Most of the trips we take these days require air travel, which of course is not always easy to find at a decent price. There are a few tricks I’ve learned over the years though, that have helped me keep the price of our flights at a reasonable level, while still affording us the comforts we expect when flying.
We fly coach and don’t require silver spoon treatment, but we do want personal entertainment systems on longer flights, a decent meal, and comfortable seats. So although often times we could probably find a cheaper flight on a no-name airline, it might not always be worth it to us if we arrive haggard and exhausted.
There are a couple of different avenues I use when searching for flights. If you haven’t guessed yet, we’re big fans of American Express. We charge as many of our monthly bills as we can to Amex, to build up our points. When you use the travel link on American Express, not only do they often have the best pricing (or if not, at least very competitive with the other travel sites like Expedia, Travelocity, etc.), but you can use your points to pay directly for flights, hotels, car rentals, tours, etc. You can also pay for a portion if you don’t have enough points to pay for the whole thing, which reduces the cost, making an already reasonably priced flight even more affordable.
In the event that we’re flying to Europe, I always check Aer Lingus’s website directly (http://www.aerlingus.com/en-US/home/index.jsp). I can say that I always have found the best prices for flights to Europe through Aer Lingus. The one drawback (if you can even consider it a drawback), is that you will always have a layover in either Shannon or Dublin. My husband and I take full advantage of this stop-over, with a nice pint (or 2) of Guinness for him and a cold glass of draught cider for me – no matter what time of day, it’s always available! Plus there are some great shops to pick up some wonderful Irish handicrafts. Aer Lingus also has great sales quite often. So if the price doesn’t suit you, wait a week or two, and try again – the price often fluctuates by several hundreds. I generally look at the other travel sites to get an idea of what the average going rate is for my European destination, then try Aer Lingus. If the price is not much cheaper, I hold off and keep checking till I get a better price. I’m usually doing this about 3-4 months in advance.
Another trick I’ve learned that works more often than not, is flying into one airport and out of another. For instance, last time we went to Ireland, we flew into Shannon and out of Dublin, which was about $300 cheaper than flying in and out of Shannon. Of course this only works when we’re not staying in one place. We did the same thing in Germany, flying into Munich and out of Berlin. This doesn’t always create a financial benefit, but you’d be surprised how many times it will lower your flight price.
Frequent flyer programs are a great way, if not to get cheaper or free flights, at least to get some perks. Unless you fly a lot, and always on the same airline, frequent flyer miles can add up slowly. But where frequent flyer programs come in handy, is with the perks you are often provided for being a member. Often frequent flyer members are first to be offered upgrades, which is always nice. You can also usually take advantage of airline hospitality lounges when you’re a member of their frequent flyer program, if not for free, for a nominal fee, which comes in handy when you have a long layover or are delayed.
Also, don’t delay if you see a good price. If you find airline tickets to Japan for $1100, when they usually go much higher, don’t wait for the price to go up, because you know it will. Next thing you know you’ll be paying $900 more and regretting your delay. If you find the best deal, don’t wait around for a better one – jump on it!
With tickets purchased for a reputable airline at a decent price, you can head to your destination with confidence and ease. If you have any tips or tricks that you use to get a great rate on flights, please let us know by commenting! Happy flying!