The biggest financial challenge with any big trip tends to be the flight to get to ones destination. Flights, let’s face it – especially overseas, can be expensive. I get that, I really do. I’m not a person with deep pockets but I still have deep aspirations to take on every adventure I can. So, what’s a girl to do?
There are posts and blogs all over the place dedicated to flight hacking and detailing the best flight membership reward programs around. I’ll leave it to the experts that have dedicated their time with understanding the best credit card and airline membership programs, we won’t go into that here. However, if you are just looking for your initial first trip and aren’t dedicated to a particular airline or rewards program, we found a few ways to get started based on varying needs and desires.
1. When you know where you want to go and when.
If you don’t know kayak already, well, it’s time to get acquainted. This really is step number one! What’s great about this service is it allows you to search multiple days around your destination of choice to find the best deal across all airlines. Just setup an alert feature so you can receive notifications for when flights (or hotels even) reach the price you want! Yes there are multiple services out there like Priceline, Expedia and more, but I like Kayak as it provides the cleanest layout, functionality and it seems to be the most comprehensive source.
2. For traveling within Europe.
Ok, it may be costly to get to Europe – however once you’re there, traveling within the continent is CHEAP. I mean, like $20 cheap. There are a ton of budget airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet that fly throughout the continent at super affordable prices. You may not fly into the larger airports – such as Heathrow – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as smaller airports cut your waiting time and checkin time in half. Yes you could take the trains in Europe for intercontinental travel but depending on the city, when doing a side-by-side comparison flying is cheaper and takes way less time. Want to hit multiple destinations in Europe? Fly in roundtrip on a deal of your choosing to one city and take a budget airline to your other destination and back. You’ll be surprised at the savings.
One tip – since these budget airlines aren’t always a huge priority for the larger airports – sometimes they are a bit delayed, so don’t schedule a close connecting flight. Also, these budget airlines have some hidden costs if you don’t come prepared. Ryanair for example will charge a ‘printing fee’ if you don’t come to the airport with the your own printed boarding pass. That fee can add up to $90 – so read the fine print and prepare before you go so you can get the best deal.
3. Keep an eye out for new airline acquisitions and route announcements.
This may take a bit more energy, but it doesn’t have to. Just be aware. For example, Alaska Airlines just bought Virgin America and that could equate to new routes, destinations and – you’ve got it- savings. Another airline, Norwegian Air, recently started flying routes to the United States. They’re trying to market this new service and as such, are offering incredible savings. For example, I was able to fly roundtrip to London from New York this past February for just $400 and now they’re offering similar priced flights for trips to Spain. Again, just another travel tip – with budget airlines like Norwegian, they try to makeup for their cheap flights with hidden costs. Norwegian Air for example will serve NO water or food for the entire intercontinental flight – which is a real downer. Especially since the flight attendants were British and seemed extra snobby when telling us this. Yes you can purchase items but it adds up and the food sucks. So know before you go and prepare accordingly. To me, the $400 international flight was worth packing snacks and water bottles for!
4. Not sure where to go but you want to go somewhere fun?
Ok, here’s the bread and butter. My favorite feature in Kayak. If you don’t know where you want to go – but know you want to go SOMEWHERE – here’s a great way to find some savings and a little inspiration. Go to the Kayak home flight page www.kayak.com/flights and scroll down, you’ll see a bunch of ads like so:
You can click on any of them really – and you’ll be taken to a navigation flight page, like this:
If you see the lower right hand corner, you’ll see the ability to browse flight origins and dates. You can select your origin (New York City for me) and then scroll down. If you scroll down even further, you’ll see the destination section. Here you can expand your destination and browse, based on worldwide, continents and of course, countries. It looks like this:
From here it’s easy to see which countries have affordable flights. In the list above, you’ll see there are flights to France for under $400 and flights to Iceland for $250! When you click on the country, a list of flights and dates will pop up that you can sort through to see if any of the time frames would work for you. Some of them are up and coming and others you’ll find are later in the year – so you can plan accordingly. It changes constantly so make sure to keep checking back – you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find. Using this method, I found roundtrip tickets to Morocco from New York City for a shocking $170 on a reputable airline and many more. Needless to say – this is now my favorite way to find fun destinations I normally wouldn’t think to go to for bargain level prices.
And there you have it! A few quick tips to find affordable flights – for places you know you want to go and to discover new places to fall in love with. Happy flying!