One of the most expensive elements of any vacation is the travel. Specifically, the flights. According to ValuePenguin, “The typical vacationing U.S. family spends about 44% of their travel funds getting to, from, and around their destinations.” Instead of breaking the bank trying to get to where you want to go, why not save on travel costs and put a part of that saved money towards entertainment on your trip?
When we typically travel (and we travel a lot), we try to book as far in advance as possible. I’m talking about 4-8 months in advance. Not just that, we monitor flight costs on a weekly basis. This way if prices suddenly drop for any reason, you’re ready to jump in. Certain websites even allow you to set up price alerts and receive the notifications direct to your inbox. Timing our purchases has allowed us to save close to 40-50% on long haul flights.
Apart from booking early, the airline you choose to fly will also make a difference. I’m not saying you should fly low-cost on 8 hour flights (although that might be worth considering depending on the price). I’m saying it’s worth flying for relatively shorter flights in the 1-5
Low cost flights seem to have gained a bad reputation, but that is undeserved. People’s biggest complaints are that they get nickel and dimed by these airlines. But, that is just not true. If you read and follow the instructions and go well prepared this never happens. Here are some of the most common complaints people have about low-cost airlines and my solution to each:
1. The airline charged me for checking in at the airport: I have seen people crying about this at the airport on multiple occasions. It’s just silly that people don’t read the instructions that they are supposed to check in online. I think it’s entirely fair to charge passengers € 45 to check in at the airport.
The entire idea is that if you check in online before coming to the airport, the airline needs to hire less staff, which translates into lower expenses and more savings, part of which the airline passes onto you in the form of cheaper tickets. So stop complaining! You booked that flight because it was cheap.
2. The airline charged me for printing my boarding pass at the airport: The logic remains the same. If you print your boarding pass in advance, everyone saves money, including you. So if you don’t want to print it at home, be prepared to shell out an additional € 15.
3. How can they charge me for checking in 1 piece of luggage: Most low-cost airlines
allow one free carry-on item. Some even charge for that. The idea is that a lighter plane burns less fuel. Also, lesser luggage implies fewer baggage handlers and logistics. All of which generate significant savings and result in more ka-ching in your pocket.
If you absolutely have to check in luggage, notify the airline in advance. Luggage allowances purchased in advance (before arriving at the airport) tend to be significantly cheaper than at the airport. For example, Ryanair charges € 15 for a 15 kg bag on a flight of less than 2 hours if purchased online. At the airport, that will cost you € 25. That’s a direct 40% savings on the total price you would have paid had you not purchased in advance.
4. My carry on won’t fit and they want to charge me for checking it in OR my check-in is too heavy and now they want to charge me more: It is ridiculous the amount of money airlines make through oversized/overweight bags.
There is a simple answer to both problems: Before leaving home, simply check the dimensions on the airline’s website and measure your bags. Also check the weight restrictions and weigh your bag before you leave to avoid an unpleasant shock at the airport. For the return flight, you may not have access to a weighing scale. And chances are your bags might be overweight due to all the shopping you indulged in while on vacation. The solution: A simple portable weighing scale. Amazon has hundreds of options. Investing € 10 today could save you hundreds (or even thousands) over the next few years.
5. No free food or drink? Nope! Less food means lower expenses, which translates into more savings. Apart from the cost of the food itself, it means lower logistical costs of getting the food to the airport, and onto the plane, and keeping it fresh on the plane. Less food also implies a lighter plane and you know what that means: less fuel burnt= more savings.
On a personal note, I love airplane food. Even on low-cost airlines, if you pick the right items they’re not half bad. I’ve also discovered that buying a meal on board actually turns out marginally cheaper than buying it at the airport.
6. Randomly assigned seats? Wtf?! It’s actually not such a big deal. But if it matters to you, you can shell out an extra € 5-10 for your choice of seats. And if you’re traveling with others, nothing to worry about. Passengers booked on the same ticket are usually assigned seats together.
7. No in-flight entertainment? Nope! No free headphones, no music and no personal or common entertainment screen. But that’s an easy one to solve. Just carry a book or a tablet.
We always carry a tablet loaded with movies and TV shows. When you’re at cruising altitude, simply power it on, plug-in your headphones, and watch your favorite show at 35,000 feet. The best part, the entertainment doesn’t pause for in-flight announcements. Since there are 2 of us traveling together, we bought an audio splitter (less than € 5) that allows for 2 headphones to be connected at the same time. And when we get bored with watching shows, the tablet doubles up as an e-reader.
With all the money you’ll save following these tips, you won’t mind the non-reclining seats and the occasional advertisements announced through the in-flight system.
Now go ahead, and enjoy your vacation! Happy travels!