In this travel skills article, I will explain how being flexible can result in getting lower airfares. In a previous article, I said that there is one travel tip that will help you save money (and have more fun)—on EVERY trip.
#1 Travel Tip for Getting Lower Airfares
*** Be FLEXIBLE ***
First, a common example of extreme inflexibility: Let’s say you have to fly tomorrow for business and return the following day. Hopefully you will not find yourself in such a situation (or at least have a company to pay for the flight). Flights between DC-Dulles and Los Angeles, as an example, start at $900. If you must fly a certain airline, that could drive up the price: in this case, $900 on American and $1300 on United.
Here are some ways to be flexible about air travel and SAVE MONEY by getting lower airfares.
* Be Flexible With Your Flight Dates and Times
Looking for flights on different days and at different times gives you more choices. More choices means better chances to get lower airfares. Always! Airlines usually offer lower airfares at 3, 7, and 14 days before departure. In the example, if you start your trip in three days, the fare drops to $439.
* Be Flexible About the Carriers / Airlines
Limiting yourself to using one airline means no chance of potentially getting lower airfares offered by other carriers. I certainly understand being loyal because of frequent flyer programs or whatever reason–but NOT when other airfares are much less. In the example, only considering United will cost you an extra $400. Also, flying different airlines in each direction gives you more chances and better chances to get lower airfares.
* Be Flexible About Your Airports (Departure and Arrival)
In the DC area, there are three major airports (also Reagan National and BWI). Checking airfares for flights from all three airports gives travelers more chances to get lower airfares. For this example, fares are lowest from Dulles but, for many routes, the other airports offer lower airfares. Also check for alternate airports on the other end. There are several airports in Southern California. Long Beach (non-stop flights from Dulles on JetBlue), Orange County/John Wayne, or Burbank/Bob Hope airport may be more convenient than LAX. In general, smaller airports are much more convenient but that will be a future blog post.
* Be Flexible About the Flight Routing
If you have time to take connecting flights, then you will get lower airfares on many itineraries. Sometimes, but not always, connecting flights are less expensive than nonstop flights. Varying the airport that you connect through can save you money or make your trip more convenient and fun. For connecting flights during winter months, I try to connect through southern airports (Atlanta, Dallas) rather than northern airports (Chicago, Denver).
* Be Flexible About Where You Buy Tickets
As a general rule, I check for airfares on a booking website (such as Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz—but there are many others) and actually buy the ticket from the airline’s website. Remember to check southwest.com, because that is the only place to buy tickets online for Southwest Airlines.
* Be Flexible About When You Buy Tickets
It is always better to buy tickets when airlines offer the lowest fares and you can plan your travel schedule in advance. Be careful because the fees to change itineraries are ridiculously high for most airlines.
* Anything Else?
How about you? Do you have any other general areas of flexibility for getting lower airfares? Leave your comments below.