Welcome back! As I've said before, there's nothing I love talking about more than travel. Particularly Disney travel! Started Part 1 of this post with tips on accommodations and rental cars. Missed that post? Check it out here: http://www.overtiredmama.com/2016/02/disney-on-budget-2016-part-1.html
In today's post, I'm going to discuss airline tickets.
My daughter on the airplane.
Airfare is always a challenge. Not everyone likes to hunt for good airfare prices, but I actually do! So the tips I'm going to share are from my own experience. You may have a different experience or different tips, so please feel free to share your comments!
I'm a "plan ahead" kind of person. With airfare, there is such a thing as booking too soon. Generally, with my accommodations, I have booked as far out as a year. It's not always necessary to book that far in advance, depending on the property you're planning on staying at. With the first rental property we stayed at, a rental in a quiet neighbourhood (check it out here: http://www.overtiredmama.com/2014/11/planning-our-florida-vacation-part-1.html ), it was necessary to book that far in advance because the property is very popular and books early, but the property we stayed at this year, which I found on Vacation Rental by Owner, we booked about 4 months out.
For airfare, prices are pretty high a year out. So unless the airline you plan to use has made some announcement about an increase in fares coming, I probably wouldn't book that far out. There is an exception. If you plan to travel during major holidays (ex - Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc), prices tend to stay high during these periods, and this is a busy travel time. There are always exceptions, but it's best to book earlier for these types of travel dates.
The other thing I noticed, in my own experience, is that even if your travel dates are not during a holiday, if you are booking your travel just prior to a holiday, prices can be higher. Just as an example, we were looking at flight prices just prior to American Thanksgiving, for travel in March, and when I checked again the week following the holiday, prices were almost $200 cheaper.
I found the "sweet spot" (meaning the prices being best) to be about 8 to 10 weeks out. I also am big on subscribing to airline and travel site emails, as they will notify you if a particular promotion is happening. The other thing I have found is that airlines tend to have the best prices on their own website. While, again, there are some exceptions, I do find the airlines to have better prices than "discount travel" sites. Also, pay attention to "price guarantees". Sometimes airlines or other travel sites will guarantee you the best price, and if you find a better price they will refund you the difference. Read the small print though, there is often a lot of proof required to claim the refund.
You may also want to consider discount airlines or alternate airports. you have to decide what is a "must have" for you.
Discount airlines are often cheaper, but sometimes use "secondary" airports, and don't have a lot of "bells and whistles", so lack of in-flight entertainment or food are some examples.
When considering an alternate airport, there are a few things to consider. How much further is this "alternate airport" from your "home airport"? Will it require an overnight stay? A lot more gas? Will you have to pay for parking for the duration of your trip? And how valuable is your time? These are all costs of selecting an alternative airport.
Consider my own example. Our home airport is Saint John, New Brunswick. I looked at flying from Fredericton, New Brunswick (1 hour away), Moncton, New Brunswick (2 hours away), Halifax, Nova Scotia (4 hours away), Bangor, Maine (3 hours away), and Portland, Maine (6 hours away).
Flights out of Fredericton and Moncton were very similar to the price from Saint John, so they were ruled out right away. The flight from Halifax was $50 cheaper, but considering the distance, we would have spent that in gas, and would have had to stay over the night before, so that was ruled out.
With the exchange rage, the flight from Bangor was the same price, so it was ruled out, and the flight from Portland, with exchange, was about 100 cheaper, but would have required a lengthy drive and hotel stays. So we stayed with our home airport.
That being said, we have selected alternate airports before, prices will differ all the time.
You can also fly in to alternate airports. In the case of Orlando, there are two airports, Orlando International and Sanford. Not all airlines fly in to both, so be aware of where you are flying in to. And if you are renting a car, be sure you're renting at the correct airport.
So those are my airfare tips. Have some tips of your own? Feel free to share in the comments!