So you've decided you want to take a trip ... but now it's a matter of getting there. The hardest part is taking the leap - because looking at air ticket prices may be the first deterrent to your travel plans.
Instead of being discouraged by the initial step, we wanted to offer suggestions to make air travel work for you. There are plenty of options out there and even more flight gurus that dive deeper into working air travel in your favor. We're going to keep it simple and share what we've done to get the most out of our travel dollars.
1. Get a co-branded credit card. The majority of our air travel we've done for free - and by that we mean points. It's such a perk to look into getting a credit card that you can manage and use to earn you bonus offers - free "money" ultimately, just for being loyal! We mentioned earlier this week, the amazing promotion that Southwest Airlines has with their co-branded Visa. They're offering a Companion Pass for new account holders who spend $4000 in their first three months on one of the designated cards offering this promotion.
Our tried and true card of choice is the Platinum Delta SkyMiles American Express, which we've had for over a decade and use to pay for ev-ery-thing! We earn miles on everyday spending, which quickly adds up to free tickets. On top of dollar-for-dollar mile accrual, the card also has the added benefit of Miles Boost which earns you an additional 10,000 bonus miles for every $25,000 spent in a calendar year. Airline tickets redeemed by SkyMiles can start as low as 12,000, so you just earned a free ticket as reward for spending as you normally would. Once we get to the airport, every passenger on the main cardholder's reservation gets their first bag checked free (which can be up to a $60 value per person on a round trip flight). We also LOVE that there are no foreign transaction fees on the card, as we know we won't get hit with anything more than currency exchange rates when traveling internationally! But the biggest perk of our Platinum Delta SkyMiles American Express card is the annual Companion Certificate - we get to bring a companion for just taxes and fees. Unlike Southwest it is only one ticket a year within the contingent US, but for loyal Delta travelers its soooo worth it!
We treat our card like our bank account and we pay EVERYTHING on it - and that's a sure way to rake in points. We know that's not conventional financial wisdom, as having a credit card does require a lot of discipline. But it is free perks for spending, as long as you can hold yourself accountable. If this is something you're considering doing but you're hesitant to start, here are some tips to lead you in the right direction:
2. Loyalty Programs. As briefly mentioned above, loyalty programs are everything! If you fly it, sign up for it (it takes minutes to do so). Accrue the miles for taking the trip, because they add up quickly!
When booking your flight, most airlines have the option to sign up for their loyalty program on the spot and then input your membership number. If you forget to do it, don't worry as you can either still input the information before travel OR request mileage credit after travel. Simply put, the more you fly, the more you earn!
With our frequent Delta trips (combined with credit card spending), we've been able to accrue Medallion Status. As a Medallion, you get additional perks like priority check-in and boarding, complimentary preferred seats, partner airline benefits, faster earning potential, and our favorite, free upgrades! We've traveled a handful of times where upon purchasing our ticket, we request a free upgrade to Delta Comfort or First Class. Up to 24 hours before the flight, if space remains in either class, we get upgraded ... for FREE! When that combines with a ticket that we paid for fully in points, we're getting a few hundred (if not thousand) dollars in benefits at no additional cost to us.
With our trips abroad, we've flown Delta partner airlines and were able to receive free checked bags with our status. This goes a long way, espeically with the new Basic Economy ticket (where you get no checked bag & no seat assignment). The new pricing structure is typically $100 less than an Economy seat (which gets you a seat and a bag). For us, its not worth paying the extra because we get perks. So we book the cheaper ticket and then can choose to pay for our seat selection only (seats can typically range $30-$40 a person a segment). This still saves $60/person on flights! Rates and rules vary by airline, so check before you commit.
3. Track Flights. A good flight tracking site can make all the difference if you're flexible in travel, because even a day can have a significant in prices. For our London trip, ticket prices were at least $200 cheaper for flying on Christmas night and New Year's Day than they were a day before or after on either end. Since we had the flexibility, we chose to take it!
Sites that track flight prices range everywhere from Kayak to Hopper to Skyscanner. We prefer Google Flights as we love the look and accessibility in finding flight prices on a calendar. We can then set up alerts on any of these sites to monitor the flight prices! When using these flight trackers, try to remember to search in private browsing mode, so your search history is not tracked as flight prices could suddenly change with frequent searches.
Also, find the prime booking window for your flight. Booking early may not always be an option for you - and at the same time, the cheapest option! We have tested these tips from this CheapAir.com article on waiting for the best time to book and they've worked! If you see prices start to go up and are still outside the prime booking window, you can wait a bit and will see a drop. Though we do NOT recommend waiting if you're flying at a peak time (like the holidays or an exclusive event) or seats seem to be disappearing fast on the flights you're eyeing!
4. Off Season Travel. This may not be the solution for everyone, especially if your trip is planned for a special occasion or around set dates. But if you're flexible enough to vacation when you can, do it! There are times when unbeatable flight prices arise and the trip is every penny worth taking!
If you're not in the mood to search for the best flights, you don't have to! We love the following deal sites to find flying sweet spots. Click through the pages to follow them or sign up for alert emails. We ALWAYS keep an eye on what's out there and are waiting for the right time and place to jump!
5. Consider a Neighboring Airport. When looking for flights, don't always stick to what you know. Sometimes flying out of a neighboring airport makes all the difference And if you don't mind the drive, a neighboring city could save you a few hundred dollars on a ticket (or at least offer a better travel schedule)! You can then look into a park and fly package at a hotel near the airport. What's that? You can leave your car at the hotel for the length of your trip for the price of one night -- and sometimes it includes a free airport shuttle too! All the more reason to head over the night before, get a good night's sleep, and then easily access the airport as you head on that sunny vacation!
Consider this strategy for flying home too! You may not always find the price you want at the airport of choice.For our summer Europe trip, ticket prices were cheaper for a multi-destination trip (Orlando to Rome > Paris to Orlando) then they were round-trip to and from the same cities. We also found a better deal and flight schedule flying back home from Paris through the lesser known Orly Airport than the renowned Charles de Gaulle. We knew we wanted to see Paris, so we booked it! Both ended up being the same distance from our final stop, so accessibility wasn't an issue and we got home all the same.
6. Work with a Travel Planner. Hi, me!
I can help you to either find a deal for air travel or if you want it all, help to build a full package. Partner packages with airlines can also run cheaper as they bundle their air at a discount, a commodity that is rare to come across nowadays! Even if you decide to go and book your own flight, I can still help plan anything from transfers, accommodations and activities!
If you're already considering travel and want to take the next step, here it is! Fill out a Travel Planning form if you know exactly where you want to go and need help pricing it! If you need help finding the right trip for you, try the Adventure Seeking form to detail what you want from your trip.
You can also send me an email and I'll be in touch to help plan the rest of the details for you! I LOVE travel - to talk about it, work through it, and most importantly, DO IT! And if I can help you take the trip, I'd love to provide you with that!