October 18, 2011

World Traveler: Tips for Booking Flights

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Hurray! Josh and I currently have in our possession two round-trip tickets between Rochester, NY and Madrid, Spain. We are leaving on January 7th and will be in Avila, Spain until May 15th. I feel as though I can finally breathe now. Getting those tickets in our hands was a bit of an ordeal, but it's all over now, and no one can take them away from us.

Because of what we went through and are bound to continue going through as we travel Europe throughout next semester, I thought some readers might appreciate it if I shared some of the tips and tricks I've discovered in my ticket-buying experiences.

Admittedly, this post is assuming that most people do their flight booking online, but many of the tips apply to traditional ticket purchase as well.

If you can make your trip on a Tuesday or Thursday, do it.
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that weekend seats are more expensive than midweek seats because they are in higher demand. Everyone is traveling over the weekends! Be a trendsetter and save yourself some money at the same time. If your schedule allows it, book flights for Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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Don't be picky about your seats!
The good ones cost more for many airlines. It's a fact of life. If you have to have that window seat, you're probably going to be paying a little extra. Does it really matter? It will all be over soon and you'll be out twenty bucks. Sit wherever they can fit you in.

Don't be afraid of connecting flights.
In many (but not all) cases, flights that redirect to larger airports will save you some money. This is, again, because of supply and demand. People prefer direct flights, so there are less of them available and airlines need to charge more for them. Settling for a trip with one or two stops certainly won't get you there any faster, but it will often save you upwards of several hundred dollars. Plus, the way I see it, my flight is going to be practically eternal anyway. At least if I stop for a bit in the middle I can stop to stretch and grab a bite to eat.

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On the other hand, research the reputations of the airports you'll be departing from.
Basically, you do not want to make a stop in an airport that is known for layovers and cancellations when you have someone ready to pick you up or another time-sensitive arrangement set up at your destination. Nothing is more frustrating than having your first flight go of without a hitch and then getting stuck at an airport in some foreign city with no idea when you will be able to leave.

Look into a credit card with traveler's discounts.
I say "look into it" because obviously not all credit cards are worth it; however, many (the Citi Forward card is an example) will discount your ticket purchases if you buy using their card. First make sure that you have the financial means to responsibly keep up a credit card, then investigate whether or not one with traveler's discounts would be best for you.
Use StudentUniverse.com
This is a must for student and even faculty travelers. Student Universe compares prices from multiple airlines that offer significant discounts for student flyers. Josh and I saved about $1000 total through shopping with them! Be advised, however, that this website requires proof of your student status which usually involves screenshots of your online transcript, grade report, or class schedule. If you have a paid tuition bill available online, this is the best option. Whatever you provide, you will be waiting anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours to have your student status verified.

As a general rule, the sooner you book, the better
This is pretty self-explanatory. If you need to be certain place at a certain time, your bargaining power is very limited. You will need to book well an advance to make sure that you a have a variety of price options available to you.

But if you're travel dates are flexible, WAIT!
Many people do not think of this, but if you have the luxury of flexibility in your travel schedule, waiting to book your flight can be very smart. Cancellations and last-minute openings can offer huge savings. Just make sure that you can afford to fly a different day or time than what you orginally planned.

I still can't believe that this is actually happening! There's no going back now--well, without a serious cancellation fee. God forbid anything happen and we can't make it. (I could get pregnant . . . gasp)

The daughter of one of my professors will be attending school at IEMA with us. She is an absolutely precious person and Josh and I are both really excited to get closer to her in the months to come. One adventure we have coming up is a trip to New York City to get our Spanish visas. We're carpooling. Roadtrip!

I don't think I've mentioned it before, but IEMA stands for el Instituto Español Murallas de Ávila. It is the Spanish language institute where we'll be studying next semester. I'm psyched that I will be rubbing elbows with students from all over the world trying to become fluent in Spanish. I am so excited and so blessed that we have this opportunity to travel as a couple. I know many people kind of view marriage as this life sentence to all things boring. Between marriage itself and having children, there isn't a lot of time for exciting adventures, which is why I couldn't be more grateful.

Praise God!

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