10 Tips For Saving Money On Your Retreat Airfare
Have you ever had this situation happen to you?
You find an amazing destination to travel to and a great resort, event or retreat happening at that same time at that very location. It’s like you’re getting all that karma back from all those dishes you washed as a child. That is until you go to look for a flight and find out that the prices are astronomical. #sadface
There is nothing worse than getting a amazing trip all lined up and then finding that the only way to make it happen is if you are traveling by horse and buggy.
I have been collecting tips for saving money on airfare for several years and I finally compiled them into a list for you here.
First you need to know the difference between your “budget” and your budget - hear me out.
One is what do you want to pay for airfare and the other is what you will pay for airfare. Let’s say you’ve got an amount in mind that you want to spend, all in for your trip, we’ll just say $3000. And let’s say that that your “budget” said you’d spend $500 on airfare but you’d be willing to spend $600 if you found the right flight.
So with that in mind, let’s get to them.
1. Using a curation service. A great way to score a good deal on a flight if you’ve got time to spare before the trip and will read the emails. There are several services like The Flight Deal, Travel Pirates, and All The Flight Deals out there that will send you an email to let you know when airfares go on sale from your local airport. Sometimes you can find an unbelievable deal if you have lots of time or are patient, but you are gambling a bit here so keep and eye on the other options as well. And of course there is Google Flights too and they will allow you to watch a flight’s price.
These will use ITA Matrix software to find deals and then pass them on to you. ITA is kind of like a clearinghouse where all flights are stored if you will. It’s actually quite daunting to use when you first see it because it uses strange code words, symbols and hieroglyphics to find a flight. And that’s assuming you know what you’re looking for! You’re far better off using one of the services mentioned above.
2. Get a travel mileage credit card and maximize the benefits! I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but it’s a big one that I can’t leave off this list. We traveled to a couple of our destinations for free last year on miles and will do so again this year too.
Lots of card companies are offering steep bonuses with set amounts of spending in the first XX (usually 90 or 180) number of days too. So take advantage of that as well as perks like no foreign transaction fees, travel or flight insurance associated with the card, manufacturer’s warranty extension, etc. Obviously read the fine print for your specific card.
These cards are typically associated with an annual fee and a slightly higher interest rate, but cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One reward you for booking through their service, have no blackout dates, and don’t tie you to any one company like the airline cards listed in Tip #4. Some, like American Express Platinum, even offer complimentary lounge access for a higher annual fee. If you travel enough this can come in handy too.
3. Make your job about more than work. Depending on your circumstance your workplace may also provide you with the added benefits of using miles accumulated from your corporate purchases too! You’ll need to run this by your HR department obviously, but typically if you have a card/expense account and they have to pay the balance anyway why shouldn’t you accrue the miles? Companies will list this as a “perk”. I call it a work related side effect.
If you’re like us and own a small business, cards like Chase Ink Business Preferred and Capital One Spark Miles are great options because of the bonuses, no foreign transaction fees, and all of the protections provided by consumer cards.
4. Steer clear of airline cards as your primary card. Sometimes you’ll be presented with an “offer too good to pass up” while on an airplane read speedily by a flight attendant for their airline’s mileage card. Unless you live in a city where there is one airline I would advise against getting an airline miles card as your primary mileage source unless they are offering 60,000 or more miles as a bonus.
Take me for example. For a long time US Airways, now American, ruled the friendly skies of Charlotte, NC. So if I was flying I was flying on American. This was great for me… until two things happened. I moved AND Charlotte has also expanded it’s airport in size now so there are a lot of other options who may (read: almost always do) have better prices than American because of the way airline pricing works from hub airports. Now I have to be more selective about when I can travel, connections, layovers, etc. when using those miles.
Airlines also offer you the opportunity to purchase miles at a steep discount of around 3 cents/mile. But if you do the math for a round trip domestic, Mexico, or Carribean ticket it takes 25K miles minimum, so that’s $750! How are you winning unless they offer bonus miles with your purchase??
5. Receive the gift of miles. Put this one in the file of longshot, but there are people out there who are never going to use all of their miles and maybe, just maybe, will gift them to YOU if you ask nicely! This is reason #1,673,298 to be kind to others in case you didn’t know.
Some airlines like British Airways even off a family share plan type of arrangement where you can tell them that these members all accrue miles in this bucket, pretty handy if one person travels for work and you’re a member of their bucket! These miles typically can’t be transferred outside of the bucket though.
6. Use the apps! Yes, we can’t get away from it… the phone. But you can save a ton if you use apps like Hopper to book your flights. Put in your details and Hopper will show you a nice color coded calendar of when prices are high and when they are low if you book then. What’s nice about the app is it actually “knows” when you are likely to save. So for example a recent trip I was booking was going to be $422/person if I booked then. It was green and that was in my budget, but Hopper’s price prediction told me that if I waited, I could save as much as $135/ticket. That’s a pretty substantial savings. Thanks Hopper!
You also have the ability to filter out long layovers and put flights on a watch list so that Hopper can notify you when the price changes too. Ain’t technology grand…
7. Truly Last Minute Travel. If you are one of those spontaneous people who has a bag packed at all times or a procrastinator about booking, I’m talking to you now. Hopper has a feature called flexible dates, which used to be a separate app called GTFO. But there are other last minute travel apps like TravelZoo, Hipmunk, and Last Minute Travel that offer awesome deals for the pro-crastinators among us. Hey, you gotta be a pro at something, right?
Look this is not for the faint of heart, the odds of getting a truly last minute flight to arrive where you want are pretty slim, but if you have some time you can play with getting a flight to a neighboring country and then take off again to your final destination. Which brings us to tip number…
8. Get out of the US. People in European and other countries enjoy the benefit of international travel at ridiculously low prices using airlines like RyanAir. So you can use one of the methods above to get yourself out of the US to a more traveler friendly destination and then catch a flight on a budget carrier to your final destination potentially saving mucho dinero!
9. Take advantage of stopovers. Ok, so this one isn’t really about saving $$ as much as maximizing your travel $$ and your vacation. Let’s say you are booking a flight to Thailand from the US, but you have a layover in Singapore. You could actually turn that into 2 trips and turn your layover of a few hours into a stopover of a few days on either your departing or returning leg of the trip.
These are pretty powerful tools to have if you want to see a region and not just a country. There are restrictions on each route as to the length and availability of stopovers, so be sure to double check with your carrier. You actually can see if stopovers are available for your flight using ITA. The same website that you learned about in Tip #1. They actually wrote a really good piece on the “how-to” of stopovers.
10. Consider the alternatives. I have to give it to the Europeans and some asian countries (I’m looking at you Japan) here. They have train travel figured out and you can do it relatively cheap too. Using the method in Tip #8, get yourself to a neighboring country and hop on a train. This comes with the added benefit of seeing the countries you’re traveling through, getting work done or some reading in rather than just looking at the inside of their airport, standing in long lines, and waiting around. Also there is something romantic about train travel. It’s a lot more relaxed and you can take a deep breath because someone else is doing the driving.
11. (Bonus) When you buy and when you fly. For a long time we have heard all sorts of rumors about when we should buy a plane ticket. “You get a better deal if you buy at midnight on a Wednesday” or “If you travel early Monday it will be more expensive”. Well I can say for 100% certain that neither of those is 100% wrong.
You see, there are so many flights every day and changes happen so rapidly that it’s really hard to say with any degree of certainty “buy now or else”. If that were the case the airlines would have to bump up their computing ability for the midnight Wednesday rush. Typically travel booked to fly on a Wednesday and return the following Tuesday will be cheaper, but not so much that you’ll notice. Travel booked for overnight (redeye) flights will put a smaller dent in your wallet than midday. Basically the less popular the time to travel the less expense because the airlines are trying to fill the seats.
As for when to buy in relation to your trip, again that will be relative based on destination, time of year, holidays, etc. But a good rule of thumb is that the farther you book out the better and try to book at least 20 days out if you can. Again, I really like an app like Hopper here because you can see the best and worst case scenarios and help you create a budget or “budget”.
Well there you have it folks, our top 10 (+1) suggestions for how to save $$ on air travel. If you know of other suggestions feel free to leave them in the comments.