Where, when and how to get discount flights
Although flying is an increasingly common way to travel, flights are only getting more expensive. This amounts to frustrating vacation planning, especially when you've already stretched your dollar to cover accommodations, dining and shopping for the course of your trip. But while some airlines don't show any signs of easing their prices, others are capitalizing on the demand for a no-frills yet affordable flying experience. In other cases, when you book your flight will make all the difference. Find out where and when to look for flights at discount prices, and free up some cash to get more out of your travel experience.
Cheap Flight Benefits and Limitations
There are undeniable advantages to budget flights, beginning with the substantial amount you can save on the trip itself. In some cases, you can save hundreds of dollars when you choose a small, streamlined airline that flies out of smaller airports (though more of these airlines are located in larger city airports now). The flights tend to be quick, efficient and easy to compare and book online. Discount international flights offered through airline ticket consolidators are often the biggest money savers; if you're willing to be flexible with your schedule and take a last-minute chance, there's a good opportunity for a fantastic deal to an exotic destination.
Now the down-side to budget flights: be prepared to sacrifice comfort, structure and certain conveniences. There's a reason why these smaller airlines and last minute flights come so cheaply, and that's generally because either service or flexibility is cut down considerably. Budget airlines can be easy to book with but nearly impossible to otherwise contact, plus they will charge you for everything from a pillow on the plane to a checked bag. Also, since most have a strict no-refund policy, be sure that you consider the details carefully before booking flights and arrive well ahead of time to make sure you have a seat -- they won't wait for any passenger! As for last-minute deals, you'll need to be willing and able to put planning aside and take whatever comes.
Tips for Finding Flights at a Discount
Getting the best deal on airfare can be a complicated and fast-paced endeavor, but you should be able to land a good deal if you keep these things in mind when you begin your search:
- Buy early or late, not in between. Most travelers book at a comfortable distance from their departure date -- a few weeks to a month or two away -- and that's when prices are soaring. If you're travelling internationally, aim to book at least three to six months in advance; domestic travel doesn't require quite so much advance planning. And if you're willing to comb the flyers for a last-minute deal or simply arrive at the airport in hopes that a flight has a few empty seats, you can get superb deals on great destinations.
- Be flexible with all your variables. While a willingness to modify your schedule is important, it's good to be flexible in other departure and arrival specifics, too. For instance, consider flying to a smaller or more out-of-the-way airport if it will shave off some of the cost. Shifting your itinerary by a day or two on either end could save you a good deal, too. Keep in mind that flying the better part of the trip and then taking a train or bus for the remainder may be your best bet.
- Use online tools to compare. If you do your research, there's a better chance of finding that elusive flight deal. Use websites that allow you to compare discount airlines and what they can offer you, but don't assume each of these comparison sites have the same info. Some are affiliated with particular airlines, while others browse a much wider selection for you. Be sure to check out specific discount airline sites as well as aggregator sites to find a variety of options.