Thanks to fees for baggage fees, food, blankets, and even a window seat, flying can be nearly impossible to afford these days. But don't give up, just get smarter.
I have some tools to help you save on your next trip. Whether it's Hawaii, Miami, or New York City, I’d take a vacation every month if my wallet would allow it.
Well, don't just fantasize about taking a dream vacation because I’ve done the research to make it a reality.
The first step is to figure out the average cost to get to your destination. You can't get the best price if you don't know what's considered good. Bing.com/travel and Hotwire.com Trip Watcher will help you figure out when to buy your airline tickets.
Recently, I was planning a family trip to Hawaii. My budget for round trip tickets was $500 a piece.
That is the most I wanted to pay, but was it realistic?
I went to Bing.com/travel . I typed in my departure city, destination and ideal travel date. The graph labeled “fare history” at the top of the page is where it's located.
Right away, I learned my $500 budget per ticket was a little unrealistic for this time of year to be flying to Hawaii. The graph showed the average low cost over the last 139 days was $742.
I have seen fares for as low as $500 from US Airways, but it was only for a few hours. This is why you need to know what's a great deal so you can buy it without hesitation.
So by going to Bing.com/travel , I learned that anything under $700 is a decent price. Plus, they also have a Price Predictor that will suggest to you to “wait” or “buy now”. This is a very good tool to help you save on tickets.
Now it's time to actually search for the deals. I went to Kayak.com and set price alerts. I set one for Hawaii for anytime in July and the other for my ideal travel dates.
Remember, the more flexible your dates, the better the chance of finding a screaming deal.
K ayak.com is an excellent tool in helping find deals on flights and hotels, too. You can set your alerts by price point and have Kayak email or text you on your smartphone when the rates change or meet your price point. You can set Kayak.com to notify you daily or weekly.
Head over to coupon code sites like Retailmenot.com and do a search on the airline you may be traveling on. I actually found a coupon code from Hawaiian airlines for 5 percent off the fare that I used on one of my round trip tickets to Hawaii.
My next step to savings was checking on smaller airlines like Allegiant and Jet Blue. Allegiant flies to Hawaii, but not from Phoenix. The closet departure city was Las Vegas.
I have a ton of reward miles on Southwest Airlines, so taking a flight to Vegas would cost me only $5 for the taxes, and the tickets would be free.
To fly each way from Las Vegas to Honolulu, it was $219. That's a total of $438 per ticket. It cost over $700 on Hawaiian Airlines.
Be careful! Don’t forget the added fees. Allegiant is cheap to fly, but they charge you for a lot of basic things. For carry-on luggage, Allegiant charges $35 a bag if you pay at the airport, and it's also $35 to check each bag. So that's a minimum of another $70 each way!
Add it up, and that $438 ticket is now $508, but it's still cheaper than Hawaiian Airlines.
If you have credit cards, you may as well reap the benefits. I received 35,000 reward points and 25 percent off two tickets just for signing up for the Bank of America Hawaiian Visa.
So with all of my reward points, coupon codes and smart shopping, my total to fly my family of four to Hawaii was $1,792.07. That's more than $200 under my original budget!
I really saved by using a rewards card, but if you plan to play the rewards game with any credit card, be smart and pay your entire balance off every month. Otherwise the extra fees will outweigh the benefits.
On a side note, prices have changed after doing the research for this story. Flying to Hawaii during off season like the end of August, you can often find round trip tickets for around $450. I just have to go when the kids are out of school which means expensive tickets.
Either way, using technology and the apps or websites I mentioned really helped me to nail down the best price I could get.
How do you save on travel? Please share your savings on my Facebook.com/smartshopper15 page.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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