another handy ultimate guide to international airline fees thanks to the folks as SmartTraveler.com. This chart also gives you the American airline’s international baggage fees.

For more on the Travel Tips series, click here.

Ciao,

Sheila

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5 Comments

Filed under Movie Reference, Travel Tips

5 responses to “Travel Tip #2 – Airplane Mode

  1. This is such great advice! I love it. Do you read the NYT Frugal Traveler blog? You definitely should.

    • ciaosheila

      Thanks girl!
      Yes, i started reading Frugal Traveler i think after reading about it on your blog, maybe?
      I’ve marked a couple of the posts in there for future trips.

  2. If only I had a dollar for each time I came to ciaosheila.wordpress.com… Superb writing!

  3. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is great blog. A fantastic read. I will certainly be back.

  4. This is a really good read for me. Must agree that you are one of the best bloggers I ever saw. Thanks for posting this useful article.

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