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Travelling on a Budget Series - Part 2 - Flights

Welcome back to "Part 2" of my travelling on a budget series.  If you missed "Part 1", that post covered accommodations, a pretty critical part of any trip, so be sure to check that out (you can link directly to it by clicking here or copying the address: http://www.overtiredmama.com/2019/01/travelling-on-budget-series-part-1.html

In case you didn't read my previous post, a little disclaimer - It's important to have an in depth understanding of your own budget.  It's important not to travel "beyond your means".  So that being said - Understand that in addition to my regular full-time job, I have taken part-time jobs in the past (fitness instructor, paid contributor to blogs, etc) to help us save for vacation.  I am not a financial adviser or any kind of financial professional, but my best recommendation is to go through a budgeting exercise first, before you start planning for vacation.  We revisit our budget every year (sometimes more frequently, especially if circumstances change).

Now, with all of the above in mind, I will share some general tips for saving money on vacation.  These tips are not specific to any particular location, so I hope they will help you in your planning.

Airfare



This is probably the area that I get the most questions about.  That being said, this can be an expensive part of your trip, even if you are getting a deal, so it's important to consider a few things before you decide that you're going to fly over other modes of transportation.

1.  Is your travel destination one that offers the opportunity to travel by another mode of transportation?  Can you drive, take a train, boat, etc?  If there are other modes of transportation, are they practical for the type of vacation you're looking for?  Here are some examples of what I mean:

    • Travelling from Moncton to Toronto?  There are a few options - fly, drive, bus, or train.  You need to consider the amount of time you have for your trip, your trip budget, the amount of luggage you are bringing with you, and the amount of people you are travelling with.  
    • The number of people you are travelling with can no doubt make air travel your most expensive option by a significant amount if you have a lot of people in your group.  That being said - travelling with a large group by bus may not sound like your cup of tea either, so keep all of that in mind.
    • Train can be a cool option, especially if you have little ones who like Thomas the Train, etc.  The idea that you can snooze along the journey is attractive as well.  However, it does take significantly more time than flying, and can also be longer than driving, depending on stops.
    • Driving is a good option if you have the time for it, and if you set realistic driving goals for yourself.  Full 16 hour days of driving is probably not going to make for a pleasant experience if you are travelling with people who are not easily entertained, who dislike being in the car, or who get motion sickness.  This is, however, often one of the more economical ways to travel.  It's also usually a good option if you plan to travel with lots of luggage. 
    • Air travel is convenient if you have the budget to pay a little more and are limited when it comes to travel time.
2.  When looking at airfare, pay attention to the fine print - does the price you're looking at consider all taxes and fees?  Is the price listed in Canadian or another currency?  What are the baggage fees?  Don't assume that if you're travelling with carry-on only that there won't be a cost - some airlines charge fees for carry-on.

3.  What are your "must haves" when it comes to flying.  Do you need more leg room?  A window/aisle seat?  Will you pre-select your seats to ensure you are all sitting together? Are you only interested in direct flights?  Each of the answers to these questions could affect the price of your ticket, so it's important to decide what you're willing to pay extra for.

4. More transfers in your flight path typically (but not always) means a lower ticket price, but also means extra time on your travels and more opportunity for delays, cancelled flights and lost luggage.

Once you've considered all of the above, if you decide that flying is still for you, here are my tips on getting the best price possible.
  • As mentioned above - if you are willing to transfer more than once, this can result in lower prices.  This is not a hard and fast rule, but something to consider.  
  • Selecting your seats usually means an additional fee.  My husband and I often are watching movies or listening to music or sleeping when we fly, so sitting together is usually not a priority for us.
  • Can you travel with carry-on alone?  Be careful to make sure that you are abiding by the airline's specifications for the size of carry-on allowed.  As mentioned above, carry-on doesn't always mean there won't be a charge - it varies from airline to airline - but it is cheaper than checking a bag.  Also remember that there are limitations as to what you can have in your carry-on (liquids, etc).

Those are general tips for airline travel savings.  As for searching for the best prices, these are some of the things I have done to save money:


  • Generally speaking, it is very frequently cheaper to book directly through an airline, rather than a travel website.
  • I do use discount travel sites to do a search across airlines, but if I see a price I'm interested in, I check the airline directly and often find the same flight, but cheaper - but it's a good way to search across airlines in one place.
  • If, by chance, you do think you've found the best deal through a discount travel site, double check to see if they have a price guarantee, that way if you find a cheaper site, you can cash-in on the guarantee.
  • Generally speaking, it is cheaper to fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Again, not always the case, but more often than not, that has been my experience.
  • Another great resource is Google Flights.  You can search specific flight paths, multiple destinations, etc.  You can also view calendars that demonstrate when you can get the lowest price for those flight paths.  Google flights links you directly with the airline if you find something you want to book.  I will say that, in my experience, Google flights has not always been 100% accurate.  Sometimes when I go to the airline's site (following their link), the price is higher.  I've also been able to find cheaper prices outside of Google, but it's a good general guide to be able to find dates that are less expensive to fly, and what airlines are offering better deals.
  • Airfare within the US, from major US airports, is also generally cheaper than flying in Canada.  As a result, I often have used Airmiles to fly in to a US airport, and book a separate flight from that airport.  The best deals I have found have been out of Chicago (O'Hare).  I will do a completely separate post on how to maximize travel miles.
  • Check all of the airports within driving distance of your "home airport", as sometimes you can get a better deal out of another airport.  For example, there are 4 airports within an (approximately) 4 hour radius drive from my house.  I've been able to get great deals at other airports, but in that case, you do need to consider weather for the time of year you will be travelling (is there a risk of a snowstorm).
Given the length of this post, you can see that finding deals does take a bit of work.  You may find that using a travel agent is the better option for you, because it takes the leg work out of it for you.  I personally love the "rush" of finding a good deal.  You need to know what works for you.

Have questions about any of the posts above?  Feel free to ask in the comments or connect with me on social media!


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