Budget Travel 101: 5 Ways to Save on Flights Abroad

Travel is becoming more and more accessible to all (at least in the Western world). However, the bulk of the costs are still spent on transportation and accommodation. The latter has already been addressed in the first part of this super saver series. Now, let’s turn to the transportation.

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Here are five things to keep in mind if you plan on taking a flight any time soon:

#1: Timing

Common experience will tell you that booking early is more than advisable. If you’re traveling at peak times, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, this is certainly the case. In other words, if you already know in April that you would like to visit your siblings for Thanksgiving, don’t wait until mid-October to make your travel arrangements.

The other option is to book last-minute. In this case, there’s a different kind of travel behind it. That is, booking last-minute is great for people who don’t have a particular preference as to where they want to go. You can show up at the airport and check with the local offices or travel agents. Those who prefer checking online can check out the “last minute” section of websites such as Cheaptickets.com.

Air France © matt.hinsa

#2: Online Search Engines

More often than not, booking directly through the airline website will result in higher prices. Online search engines, in turn, often have great deals as they incorporate various airlines. Also, in some cases, they don’t charge the normal service fees typically added when booking directly through the airline in question.

Check Kayak, Expedia, Cheaptickets.com, Cheapflights.com, and Orbitz to get started. Those who enjoy business and first class flights can also consider LetsFlyCheaper.com.

Last but not least, consult a price comparison service, such as those offered by FareCompare.com or through TripAdvisor. Another plus about booking online is that you can often get a package deal that includes hotel accommodation, rental cars, show tickets, and more.

#3: Work the System

In addition to consulting different sites and varying your travel times, there are other ways to work the system. One way is through age-specific discounts. Are you a student? Use that to your advantage. Or traveling with a senior citizen? Moreover, traveling in a group (usually 10 or more) could also get you deals.

In addition, be sure to sign up for a miles accumulation card. That is, at least one. Nowadays, there are many options available, and airlines have partnered with one another to make things work. For example, you can use the same air miles for United Airlines as you can for the German airline Luftansa and the Indian Jet Airways. It all depends on the destination which will work best for you.

When signing up for a mileage program, ask whether the miles expire. If so, make sure you use them beforehand. Also, ask what they can be used for. In many cases, this will be more than just flights and can include hotels and many other purchases too.

Last but not least, inquire if the miles can be transferred. This way, you can combine miles and/or give that someone special a present for his or her birthday.

Retiro bus station in Buenos Aires © m.herrero

#4: Go Slower (and Cheaper!)

Flying isn’t always the best option. At first glance, a 23-hour bus ride from Buenos Aires to the Iguassu falls might not seem so appealing when a flight there would only take two hours. When you consider the price difference, however, it is worth taking another look at the bus. Which is quite worth it – in addition to having your own bed, you are served wine, food and can even play bingo with other passengers if you want (provided you are traveling with the company ANDESMAR).

Bottom line: check out alternative travel options, such as train, bus or car. Hitchhiking leads us to the next point, which is…

#5: Go for Free. Yes, FREE!

You don’t need to rob a bank to do so. Nowadays, there are numerous ways to win a trip abroad. FareCompare.com, for example, is hosting a Win the Airfare Game where you can win a 5-star trip for 2 to magical Cape Town. Similarly, TripTrotting.com just sent the Ultimate Triptrotter, Yolanda, around the world. This, too, was the result of a competition where you had to send in a video as to why you would make the Ultimate Triptrotter.

How to find out about these deals? Read and be alert. Vagabondish posts news about travel contests, as do many other sites. A Google search for “travel competition,” “travel giveaway” or “travel win” will also help.

Triptrotting.com co-founder Shana Zheng recently told me that they plan to sponsor future trips again soon, so keep an eye out.

Lastly, pay attention to “old school” methods, such as pamphlets that land in your mailbox or offers advertised in magazines. Now you just need a little bit of luck to make it work.

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