So you’re vacation savings finally has enough money to take a vacation? You deserve it! ;] Next up, budget, budget, budget! I always want to find the best deal to book a cheap flight so that I can travel on a budget. Okay, so like you know – I don’t do a ‘budget’ per say. My budget is “spend as little as reasonably possible”. Over the past couple of years of traveling I have spent countless hours, days even, trying to find the best deal on flights, stays, activities, etc. Now it is VERY important that you don’t sacrifice comfort or overall experience – that is what traveling is all about, the experience. If you put yourself in a bad hotel or cramped flight to save money you will NOT have an amazing time. “Spend as little as REASONABLY possible” this means find the best deal that will keep you and your traveling compadre happy and enjoying the adventure.
When should I take my vacation? Your two main traveling costs are your flight and where you will stay. I am a firm believer in research and that could be the determining factor between you and your budget. Once you have decided on where you will vacation – google it! Find out when the ‘off season’ is and find out what exactly is “off” about the season. I love to travel during the off seasons to certain places because it means it will be less crowded and most importantly – prices will be lower (and you can save A LOT of money). My brother got married in Hawaii in November so we didn’t really have a choice of when we traveled there, but come to find out November is considered Maui’s “off season” because of rain. With a little research I found out that Maui’s rainy-off season was nothing to be worried about. The sun was shining every day and we might’ve come across a light shower 4 or 5 times in our stay of ten days. But each shower quick and didn’t interfere with our trip or activities. I found out how the season was projected to be by looking up the projected weather, history of weather during that time of the year and I also look at reviews on Airbnb (I will tell you more of my love affair with Airbnb later in this series) of people who stayed the previous year around that time. Looking up the off season could potentially save you a ton of money in the long run with flights and with your stay, but make sure you are not setting yourself up for crazy frequent storms or other unsightly weather. Always know what you are getting yourself in to.
Next, look up flights! Here in Houston we have two airports – one is definitely the more “international” and the other is limited to the flights and airlines it provides. I always make sure to check both airports and all airlines. Typically, I have found United has the best prices and it is a reputable, very popular airline so I have had great customer service and problems solved efficiently and effectively. I always make sure to use my Mileage Plus to earn points as well. I have a “membership” to the airlines I fly at because it’s free – why not? Those points can add up and save you more money on flights!
When to buy and when to fly! To get the best deal on flights always be as flexible as you can. I typically always fly on a Tuesday to Tuesday or Tuesday to the next Thursday. It is always cheaper to fly during the week Tuesday-Thursday. Once you get to the weekends it usually is quite a bit higher. Flights also can vary depending on when you purchase your ticket. I check the flights quickly each day randomly throughout the day (yes, they can change that much, that often) to see how the rates fall and drop. I do this for about a week before knowing what day to purchase them on. (Psst – usually its Saturday, Tuesday or Wednesday) ;) I love to use google to “flights to ___ from ___” and I get a variety of websites wanting to help me. Sometimes these websites have good deals, most of the time the airline’s website is the winner. This might seem crazy, but to get the best deal you have to teeter-totter on that line of crazy. :)
What is the best, cheapest airline? I like to fly with the airlines because they are more forgiving than third party websites like Hotwire. Priceline or Orbitz – like in the instance when you are flying to apartment hunt in Los Angeles on a tight schedule and you miss your flight because you kept thinking the flight was at 9:50, but it was really at 9:05 – sorry Caleb! My bad! No hard feelings right? Well United airline had no problem rebooking us whereas we’ve missed a flight using Hotwire and they took some teeth pulling to refund us. Be very aware of your refund policies – like American Airlines, they DO NOT want to refund you if you have to cancel your flight. I had to put in numerous requests (and complaints unfortunately) via email because I couldn’t EVER get someone on the phone! I might give them another shot one day, but that wound is still healing.. :) We have flown Spirit Airlines before, but the cheap, cheap prices come at a cost. You have to pay for EVERYTHING – even water. And my poor 6’4″ hubby had to sit sideways for a 4 hour flight because the seats were so close to the ones in front of us. He will only go for it if we upgrade the seats – which of course is extra. :) United is my numero uno. They fly basically everywhere and seem to have great rates, reliable customer service and nice, clean planes. BOOM. That’s all I ask for! Anyone else had great/bad experiences with any airlines? What’s your fav?
Once you’ve found the pattern in your flights, DONT BUY IT JUST YET! Take a look at where you are going to stay before you set the flight in stone. Because, what if the Airbnb you have your heart set on is booked the week you originally planned? What if you have to change the dates slightly because of room bookings? It is always best to settle your flight and stay in synchrony. You may have to sacrifice on one or the other! Let’s hope that doesn’t happen – but if you are traveling on a budget you have to be flexible, that is how you will get the best deal! Anyone else have any great tips on how to get the best flight deal?
Next up on the How to Travel on a Budget: Airbnb 101
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