Saving money on air travel doesn’t only mean choosing a cheap flight. Sure, that’s half the battle, but it’s crucial to factor in all other associated costs, from getting to the airport to paying extra for checked baggage. Here’s how to minimize the cost of flying so you have extra funds to dedicate to your actual trip.
1. Choose alternate airports
Major airports aren’t only busier, they can cost a lot more to get to. According to Liana Corwin, consumer travel expert at Hopper, it’s best to factor in the transportation costs of flying into and out of each of your destination city’s airports (for example, New York includes Newark, JFK and LaGuardia Airport; Toronto, Canada includes Pearson and Billy Bishop Airport; and Melbourne, Australia includes Avalon, Essendon and Melbourne Airport). Before booking the cheapest flight, do a quick calculation of how much a cab or train to your hotel will cost.
2. Book during the week
Most travelers don’t have time to make travel plans while they’re at work during the week, which means prices go up when everyone is booking at the same time over the weekend.
“The airlines have very sophisticated pricing algorithms, which means its difficult to snag a deal if you’re shopping at very predictable times,” said Corwin.
If you’re (understandably) too busy to refresh your browser while at the office, try a price monitoring tool, like Hopper’s, which will automatically alert you to price drops.
3. Book three weeks in advance
While the travel industry is beginning to track and accommodate procrastinating spring breakers, the same doesn’t ring true the rest of the year. According to Justine McDonald, travel expert at CheapTickets, “the first is to know your booking window. Three weeks out is consistently the cheapest time to save on flights.”
4. Come home on the weekend
Weekday trips are marked up due to the uptick in business travelers. According to McDonald, “if you’re booking a weekday trip for work, consider adding on a weekend stay to unlock extra savings.” Research from the Airline Reporting Corporation in collaboration with Expedia found that adding a Saturday night stay to a mid-week trip can save travelers up to 25 percent on airfare.
5. Meet in the middle
Instead of shelling out several hundred dollars to meet your west coast-dwelling pal across the country, have them meet you in the middle this time around. According to David Solomito, VP of marketing at KAYAK, their Rendezvous tool ensures you’re each paying an equal fare. It calculates the cheapest destinations for two people to meet up by the lowest combined airfare cost, providing multiple suggestions per search.
6. Look at one-way flights
Unless you’re moving across the country to start a new life (in which case, congrats!), airlines know you’re going to book a roundtrip or return flight. And that means markups galore. According to Maggie Giddens, managing director of public relations and corporate social responsibility at G6 Hospitality, check the price of two one-way flights — there and back — when traveling domestically since it might be cheaper.
7. Skip the checked bags
Flying on an airline that charges per bag is a surefire way to go over budget. If you can’t manage to bring all your belongings in a carry-on, think about using a service like LugLess, which, for a small-ish fee, ships your bags directly to your destination through a courier service like UPS or FedEx. “Since you won’t have all your big bags with you, you can also skip ordering the Uber XL to the airport and rent a smaller car, thereby saving money there as well,” said Aaron Kirley, president of LugLess. Since time is money, it’s definitely a huge plus to not have to wait at baggage claim.