As summer looms nearer on the calendar and everyone is scrambling to figure out where they are going to be taking their most coveted Instagrams this year, there is never a better time to talk about the art of flying for cheap. Now, there are the obvious strategies when it comes to making the most of your airplane dollars, and a lot of them involve flying with airlines that cater to students who also donate blood marrow for a significant portion of their regular income. These airlines also consider things like water and bathroom use a luxury, and provide seating arrangements somewhere in the comfort range from “chiseled stone” to “particle board.” And on top of the indignities of the flight itself, the actual trajectory for a cheap flight requires layovers/concessions in route that render what should be a quick 6-hour jaunt into a three-day odyssey that leaves you sleeping in more than one foreign airport.
And while I’m not going to say I never traveled on the YOLO student budget (my first true European voyage involved bus-ing it from DC to NYC for cheaper tickets, and couchsurfing with friends for the entirety of the stay), I have also evolved into a slightly more discerning flyer.
For example, a trip this summer is being planned with an inconvenient-but-doable layover, but still on a plane that will provide decent food, and even some alcohol to up the experience. In this case, we’re having to organize five people’s tickets seated together for one way, despite them leaving at different times and from different places for the return flights, so many concessions need to be made. (And I can’t stop shaking my fist at the rest of the group we’re meeting, who only have to buy a train ticket last-minute and manage to hop on it as it’s pulling out of the station.)
Generally, if you’re anything like me, you love to travel as often as possible, and in some measure of comfort, but are not anywhere near the bracket of “money is not an object” when it comes to buying the tickets. So tips and tricks come in, and for some people, this means going all the way to the extreme of “I really don’t care where I go, I’ll just pick whatever ticket is cheap,” which is a surefire way to save money, and a surprisingly popular tactic. But I’m of the opinion that if I’m in the mood for Lisbon, I’m not going to be in the mood for Moscow, so I’m not quite so gung-ho about the idea of leaving my destination to chance.
There are also people who take the risk and fly standby, which is another great option in terms of sheer cost, but does run the risk of you not getting on the flight you want. (Though there are stories out there about people landing an affordable first-class ticket this way.)
But for me, since I’m somewhere in the middle of all this, I’ve been doing some research as our group picks our summer vacation tickets about how to make them more affordable for everyone, without sacrificing too much. To that end, I came across this recent Reuters piece which shares some great tips from a near-professional flyer, about everything from date flexibility to how to use loyalty to your advantage, even if you’re not a super-frequent flyer. There’s also this great one on Lifehacker, which breaks down the different sites you can use to find the best deals on flights and compare prices at the most all-encompassing levels. (We’re currently using Skiplagged for our trip, which is featured in the piece.)
I’d check them out if you’re in the logistics stage of your summer trip, like I am, or even just looking for a fresh set of travel tips you may not have thought of.
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