Flying carries a wealth of stereotypes, and being cheap is not one of them. Not only is airfare itself exorbitantly expensive, but, over the past decade, airlines have introduced a glut of ancillary fees to make the experience even more draining. Granted, airlines would go bankrupt otherwise, but the toll on travelers is hefty nonetheless. Here are a handful of easy ways to save money when shopping for flights.
1. Minimize baggage fees.
Carrying luggage comes at a price, an ever-growing price. Most airlines allow passengers one carry-on and one personal item for no additional cost. Some airlines aren't quite so generous (Spirit, for example). If you know about how much luggage you will require, you can start researching which airline is best suited to your needs. If you can, fly Southwest. They allow each ticket two free checked bags, which is pretty much unsurpassed.
Obviously, traveling light is an easy way to cut back on excess luggage fees. Understandably, this isn't always possible. Not only to you have to worry about how many bags you have in tow, but the size and weight of those bags. Airlines will charge extra if your luggage exceeds certain limitations. If you're taking a lot with you, look up prices before booking a ticket. You can get a quick breakdown of baggage fees across domestic airlines using TravelNerd's airline fee comparison tool.
2. Avoid booking fees.
Booking fees are sneaky. Believe it or not, airline often charge you extra if you book your flight over the phone rather than online. And we're not talking chump change here. By simply booking online, you can save up to $50 on your trip. Ridiculous? Yup. It's almost like they don't want to talk to you...
3. Avoid change fees.
First off, do your research and know which airlines have the most forgiving policies. If you think there's a strong chance you may need to change your flight, you'll want to determine which available carrier has the lowest change fee. You can also buy a refundable ticket if you're afraid plans might change. You will have to pay a little more upfront, but a small investment can save you a substantial chunk of change in the long run.
4. Book your flight well in advance.
Experts recommend booking at least 6 weeks out. Put in your reservations as soon as you lock in your travel dates. The longer you wait, the more you'll pay.
5. Maintain a flexible travel schedule.
When searching for flights, you'll likely find less desirable flight schedules significantly cheaper. You might not want to fly out at 5:30 AM on a Tuesday, but that's probably a heck of a lot more affordable than flying at noon on a Saturday. Most travel booking sites allow you to perform searches within a range of travel dates. Take advantage of this feature to find the best deal. The cheapest day to fly is usually Tuesday or Wednesday. The cheapest time is early morning.
6. Keep an eye on your flight.
After you book, see what happens with the price of your flight. Most US airlines have a little-known policy that allows customers to claim a refund if the ticket price drops after purchase. It may not always be a lot, but for a family or group traveling together, the savings can be substantial. Of course, it's a pain to keep an eye on ticket prices 24/7. Flyers can use Yapta.com to sign up for automated alerts. Simply input your flight information, and Yapta will send an e-mail if and when you become eligible for a refund.