Thrifty Flying Tips?

>> 6.02.2010

I received an email question this past weekend that I thought could use a little attention on the blog:

Hi Kasey,

I love reading your blog (I've commented a couple times under the name craftosaurus) and seeing how you stretch your pennies. I take the same approach, but I've found myself stumped as to, how to find a thrifty approach to air travel. Specifically, mid-summer, long-weekend-getaway, domestic air travel. Do you have any tricks up your sleeve for scoring round trip air fare without breaking the bank?

Many thanks! Yours in thriftiness,

Don't we all wish we knew the big answer to this question?! I wish I could say that I had some secret site or insider's trick to share with you, but my thriftiest vacation strategy is that I don't really go on them all that often. Besides keeping my flying time down to one (or fewer) trips a year, I also:
*Plan ahead~ Not only are flights usually cheaper months in advance, but having the extra time means that I can comparison shop among the different airlines and bargain sites (Orbitz, Priceline, Kayak etc.). When I'm doing this, I always keep in mind the fees that might be charged in addition to the posted price.
*Stay flexible~
Day of week- Mid-week or mid-weekend is usually cheaper (basically, the days that others don't want to travel).

Time of day- If possible, I always try to fly out as early as possible on the first day of my trip. This way, I have the entire day to enjoy my destination without having to pay additional hotel or car rental fees. Imagine knocking off $100+ on your plane ticket... that's what you're doing by skipping that first night's hotel fees. Instead of 11 pm the Friday night, fly in at 8 am on Saturday. Think the same way for your return flight and enjoy the afternoon in your destination before packing up and going home.

Time of year- Late August is just as hot and summery as July, but the fares go way down by that time.

Location of trip- This isn't possible for everyone, but I'll usually change my trip of choice based on the deals available. Nonstop and regional flights are almost always cheaper so I try to find one that sparks my interest. If nonstop isn't possible, I might drive over to one of the bigger cities in my state, visit with relatives, and fly out from there if the savings makes since.

*Get rewarded~ If traveling is your thing, I'd say to go for that rewards credit card! My mom actually got to the point where she earned a Companion Pass status with her Southwest Airlines card and gets to fly with a friend for free.

*Pack light~ I'd like to consider myself to be somewhat of a master packer. I love the ease of traveling with two simple carry-ons... and avoiding those pesky fees that most airlines are charging these days.

Okay, so that's all I've got on thrifty summer flying tips. Anyone have the secret to scoring super cheap airfare?! Please share!!
...and because blogs aren't fun without pictures, here are a few from my recent (Memorial Day weekend) trip to visit my sister in Buffalo/ Niagara/ Toronto:

Toronto sunset. What a (huge) fun city!

I just about died over the cuteness of Buffalo. Character and history seemed to ooze from everywhere.


Jeannine @ Small and Chic June 2, 2010 at 10:02 AM  

My biggest piece of advice is just one word:


For some reason, flights seem to be cheaper when you buy them on Tuesdays.

Kim at Yellow Brick Home June 2, 2010 at 10:08 AM  

If you're a student (or even USED to be - they don't check), try for tickets. The last several flights we went on were bought for about $50 less!

Audreya June 2, 2010 at 10:21 AM  

I do fly fairly often and your advice is great. I second checking nearby airports. You have to consider gas and parking (if you don't have a friend in that city) but it can save a ton. In October, we're flying to Florida. I will save over $100 per ticket by driving to an airport 2.5 hours a way. (My normal airport is 1 hour away in the same direction, so it's not THAT much further and the savings will more than cover the gas.)
Kayack is a great resource. It's worth the time it takes to look both ways - individual items (flight, car, hotel, etc) and a package deal. The package is almost always cheaper but sometimes I will do a partial package -flight and car, maybe- but can get a better hotel separately. It's tedious but the savings are worth it.

Kate June 2, 2010 at 10:56 AM  

I have no flight advice, but I am so jealous of your trip! It looks beautiful! I've always wanted to check out Niagara Falls but haven't been able to find out what else there is to do in the area. I should really look into that ...

Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog June 2, 2010 at 11:09 AM  

@Kate~ Niagara Falls was beautiful, but the surrounding area was super touristy (think Vegas). I would totally recommend visiting Toronto and driving out as a day trip.

Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog June 2, 2010 at 11:09 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Babs June 2, 2010 at 11:19 AM  

I'm a huge fan of SideStep ( Same premises at Kayak where it compares discount travel sites and airline's pricing in one fell swoop. You can also search for hotels/cruises/etc. They have a weekend search feature too for last minute getaways that are usually pretty good.

Another thing you can check is for a smaller airport in the city you're flying into. In L.A. for example, you can fly into Long Beach and sometimes save 50% over flying into LAX!

Christina June 2, 2010 at 7:45 PM  

I'm traveling to China next week and found that was an awesome travel site. Also, is cool.

craftosaurus June 2, 2010 at 8:02 PM  

Thanks for the custom-written thrifty advice post! I ended up finding competitive rates directly through an airline's website (Air Tran) and being able to use a couple of your ideas. I'll definitely be packing light, that's for sure!

Sara @ Russet Street Reno June 2, 2010 at 11:29 PM  

Flight prices are why I don't go anywhere. Boo.

Jenny,  June 3, 2010 at 3:41 AM  

Great post Kasey, I really enjoy your thrifty blog! :) We are actually getting ready to fly back to the mainland from Hawaii this Saturday and are taking our very first military flight ~ if you or your spouse is a veteran, the space-available travel on military aircrafts are free! You do have to be flexible though, because it is space available travel so if you are bumped by someone on official business, you might have to wait for another flight. I'm excited to try it out and see how we do, flights home from HI are so expensive, we're trying this route this time :)

Another trick I've learned with all of our flying is to learn which airlines fly into whatever airport you are heading to or leaving from ~ the cheapest one way ticket back to Hawaii I found was on Kayak for $652, however I knew Hawaiian Airlines flies from Vegas or Phoenix on the cheap to Honolulu, and my itty-bitty airport back home flies to Vegas and Phoenix from IL on the cheap (that's where home is for us) so I checked the times, making sure I had enough time from the first flight to catch the second and I scored us all one way tickets for a total of $365 apiece. That's an awesome savings for a young family like us! :) Anyways, sorry this is a book ~ I can't wait to hear what other tips your readers have! :)

me. and. b. June 3, 2010 at 10:37 AM  

I've also heard the Tuesday rule. I fly about every 3 months and always buy my tickets about 2-3 weeks prior. I also use Travelocity flexible dates. (no i don't work for travelocity) You don't get as much choice in what time you fly but it's awesome if you just have a date range and saves buckooo bucks if it works out!

Life in Rehab June 3, 2010 at 12:29 PM  

Hey Kasey, this is totally off topic, but did you know you're HERE:

I am too, #42. Kinda cool, huh?

Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog June 3, 2010 at 2:45 PM  

@Life in Rehab~ I did... and I can't say that I hate the attention ;).

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