I recently took a trip across America. While doing so, I learned a few things about how to save money. The following post discusses the variety of small ways to save money while traveling by air. Let’s get saving:
Booking tickets doesn’t have to be a nightmare. My site of choice is Kayak – but any price comparison site will work. Sort through all the flights based on your leave time, seat requirements, location, etc. I try to be flexible on departure and arrival times. I know you can only be so flexible but try your best. As far as seat requirements go, I actually like to book on flights with limited available seats. Why? Because sometimes the plane gets too crowded and they offer incentives for you to de-plane. This has happened to me quite a lot. Basically, they offer incentives like a free ticket later in the day, a free hotel room that night, a free ticket, free room + hundreds in airline rewards… It can be pretty awesome if your schedule is at all flexible.
I also consider whether or not it’s worth going to a further away airport first. Consider all semi-local options. If you can save $100 by driving just 20 more miles, it’s probably worth the drive. Be sure to check car parking prices if you must drive.
They say 2 PM on a Tuesday about 50 days from departure is the best time to snag a plane ticket. That’s when prices are their lowest. That rule of thumb has worked well for me.
This is weird but when you begin shopping for a plane ticket, be ready to buy. Reason being, many sites deploy cookies that track whether or not you’ve been to the site. If they know you were shopping for flights earlier in the week and you’re back now, you probably really need to buy. So they show you increased prices. They are trying to cash in on your desperation. So either buy at first sight or clear your cookies before returning.
Heading to the Airport
Airport parking tends to be really expensive. It’s best to have a friend drop you off and pick you up. If you feel that’s too much to ask, just ask for a drop off. Then, while landing, call a taxi. Paying to park at the airport is quite a pain. Plus having to walk to your car can also be an inconvenience. It’s best to just walk out out and into a car.
Eating at the Airport
No matter where you go on this planet, airport food will always be expensive. That’s for a few reasons. The first is that all the food has to go through security. This slows things down and thus makes the process expensive. Second, and more important, is that the airport knows it has a captive audience. Where else will you get food, through security, at 11 PM? Nowhere. They also know you’re tired and cranky. Most people pay for any sort of relief from the relative nightmare that can be flying.
I have a few little tricks for saving on food. The first is to eat a hearty meal before the travel begins. This way I’m not hungry for hours. I also pack food in my carryon. If it’s for eating on the plane, they allow it. There’s also free water past security at most airports. I take along a reusable water container. This way I’m never thirsty – and never have to buy £9 GBP bottles of water.
FInally, I haven’t done this yet but it sounds awesome. You can get a credit card which allows you lounge access. Lounge access would be amazing wouldn’t it? But it’s hardly frugal. Or is it? Actually, if you fly enough, you can justify the expense. The reason why this option is expensive is that credit cards with lounge access usually have a high annual fee. But if you travel fairly often, it’s definitely worth it. These lounges have free wifi, free food, free shower, free concierge and free outlets to charge your devices in peace! Sounds glorious! I really want to get to the point where I travel enough to justify these expensive credit cards. If anyone is at this stage in life, comment below. How is it inside these lounges? It looks glorious.
FInally, eat when you get out of the airport. The craziest thing I see people do is eat at the airport once they land. Why do that? Why not get out of the airport, clean up a little and eat at a reasonably priced restaurant? Or better yet, go to a grocery store and load up on fresh, inexpensive food. Take it back to your hotel and relax a little. The cost difference between an airport meal and a grocery store meal is immense. Even high-end grocery stores offer pre-made meals that are far cheaper.
Enjoy your flight!
Will Lipovsky is a personal finance freelance writer and internet marketer. His most embarrassing moment has been saying to a Microsoft executive, “I’ll just Google it.” You can get in touch with Will at FirstQuarterFinance.com.