We all like to save money. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you also like to travel. Marrying those two is what I live for. I’ve spent under $500 on airfare this year and I have flown around the world and then some, about ~ 31,000 miles. This is possible thanks to a lot of deal hunting and a lot of flexibility.
Flexibility is the key, I’ll say it again and again. You have to choose just two of these three items when you are planning your next trip (don’t cheat):
• Destination (I know, but there are a lot of beaches)
• Great Price
Yep, you only get to choose two of those three… if you like to save money, that is.
What are the money saving tricks?
The first trick to save big, and it actually is a trick, is what we call hidden-city-ticketing. This is a trick because you are booking a flight to a destination you aren’t actually heading to. Hang on I’ll explain..
If A is your starting point and B is where you want to get to, sometimes it is actually cheaper to book a flight to C with a layover in B. When you get to B you will just leave the airport and never take your flight to C. This only works for one-way flights, not applicable to all flight routes, you can’t check baggage, and some airlines don’t like it.
I have taken roughly 15 hidden city flights in the past couple of years, 90% on Southwest, and I have never had an issue. Southwest actually has no language in the contract of carriage against the practice. Say, for example, you want to go from Miami to Madrid one-way. You would use SkipLagged to find all flights from Miami going directly to Madrid and flights with routing going THROUGH Madrid. Make sense now?
In this case, it is actually cheaper to book from Miami to Porto, Portugal with a layover in Madrid. That same flight booked as a nonstop from Miami to Madrid will cost you $161 more. Keep in mind, the first leg leaving at 9:25PM is the same flight for both ticket prices. If you booked the $512 ticket to Madrid and your seatmate booked the $351 flight to Porto, you’d both be on the same plane to Madrid. You could save $161 on just the flight to Europe. If you add multiple passengers in your party those savings really add up.
Remember, you cannot check baggage since it will be headed to your final destination. As long as you are not a heavy packer you will be fine with a personal item and a carry-on suitcase. I usually bring a large backpack that goes under my seat and then a roller bag that goes above.
What other tricks do you have?
This one is not so much a trick but it does take some quick action on your part. We call these “error fares” or “mistake fares”. I keep an eye out for some of the best error fares and I share them to our FaceBook page. One of the big reasons an error fare pops up is due to a human or computer pricing glitch. Millions of passengers fly each day which means millions of tickets are sold. Sometimes pricing errors take place and you can save big on a flight. You must act quick because airlines typically fix these errors in hours or even minutes.
The other reason an error fare may take place is from a fuel dump. This is where a certain leg of the trip causes an issue with fuel surcharges in the ticket price. On international flights, fuel surcharges make up a large part of your total ticket price. When a fuel dump takes place on a certain routing, you can get an amazing deal saving hundreds!
More cool stuff.
Another cool thing, you can pair together error fares as well as hidden city ticketing, save X2. For example, if there is an error fare from Los Angeles to Bangkok for $190 one-way, you can take advantage of any layovers along the way. There are no non-stops to Bangkok from LAX, that means you will likely stop in a city like Hong Kong or Shanghai.
If there are no inexpensive direct flights from LAX to Hong Kong you could use Hong Kong as your layover on a hidden city ticket to Bangkok. You would book the error fare to Bangkok and when you land in Hong Kong on your layover, just leave the airport, that simple! Don’t forget the travel triangle, you are getting an amazing price so you’ll almost always need to be flexible on either the date or the destination.
Will the airline cancel my error fare ticket?
Airlines, in most cases, do reserve the right to cancel your error priced ticket. The majority of the time they will not cancel it, however. Many times the glitch was never spotted and other times they don’t want bad PR or to lose a potential customer over a couple hundred dollars. There have been cases where an airline did cancel the ticket, so it is recommended to wait two weeks before making other plans. After two weeks of your ticket not being cancelled, you are pretty much in the clear. Alyssa and I will be flying on a one-way error fare from New York to Portugal for $197 next week. The ticket was normally $350 per passenger so we saved about $300 just heading to Europe.
Once booked, DO NOT call the airline and bring it to their attention by asking questions about your error fare ticket. If after two weeks you have a ticket number and a reservation/itinerary number, you should be all set to make other travel plans. Another thing to keep in mind, if your originating flight is from the United States, the airline must allow you to cancel any ticket within 24 hours of booking. This rule does not apply if the flight is less than 7 days away, however. If you see a deal that can save you money, book it right away and see if it makes sense within the next 24 hours. If it won’t work out, cancel for a FULL refund before the 24 hour window closes.
Last but not least.
Don’t forget about the little guy, our friendly budget airlines. Budget airlines are sometimes called low-cost-carriers. Some are really bad, especially in the States, others are not bad at all. In other parts of the world, budget airlines really aren’t much different from US Airlines. The biggest complaint with budget airlines is their surprise fees. Well, they wouldn’t be a surprise if you had read the fine print. Bag allowance is typically less, you have to pay if you want a reserved seat, and drink/food is not free. If you can navigate and live with those things, you will do just fine. Although I would still avoid Spirit and Allegiant. Just my 2¢.
In Europe, Ryanair and EasyJet are two of the big players when it comes to low-cost-carriers. You can often find $25 flights between London and Rome. Our Spain to Germany flight was just $22 each way, per person. One thing to keep in mind is that budget airlines sometimes operate from smaller – out-of-town – airports. This is the case for Ryanair in London and Paris, for example. Take into account the transportation cost to/from the airport. For other cities like Dublin, Madrid, Lisbon, Cologne, there is only a single airport so no worries there.
In Asia, AirAsia is a very popular LCC with $30 fares to many countries. You can fly from Kuala Lumpur to Hanoi for $35 one-way. That flight is over 1,000 miles!
Check and re-check.
Remember, check each airlines’ baggage fees, cancellation fees, seat reservation rules, and on-time performance before you book. Google flights will display pricing for many airlines as well as on-time performance for each flight number. In May, Alyssa and I flew from Paris to Boston for $115 one-way (per person). This deal was on Wow Airlines, an Icelandic low-cost-carrier. (Which I highly recommend).