Travelers are constantly bombarded with reduced fares, flight deals, and cheap ticket offers making it seem like getting the best deal is akin to hearing the meaning of life. Once you get that low fare after weeks of searching (if you end up taking the flight at all) you’re free to splurge on hotels, food, and drinks, ensuring you completely bust your simple travel budget.
The truth is that you’ll be able to travel more if you focus on saving on all the things many travelers consider as afterthoughts – that is, everything in between flights.
Search For Flights Without Obsessing Over Nothing
Granted, the competitive nature of looking for the absolute lowest fare can be a fun game, especially if you’ve got a few hours to kill at the office on a Friday afternoon. The key to actually traveling however, is to put a limit on what you’re willing to spend and how long you’ll spend looking. You probably won’t magically find a free flight so it’s best not to look at $0.00 as some utopia you’ll never reach.
- Create An Upper Limit – If you’ve got a particular destination in mind, when searching for flight deals, set a price you can afford and put aside a week trying to get as far under that number as you can.
- Open Your Options – Flight fares are relative, and if you’re willing to tweak your destination you might find a few deals well within your budget. (Use Kayak Explore to narrow down the search.)
- Use Multi-City Flights – Adding a destination or booking individual legs separately can often be less expensive than a straight round-trip route. (Going overland for two closer cities might be cheaper still.)
- Visit Off-Season – That doesn’t necessarily mean go to north Sweden in the dead of winter (but maybe Iceland); generally the spring and fall months aren’t peak for most places around the world. Fares tend to be lower and temperatures nearly as warm or cool.
Finding the absolute, lowest, cheapest fare to be found in the course of human history isn’t (and shouldn’t) be your goal. Find a fare you can afford using the Internet as your personal advantage over the airlines and then you can get down to really saving your money.
Make Those Extra Dollars And Cents Count
Paying close to standard fare for a given flight route doesn’t mean you have to throw your money out the door. While you might not get that extra $45 discount, you can still spend effectively to save more in the long run.
- More Miles – Choose a bank account that helps you earn frequent flyer miles and have each dollar count toward a free ticket or upgrade. (Aren’t a member of any program? Get started with this 8 minute guide for reluctant travelers.)
Rather than wasting time (your most valuable asset) trying to get the absolute lowest fare – which often results in paying more as seasons change – be efficient in your spending and look at the few extra cents as a travel savings account for miles, upgrades, and other perks.
Where The Real Savings Start
Most people typically focus on airfare since it’s a set figure and single payment that’s easy to conceptualize (until you end up paying several fees before checkout). Your leeway for saving on airfare isn’t nearly as great as it is with lodging, eating, and local transportation.
- Make Prices Tangible – We like to focus on set prices and numbers so come up with some for the most common expenses using Budget Your Trip (original interview).
- Consider A Private Hostel Room – Commonly associated with dorms, many hostels offer private rooms at around twice the price of dorms but often half that of a comparable hotel room nearby. (To save even more, try these hostel alternatives.)
- Use Skype Over A Cell – A monthly bill or roaming charges are two things you can really do without to save money while traveling.
- Go Grocery Shopping Just Once A Week – The markup on prices eating out (beginning around 25%) is much higher when compared to the 5% profit margin for the airlines. Though there may not be a kitchen nearby, some fruit or snacks can get you through a meal or two, significantly cutting costs.
Perhaps the biggest impact on how much you spend is determined by where you actually travel to. Think a bit outside of your own personal box and figure out the best places to travel on a weak dollar – or whatever your currency may happen to be.
More Than 356 Thousand Kilometers Of Coastline
Of course most of the world’s shores might not make ideal beaches but if it’s tropical paradise you seek, there’s a low fare somewhere you’ll be happy. That goes for many types of landscapes and cultures as well if you’re just seeking a low fare to fly for.
Plenty of current popular travel hotspots weren’t always so, and by heading to a destination before it’s on everyone’s list of places to see you’ll save much more than by endlessly looking for the world’s cheapest flight.
Generally speaking, the savings on cheap flights are often marginal. Even the lowest fares on budget airlines often come with added fee upon fee exaggerating the initial low prices you’re sprung with. Searching for low fares isn’t a quest in futility yet not an action that should dictate where and how you travel. The savings to be had are at your destination – where it’s more fun to be anyway – rather than in front of a computer looking for cheap flight after cheap flight.
[photos by: monkeyc.net (back of a jet plane), : : w i n t e r w i n e d : : (digital zero), DavidDMuir (office panorama), SimonTheSnowman (black piggy bank), Machine Project (girl looking through microscope)]