Air Travel

AirplaneYour airline ticket will probably be one of the largest purchases you make for your trip and is therefore where you can save the most money. For this reason, it is essential that you do your homework and use all of the available options to trim this cost down as much as possible. Planning ahead for this purchase will certainly save you money by allowing you to compare and shop around for prices. You can get an idea about how much money you will spend by first considering a few points:

  1. where are you going? Popular flight destinations are usually cheaper because so many people fly into them. Less popular flight destinations tend to be more expensive due to the low volume of travelers trying to get there. This is also related to where you are leaving from. A flight to Europe, for example, will be very cheap if you are leaving from England but very expensive if flying from Australia.
  2. what time of year are you going? Peak season is usually more expensive than the off-season. Airlines offer cheap flights in the off-season to try to increase passengers.
  3. are you a student traveler who can get flight, train and other discounts?

Inquire at several travel agencies and peruse the newspapers for deals. If you are a student, take advantage of student travel agencies. Two popular student-focused online TAs are STA (Student Travel Association), "your resource for student travel", and Travel Cuts. You can also check out many other online travel agencies and booking services.

The least-expensive airfares are priced for round-trip travel and usually need to be purchased well in advance. It's a good idea to call a few different airlines. If, after checking out several different places, you are quoted a relatively half-decent price, book it right away because the same fare may be more expensive the next day.

To get the lowest airfare, check different routings. Compare prices of flights to and from different airports if your destination or home city has more than one airport. For example, London, England has two airports, Heathrow and Gatwick. Gatwick is usually the cheaper of the two airports to fly into (but not always). Also try to book off-peak flights, which may be significantly cheaper.

Price is just one factor to consider when booking your flight with a particular airline. Flight frequency and safety record are just as important, if not more important sometimes. If you need to catch a plane in Amsterdam tomorrow, but you are stuck in Turkey, flight frequency is going to have priority over cost. Larger airlines offer the greatest number of departures. Smaller airlines usually have a limited number of flights per day (or even per week).

Get to the gate and check in as early as possible, especially during peak periods. Airlines routinely overbook their planes, assuming that not everyone with a ticket will show up. But sometimes everyone does. The airline will then have to bump some of its passengers. Those who checked in late and those flying on discounted tickets usually get bumped first.

When planning your travel route, consider flying into one city and out of another to avoid wasting time and money. For example, if you are going to Europe, you could fly into London, travel through Europe heading south, then catch a flight out of Rome without having to loop back to London for an added cost and waste of time. Remember that this strategy will be cheaper if you can use the same airline for both your incoming and outgoing flight.

If you are at all concerned about the safety or risks of flying in and out of a particular region, check out the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA), a foreign assessment program that focuses on a country's ability, not the individual air carrier, to adhere to international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance. This program is maintained by the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Purchasing Tickets Online
Booking your tickets online has now become a reality. There are generally two options: purchase tickets through online travel agencies or purchase tickets directly from the airlines.  Both these services provide fare quotes, seat-availability information, and actual ticket sales. The best prices are offered by the airlines themselves. Either way, buying online is an efficient way to book and pay for your flight. You can rent cars and book hotels at these sites as well. If you haven't done so already, check out our list of online travel agencies.