By Annie Wang, Strategy Analyst for TravelNerd
Travel, especially air travel, is expensive. Not only is airfare itself exorbitantly pricey, but, over the past decade, airlines have introduced a glut of ancillary fees to make the experience even more draining. Granted, airlines would go bankrupt otherwise, but the toll on travelers is hefty nonetheless. Here are a handful of easy ways to save money when shopping for flights.
Minimize baggage fees
Carrying luggage comes at a price. Most airlines include one carry-on and one personal item for free with each ticket. Other airlines aren’t quite so generous, like Spirit. If you know about how much luggage you will require, you should start researching which airline is best suited to your needs. If you can, fly Southwest. Southwest baggage fees include two free checked bags on each ticket, which is unsurpassed.
Obviously, traveling light is an easy way to cut back on excess luggage fees. Understandably, this isn’t always possible. Not only do you have to worry about how many bags you have in tow, but the size and weight of those bags. Airlines will charge extra if your luggage exceeds certain limitations. If you’re taking a lot with you, look up prices before booking a ticket.
Avoid booking fees
Booking fees are sneaky. Believe it or not, airlines often charge you extra if you book your flight over the phone rather than online. And we’re not talking chump change here. By simply booking online, you can save up to $50 on your trip. Ridiculous? Yup. But now, simply talking to a customer service agent on the phone can cost $15.
Avoid change fees
First off, do your research and know which airlines have the most forgiving policies. If you think there’s a strong chance you may need to change your flight, you’ll want to determine which available carrier has the lowest change fee. Southwest ticket booking and change fees are the most generous, with no change fees. Additionally, some airlines have basic fares that don’t allow any changes later on, so make sure that you do not book those if you think you may need to change your flight.
You can also buy a refundable ticket if you’re afraid plans might change. You will have to pay more upfront, but a small investment can save you a substantial chunk of change in the long run.
Maintain a flexible travel schedule
When searching for flights, you’ll likely find less desirable flight schedules significantly cheaper. You might not want to fly out at 5:30 AM on a Tuesday, but that’s probably a heck of a lot more affordable than flying Friday night at 7 PM. Most travel booking sites allow you to perform searches within a range of travel dates. Take advantage of this feature to find the best deal. The cheapest day to fly is usually Tuesday or Wednesday. The cheapest time is early morning.
Keep an eye on your flight
After you book, see what happens with the price of your flight. Most US airlines have a little-known policy that allows customers to claim a refund if the ticket price drops after purchase. It may not always be a lot, but for a family or group traveling together, the savings can be substantial.