Iceland Air purchased Wow Air recently. This is the sort of story that we glance over and not pay a second thought to. After all, Larger companies acquire smaller competitors all the time. They do it to increase their market share and strengthen their position. No big deal, right?. Well, we feared that this one may be a big deal. You see, when low-cost airlines emerged, they made travel cheaper and thus more accessible. Wow Air was revolutionary in this respect, offering fares as low as $55 for international flights! Their prices literally made you say wow! This acquisition was alarming to us because if larger carriers acquired and eliminated these low-cost carriers, we could see a return to less travel-friendly times. There is a transpacific airline price-fixing class-action lawsuit that alleges that dozens of major airlines entered into a price-fixing scheme that artificially inflated ticket prices for consumers. So inevitably, a return to a monopoly by major airlines will see a rise in ticket prices. But don’t fret, even with the possibility of higher fares, we have some surefire ways that will help you save hundreds when booking your next ticket. Read on!
With apps and websites like lastminute.com touting unbeatable last-minute deals, you may be tempted to play the waiting game in the hope of snagging one of these deals. This can be a costly game to play. Unless you suddenly realize that you have two weeks of vacation that you need to use by next month, we strongly suggest planning your trip in advance. How far in advance you ask? We usually start tracking our fares six months out with an aim to buy 5-3 months of our travel date. The first month of tracking prices gives you somewhat of a watermark on what prices look like for a destination so you can recognize a deal when you see it. Anything earlier than six months is unlikely to be the best price you can get since airlines usually do not start putting deals out that far ahead. If you are not sure where you would like to travel to yet, that’s ok. You can find travel inspiration and track fares by region and approximate time frames with apps/websites like Skyscanner and airfarewatchdog.com. Numerous similar apps like Hipmonk and Hopper can track flight prices up to a year in advance and alert you when prices drop thus ensuring you get the best deal. If you already know where you want to go, even better! Simply create a rough-draft itinerary for your trip and have Google Flights track your specific city pairs and dates. Google will inbox you when a deal comes up, just be ready to drop the hammer when this happens. We have heard that buying a ticket on Tuesday is the best practice for the best rates but studies have found no evidence supporting this. However, avoid flying on Friday, Sunday or Monday, these are the costliest times. These days are popular with business travelers who can drive up prices.
Sometimes Heading West To Get To South Is A Good Thing
Searching nearby airports is pretty much standard practice these days. Most sites have a “search nearby airports” checkbox or even automatically search these options for you and let you know your options. You can level up the “search nearby airports” game with this trick: Say you want to fly to Barcelona from New York, and prices are showing in the $700 range, you could fly to Luton Airport for $350 and then catch a low-cost carrier from Luton Airport to Barcelona for about $60-80. These figures are for illustrative purposes so don’t quote me on them. But you get the gist, right? This type of flight gaming takes a lot of research so some patience and time would be needed. Apps like Kiwi are good for finding alternate airports that are cheaper.
Round Trip Tickets Aren’t Always Your Friend
We can all agree that buying a round trip ticket is cheaper than buying two one-way tickets of the same journey, right? Well…there are some exceptions. We have sometimes found that shopping different airlines one-way prices and combining this with the trick we talked about above of checking different airports, can save you coin. The right combination of one-way tickets to lesser traveled airports may be cheaper than round trips that fly you into major hubs.
Maximize on your ticket
If you ever watched Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover program (sigh, we still can’t believe he is gone) back when he was still with the travel channel, then you know that 36 hours is plenty of time in a city. If you have a long flight in your itinerary, you may want to break it up so that you have a stopover somewhere for a day or two. This way you get to explore an extra country for the same ticket.
Don’t Forget The Miles!
Before you pull the trigger, make sure you sign up for mileage accounts with all carriers that you will be traveling with. These miles add up to save you on future flights and come with perks like early boarding and upgrades if you accumulate enough of them. Also, choose the right credit card! A card with the right travel rewards can save you hundreds on your trip. We like the Venture Card by capital one. It gives you a 50,000-mile bonus when you sign up and spend $3000 in the first 3 months. That’s a $1000 a month, just switch all your bills and everyday expenses to the card and you will get what is essentially a $500 travel credit. After that, you earn unlimited 2x miles for every dollar you spend on whatever and you can use these miles whenever. It also reimburses for the Global Entry application fee. They also often run travel related promotions that could benefit the shoestring traveller. The Chase Sapphire Reserve keeps coming up on “top travel rewards” program research. They offer 3x points for travel and dining expenses, a $300 annual travel credit and $100 towards the Global Entry fee. This is a card for frequent travelers though. With a $450 annual fee, the benefits will be lost on once a year travelers.
Be Careful When Coupling Tickets
When we travel we always make sure to check the price of a single ticket rather than checking the price for two travelers. Here is why; imagine a scenario where only two seats are left for the purpose of this illustration. If there was one “less desirable” seat priced at a lower price and another seat priced at a premium, guess what happens when you search for two tickets? If you guessed that both tickets are priced at a premium, you are right!. Yet if you bought the tickets separately, you would get the cheaper price on one of them! This may mean that you will not sit together, but that is a small price to pay considering the money you save.
The Esoteric “Hidden City” Game; Try It At Your Own Peril
Seasoned travelers will have no doubt heard of, or used this little travel hack. If you haven’t, here is how it works. Say you want to fly to Atlanta from New York. Tickets to Atlanta as the final destination may be more expensive than tickets to say Miami or Panama, with a stopover in Atlanta. So, rather than buying a ticket to Atlanta, you buy a ticket to Miami and simply “miss” the last leg. Creators of the app Skiplagged were the brilliant innovators that came up with, and help execute this little trick with their like-named app. The airlines sued Skipplagged unsuccessfully. When airlines sue you, you are on to something. However, airlines fought back. Most airlines actively investigate and ban passengers that do this. They also cancel your return ticket if you had one and/or bar you from boarding. Is it worth the risk? That’s up to you.
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