Our good sis, Toni Morrison, said: “if you wanna fly, you got to give up the s*** that weighs you down?” While Toni probably wasn’t referring to literal flying, I am. I am here to tell you that you can fly – both literally and figuratively – if you give up the stuff that is weighing you down. The “stuff” that is weighing you down is probably the perception of cost.
Are your finances preventing you from traveling? Do your travel goals seem fiscally unattainable? Do you find yourself saying, “I would travel more if I could afford it?” If you answered YES to any of the previous questions, then keep reading. I have traveled to 11 countries on 4 different continents, and I assure you that I don’t own a money tree. I simply love to travel, and I live by the motto of my illustrious institution, Clark Atlanta University. “Find a Way or Make One.” I make no excuses when it comes to traveling because it’s my passion! I’m not rich, I don’t have unlimited vacation time, I don’t work for an airline, and I’m not a sugar baby. I work a regular 9-5 and my bills are plentiful. (Shout out to Sallie Mae). If you read my post, How I Traveled to 3 Countries for $500, then you know that I will FIND A WAY or MAKE ONE to achieve my travel goals. While there are many blogs, articles, and how-to posts on catching a great flight deal, I have compiled 5 tips that have worked best for me. Since flights are generally the most expensive portion of the trip, I hope the following flight hacks can help you achieve your travel goals so you can fly like Miss Morrison.
The 5 F’s of Flying
The day and time in which you choose to travel can impact the ticket price. Weekends are typically more expensive to fly on. While this isn’t the case 100% of the time, it is worth checking. Google Flights is my favorite tool to use because it’s sleek and easy to read. This is an example of Orlando to Los Angeles since MCO is my home airport. Below you can see an example of Orlando to Honolulu, and the price drops by almost $200 by leaving only 1 day earlier. I also love that Google Flights gives you tips. The red arrow below is pointing to this tip. This is a prime example of how being flexible with your dates/days can save you money.
The Art of Finesse was a course at my Alma Mater. Again, you have to find a way or make one. Try finding an alternate airport, if it makes logistical sense and the savings support the opportunity cost. For example, I live in Orlando, FL and Tampa International Airport is about an hour away, so often times I will check TPA instead of MCO. Even though Fort Lauderdale is a 3-hour drive, I have seen some pretty significant savings out of FLL. It makes sense for me considering I have friends/family down there.
Here is an example of the same flight (destination and dates) changing the airport of origin. I don’t know about you but a savings of $200+ has my attention.
I saved $700 on a flight to Greece by utilizing the art of finesse. A college friend called me and informed me that she had found a great deal, and she was planning a birthday trip. Since she extended the invitation, I began researching flights. Her flight was $600 Round Trip from LAX. My flight from Orlando for those same dates would have been $1500. So I booked a separate flight to/from LAX for $200. My total flight was $800 compared to the $1500 price flying directly from Orlando. Some cities tend to have better deals, so keep those in mind when booking your next trip.
See a current example below of a price difference between Tokyo from LAX vs Orlando. I can snag a flight to LAX for around $200 and still save a few hundred bucks.
#3: Follow the deal
I have been able to afford travel because I’m not constricted to any specific destinations/regions. The majority of my destinations have been selected based on random google flight searches. Searching flight deals is basically a hobby of mine. I chose Bogota, Colombia in 2015 because I was randomly searching flights to anywhere that I could think of and saw a roundtrip flight for less than $300. My recommendation is to keep an open mind about destinations and watch flights. I’ll get to some tools that can assist you with this a little later.
Below is an example of following the deal. I may be interested in St. Croix, USVI but San Juan, Puerto Rico is cheaper by $200, so I may just follow the deal. San Juan is amazing, by the way!
So, I briefly discussed this hack on my How I Traveled To 3 Countries For $500, so check that out if you haven’t already! Credit cards are not always evil if you use them wisely. Credit cards have helped me reach an excellent rated credit score, in fact. Most importantly they have rewarded me with awesome travel benefits.
Below you can see how much I paid for a roundtrip flight to Southeast Asia. The itinerary was Orlando to Bangkok/Ho Chi Minh to Orlando. (The tour company handled logistics in between). I waited to pull the trigger on this flight so I could have paid even less. Moral of that story: trust your instinct. Either way, I purchased a $1000+ flight for less than $400.
I currently have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which is how I purchased the flight mentioned above, and the Delta Sky Miles Card. The bonus amounts were 50,000 and 60,000 respectively. I simply paid my bills with the cards for 3 months and hit my bonus. If you would like a referral link to either of those cards, contact me. You’ll receive their bonus offer, and I’ll receive 10,000 bonus points. We both win.
#5: Flight Trackers
Okay, so now that you have read a few of my tips, you may be wondering what tools and websites I use. Obviously, I LOVE Google Flights. If you have your eye on a destination, you can select your options, as if you were booking, and click ‘track price’. The system will notify you when the price changes. It gives you various flight insights (pictured below) to help you find the best deal.
If you’re not a fan of Google Flights, Hopper is a great tool as well. Hopper is mobile app-only whereas Google Flights is a desktop tool. It gives you a nice color-coded calendar view to select the cheapest dates. The app also has an option to track prices. Please note that not all airlines share their data with third party sites, so some airlines may not show up in your search. For example, Southwest flights can only be booked on their site.
My next piece of advice is to subscribe to airline’s newsletters. You will be the first to find out about their deals! I suggest creating a separate email so that your main email account won’t be bombarded and you are less likely to overlook an important email. On Valentine’s Day, I received emails from Jet Blue, Southwest, and Frontier informing me of flight deals. If you want to travel for less, you have to stay informed!
There is really no magic formula that will give you the best flight prices, but I have found that these 5 things work for me. Keep these 5 things in mind when booking your next trip.
- Follow the Deal
- Flight Trackers
Do you have any tips that help you save money on travel? Will you try any of these? I’d love to hear from you!