Here are five ways to save money on your airline tickets and stretch your travel dollar.
Plan Twice, Book Once –
Airlines now charge $150 or more if you change your ticket, after it’s been booked, especially if it’s one of those “base” fare non-refundable tickets.
Many hotels now charge “no show” fees of your first night’s reservation, so be sure to cancel outside the 24-hour limit if your plans change.
Car rental agencies also are charging fees for reservation changes and no-shows. Hertz now charges anywhere from $50 to $150 for a reservation change, even a month ahead of your reservation, and will charge your credit card the full reservation price if you don’t show up for your rental car.
Double-checking the details before booking can help you avoid these potential added charges.
Pack Light –
Minimize checked baggage fees by packing less. For longer trips, the cost of laundry or dry cleaning may be cheaper than checking extra luggage for clean shirts.
Look into overnight delivery and luggage forwarding services such as Luggage Forward for business trip samples, or your skis, snowboard or golf clubs for a leisure trip.
Southwest Airlines is the last remaining airline without bag fees. For other airlines, you’ll need to earn elite status or book your tickets with an airline credit card.
Even though most international carriers still allow one free checked bag, you might want to avoid nightmare delays at the baggage carousel.
I’m just back from several weeks and several cities in Germany, with carry-on only, so it can be done.
Be Flexible To Find Savings –
Search alternate airports.
For example, in New York City, fares are may be less expensive at LaGuardia or Newark than at JFK.
When flights to Jackson Hole are booked or too costly, they are often available and less expensive into Idaho Springs, two hours away.
Some other alternatives are Burbank or Orange County instead of LAX, Ft. Lauderdale instead of Miami, Midway instead of O’Hare in Chicago. You get the idea.
It also can be cheaper – and more enjoyable – to fly into a main airport in Europe, and take a fast train to your actual destination nearby. Such as flying into Frankfurt, with more choices than flying into Munich or Berlin.
It takes around the same time, and costs about the same amount for a high-speed train ticket to the connecting city, and you get to enjoy the scenery along the way. Plus, there’s no worries about your luggage missing the flight connection, since you have it with you – another reason to pack light.
Big Ticket Items Can Mean Big Savings –
If you are planning a complex international or multi-city US itinerary, use a travel agent, preferably one certified by the American Society of Travel Agents, or ASTA.
It will save you time, stress and money, because a travel professional is better equipped to find the best airfare deals to ensure you get the lowest fare, with or without a land package.
And never leave home without travel insurance to protect you if something goes wrong.
Doing the Bump –
If you are bumped, you may be owed $400 to $800 thanks to new rules on over-booking.
Be be sure to get a voucher, and remember to use it. Most vouchers expire in one year’s time, and most vouchers get put in a drawer and forgotten, which is just throwing away money.
The group Flyer’s Rights is an excellent resource for finding out about your rights as an airline passenger.
This article was published originally in 2009 and has been updated and re-published periodically, including for the 2022 holiday travel season.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter is a journalist with 20+ years of experience as a newspaper and magazine writer, radio & TV news producer & reporter, and author of guidebooks and smartphone apps – all focusing on travel, automotive, the environment and your rights as a consumer.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Copyright (C) Evelyn Kanter