Are you ready to plan your next vacation, but think that air travel is simply too expensive? Think again. I will likely be taking a vacation to Florida in January, so I have done some intense research on saving money on air travel (which is often referred to as travel hacking). After you read this article, I am confident that you could save 75% or more (like I am) on your next flight booking! Here are the steps I took to save big money on my upcoming travels!
1) Start by searching Kayak.com
You likely know where you want to go and when you would like to depart and arrive back home. Simply enter these details in Kayak.com and see what the best price is for your travels.
My search: I want to travel to Fort Lauderdale, FL from January 23, 2015 through February 1, 2015, so I entered my criteria within Kayak.com and received the result below:
This is the absolute best rate right now according to Kayak.com: $434 per person. Unfortunately, this is where many people stop their search. They figure that this is the best rate and they book these flights. For two people, the total cost for this airfare is $868. This doesn’t sound like a deal to me! Instead of stopping here, I decided to continue the search in a quest to save more money.
2) Search other travel compare sites
Within Kayak.com, you can also search other travel compare sites to see if you are actually getting the lowest rate (see the screenshot below). Simply click in the boxes and new tabs will open on your computer and search for the best rates for your travel options. My search: When I checked the boxes, I had all of the tabs pop up and I reviewed the lowest rates that they found for me. To my surprise (and delight), Cheap-O-Air found that the cheapest rate was actually with American Airlines for $359.70! Looks like my additional research is saving me money already!
3) Check the airline sites
Sometimes travel comparison sites show a higher rate than what the actual airline shows on their home site (likely because there is a fee paid by the airline to the travel compare site). To make sure that you are getting the best rate, head to the actual airline site and search for tickets there.
My search: I searched American Airlines and US Airways and it actually turned out that their ticket prices were more at the home airline sites than what I saw on CheapOAir.com.
4) Search the discount airlines flying out of your local airport
Believe it or not, Kayak.com (or the other travel comparison sites for that matter) do not search every single airline that’s out there. To be sure that you are not missing out on additional savings through a discount airline, go to the website of your local airport and search for the discount airlines that fly out of that airport. If there are discount airlines that are flying to your destination, head to their site and search for ticket prices. Chances are that they are cheaper than the larger airlines!
My search: I was again pleased to find out that there was a discount airline that flies from Grand Rapids, Mi to Fort Lauderdale, FL. It is called AllegiantAir.com.
5) Be flexible with your departure and arrival dates
If you want to save even more money at this point, then you’ll want to be flexible with your departure and arrival dates. If you can manage to leave on a mid-week day or on a Saturday, then you will almost certainly experience a greater savings than if you wanted to leave on a Friday and return on a Sunday.
My search: As you can see in the screenshot above (within Step #4), it is cheaper to depart on Saturday than it is on Friday ($130 vs. $151). It is also MUCH cheaper to leave on Tuesday ($107 vs. $151) if I could take a few more days off from work. The same is true for the returning flight. If I can return on Tuesday instead of Sunday, then I could save an additional $33! By traveling from Tuesday through Tuesday instead of Friday through Sunday, I could reduce my per-ticket cost to just $214! But, believe it or not, my savings are not over. Let’s continue.
6) Search the rates for other nearby airports with Kayak.com
If you live within a few hours from other airports, be sure to check their rates as well. If you could save an additional $100, it might be worth driving an extra hour to the airport that is 75 miles away.
My search: For me, Chicago is about 2.5 hours away. It’s not super convenient, but if I could save some extra cash I would be willing to drive to and from the O’Hair airport. By searching through Kayak.com, I was able to find a pretty cheap rate at eDreams (another travel comparison site). By flying with Spirit Airlines, my round-trip bill would be $227.44 per ticket. Not too shabby, but maybe the rate is even better at Spirit.com…
7) Check the home sites for better ticket prices
Again, be sure to check the home site for the cheaper airline. You never know, the rates might be different at their site and it will only take a few seconds to check.
My search: I visited Spirit.com to see if there was a cheaper rate there, but again, the rate was actually higher than what I found through eDreams.com (even when selecting the cheaper dates). So, at this point, my absolute best rate is through AllegiantAir.com for $214 per ticket.
8) Check for discount airlines out of those nearby airports
Are there other discounted airlines that operate out of that airport? Just like you did before, check the site of your airport to see the list of discount airlines as well as their common destinations. If there are other airlines that travel to your desired location, be sure to check their page for pricing as well.
My search: Spirit Airlines was the only discount airline that travels from Chicago, IL to Fort Lauderdale, FL, so there was no reason for me to search any further.
9) Search for a Travel Rewards Credit Card
Now this is the important part of your overall savings – the travel rewards credit card. By applying to certain cards and spending a large amount of money in the first 90 days, you can earn yourself over 50,000 points, which equates to over $500 in savings! This sounds great initially, but for someone like me that does not spend all that much money, I would never end up qualifying for these reward dollars. Plus, cards like this often have yearly membership fees of nearly $100.
There are other fantastic rewards cards, however. In particular, the BarclayCard Arrival Plus Mastercard got my attention. There is no annual fee and if you spend just $3,000 in the first 90 days, they will reward you with 40,000 points, which equates to $400! That’s a pretty nice reward. Then, you’ll of course earn additional points on any purchases beyond this as well, which you can then use on your future travels.
My Total Airfare Bill
If I would have trusted that Kayak.com gave me the absolute best airline ticket price, then I would have paid $868 on two round-trip tickets. I obviously wasn’t all that satisfied with that total, so after just 30 minutes of research, I was able to find two tickets for a total price of $428. Take $200 off from that because of my reward points and I am only paying $228 for two round-trip tickets to the beautiful beaches of Fort Lauderdale! 🙂
Are you ready to save money on your air travel?
AUTHOR Derek Sall
Derek has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Business. As a finance manager in the corporate world, he regularly identified and solved problems at the C-suite level. Today, Derek isn't interested in helping big companies. Instead, he's helping individuals win financially--one email, one article, one person at a time.