Fly Cheap: 10 Tips for Saving on Airfare Costs

It’s safe to say that most of us do not have a bottomless well of funds for travel. For those who take only a week or two a year (and we should talk) a modest splurge is possible. But for anyone who wants to eek out every travel possibility in their year, it’s important to be mindful of expenses, if not downright frugal.

Airfare ranks among the biggest expenses of any trip. But there are some steps you can take to stretch your airfare bucks, so you don’t have to skimp so much on the ground.

Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Here are some practical tips for saving on airfare costs for your next trip:

  1. Compare prices. They vary widely, and change over time. Check out aggregate travel sites, which do a lot of the work for you. My favorite is Kayak.com, but Orbitz, Travelocity and many, many others make price comparison pretty easy. Keep in mind, however, some airlines do not participate in these services. For example, if you want to fly Southwest, you’ll have to price check through their site. 
  2. Consider flying off-peak (late day, early morning, etc.) and middle of the week. Experts say the best airfare bargains can be found by flying on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Check it out! Many sites have airfare calendars and enable you to search for the best fare over the course of several days or weeks. The extra step is worth it–you could save hundreds of dollars. 
  3. Fly off season. Flight costs during high season to popular destinations can get pretty high. Fly off-season, and you’ll stand to save substantially. 
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
  1. Subscribe to travel bargain alerts, particularly if your schedule is flexible. Travelzoo’s Top 20 is one of my favorites. In addition, working with a travel agent you trust can also save you money, as they can find packages or cut deals with their vendors that the average RBG can’t. 
  2. Watch the extras. Airlines are now charging for small graces that used to come free: window seats, legroom, meals, beverages, baggage…a little diligence on your part can save you from mounting costs. First, not all airlines leverage fees for these services, so do your research and take that into consideration when doing your cost comparison. Pack your plane food ahead of time, if the airline charges for meals. Pack light, and bring only a carry-on; you’ll have the added bonus of not having to lug around a bunch of stuff. And, if the budget is really tight, just grit your teeth and accept that you’ll have a crummy seat for the duration of your flight. 
  3. Join frequent flyer programs. It’s pretty easy to do. If you don’t fly much, it will take a while for you to accrue miles sufficient enough to get a free flight. But when you do, it’s so fun! 
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
  1. If you need to go to multiple destinations, look into a single ticket that allows you to do so. Rather than flying round-trip to one destination, then booking separate flights to others, you can sometimes save big bucks by booking multiple stops on a single trip. 
  2. If you have to fly once you are overseas, you may find better bargains through international airlines. Discount carrier Ryanair is famous for offering great flights at unbelievable prices within Europe. A friend told me she once flew from London to Rome, round trip, for just six euros. 
  3. Take a bump. More than ever, airlines are filling flights and even overbooking them. You can cash in on this by being flexible in your travel plans, and taking bumps when they are offered. Sometimes it may mean an extra night in a city, often with lodging and food costs covered, and you’ll get a travel voucher too. Typically, I’ve seen them offered for about $200–a nice paycheck for waiting a couple of hours! 
  4. If your schedule and destination are really flexible, and you just want to go somewhere, consider booking last minute. Airlines want to offload those empty seats, and prices can plummet considerably. If your risk tolerance doesn’t allow you to fly by the seat of your pants, try to book well in advance, up to five weeks out to get better pricing. You’ll miss out on those last minute deals, but you’ll have the security of knowing that you have a seat. That is, until you take that bump!
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Charish Badzinski is an explorer, foodie and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations. 

Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
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Creative Commons License
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at rollerbaggoddess.blogspot.com.
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