I am by no means a world traveler, but over the last year I’ve become well-acquainted with travel sites, airlines, lodging, etc. Now, I’d like to share my tips for affordable trips with you. If you’re on a budget, like me, you may get overwhelmed with the cost of travel, but fear not! There are tricks to the game…
Avoid them! That’s right, avoid all of them. Expedia, Travelocity, Pricelines, Orbitz, etc. But Vicky, you say, I thought these sites offer discounts and bundles! Sometimes they do, but they do not show you every airline, hotel or car rental available. Southwest, for example, is not listed on these sites. It’s almost always cheaper to go directly to the airline or hotel’s website. I will occasionally use Tripadvisor (tripadvisor.com) to see if there are any last-minute airline deals. Travelzoo (travelzoo.com) is good for this as well. But I never book with them. When you book directly with the airline you will see more flight times available, and you may have additional options for refundable tickets, baggage deals, insurance, etc.
If you aren’t watching every dollar, and you want a quick booking without a lot of work, then the travel sites are for you. Otherwise, read on….
I’m a bit nutty when it comes to flying, and I limit my options to three airlines: Spirit, Jetblue, and Southwest. These three have been fatality-free so far, and I hope they remain that way!! I’d stay away from Delta. Google their safety rating if you’re bored. They seem to have pieces falling off their planes regularly. Grant it, Southwest lost a fuseloge sometime ago, but hey.. no one is perfect.
Spirit: I used to think Spirit was comparable to flying in an old Geo Metro. But they’ve actually updated many of their planes. Of all airlines, Spirit has the lowest fares, generally. Especially if you join their $9 fare club (see note below). If you book with them, it helps to be persistent. It’s like the Stock Market; prices wil go up and down each day. I usually watch the prices for several days before I book. Weekday, early-morning flights are generally the cheapest. Here’s the catch (there’s always a catch): Spirit charges for baggage! Even carry-ons! $30 dollars per bag each way! So, you need to factor that cost in when comparing the fare cost to other airlines that don’t charge. Most of us need two bags if we are staying any more than three days. That’s an extra $120 round-trip! Changes thing, huh? I recommend Spirit if you’re taking a quick 2-3 day trip.
*Spirit’s $9 fare club: It costs $60 a year. If you are a frequent flyer, it’s worth it. Keep in mind, not every flight is discounted. And rarely is a flight ever actually $9. But you will find some lower fare costs, and a some savings on baggage. But bags still won’t fly free.
Jetblue: By far, a favorite for many flyers. They too, will change their prices from day to day, depending on how a flight is booking. Sometimes, waiting to the last minute, though stressful, is the way to go with them. It’s a gamble though, because at times their prices will skyrocket up. If your travel times are flexible, I’d recommend waiting. Jetblue is highly-rated, and worth the extra few dollars if you’re comparing to Spirit. They have that nifty satellite TV, and very roomy seats. I’m 5’10″, and I’m quite comfortable in their regular seats. The emergency row (with additional leg-room) isn’t necessary for me when I’m on a Jetblue flight. Also, carry-ons and the first checked bag fly free with them!
Southwest: More times than not, their prices are much higher than the other two. But, I mention them here because they occasional have some great “Web-Only” prices. Like the other two, you should watch them for several days before booking, as prices fluctuate. Southwest has three great benefits:
1) Fully transferabble flights. This means that you can change your flight as often as you need to without charge. If you cancel your flight, you can use the credit toward any other flight for a year. This is rare among airlines, unless you pay for additional refundable options.
2) Carry-ons and two checked bags fly free! Yep, three bags, no cost.
3) If your travel times are flexible, you can give up your seat on an overbooked flight and Southwest will credit you up to $300, depending on how much later the new flight will arrive. If you are able to do this, you could save a lot using this trick!
The best solution is to make a good friend in every major city. A good friend with a couch, that is. Preferably a guest room. Of course, this is not always an option, depending on how popular you are. So, read on… » Read more: Tips and Tricks for Affordable Trips