Ray is a young professional working in the hotel industry in Miami. He’s always had a fascination with travelling and loves to fly to different cities and countries with his friends. Although this is one Ray’s favorite activities, he’s noticed that it’s been taking a toll on his finances. What tricks can Ray employ to ensure that he is able to travel the world while saving money in the process? Many of us young professionals around the world have travelling as one of our top desires. Throughout the rest of this article, we’ll explore some money saving techniques that I’ve utilized to save hundreds if not thousands of dollars on plane tickets over the past 4 years.
Book far out in advance
In the past you may have heard about how one of your friends found an awesome last minute deal on a plane ticket. This may happen from time to time but it’s definitely not a great strategy to follow. Most of the best deals on airfare are capitalized on by people who book their flights well in advance. The real question is how far in advance should we book our tickets? According to recent reports from the online travel agency CheapAir and the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), it’s been shown that historically the lowest average fares for domestic flights are available between 5-7 weeks before departure.
Although this timeframe applies for domestic flights, booking for international flights is a different story. According to Kayak’s data analytics, the best average price for trips to Asia are found between 9-10 months out, for South America around 6 months out, for Europe between 4-5 months and for Africa around 3 months before departure.
These metrics are for the best AVERAGE price and may not reflect the best priced ticket available for purchase. According to Rick Seany, CEO and co-founder of the online research tool FareCompare, the best timeframe to search for deals on international flights is between 2 – 5 months before departure. Seany suggests doing research ahead of time to get a feel for ticket prices and then signing up for some of the fare comparison tools we’ll discuss in the next section.
Sign up for fare comparison tools
When looking for flights online, you’ll come across various fare comparison tools. These tools will allow you to compare multiple airlines ticket prices and flight times. Some of the most common and highly rated comparison sites include Google Flights (my favorite of the bunch), Kayak, Fare Compare and Priceline. There are also other useful comparison tools you can download to your smart phone.
I personally use the “Hopper” and “Skyscanner” applications which are available for IOS and Android. One of the cool things about the “Hopper” app is that it gives you suggestions on whether or not to book based on the historical data of your selected days of travel. I used this functionality to save myself over $100 on one of my flights last year.
Once you’ve selected a few flight comparison tools to use, start searching for the flight you want. Remember to use the information discussed previously to maximize your savings on flights. If after using the comparison tools, you feel as though the ticket prices are not quite cheap enough yet, you can set up alerts to your email or smart phone to inform you when prices drop.
Check out Skiplagged.com
Until recently, I had no idea this website even existed but I’m so glad I came across it. Now when I’m travelling to a high traffic location (i.e. New York, Boston, etc) I like to check www.skiplagged.com for flights. This website searches for tickets to unpopular destinations that have a layover in your desired destination. The logic is that instead of going on to the final destination, you would arrive at your layover destination and throw away the ticket. Using this website, I’ve been able to save a substantial amount of money when booking flights to high traffic destinations. I’d recommend using this website as one of your first options when booking your flight.
Fly out unpopular days and times
If you’re flexible with your timing, another great way to save money on flights is to fly out and back on low traffic days and times. The cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. You may also consider flying at times when most people are reluctant to. These include flights at dawn, red-eyes (overnight flights) and flights around lunch and dinner time. If you’re willing and able to fly out on these days and times, you could save a big chunk of change on your flight. You don’t have to fly out on these days in order to experience savings either. Even booking a flight with a departure date of Friday and a return date of Monday may save you a significant amount of money.
Travel rewards on credit cards
One of the ways that I’ve been able to travel as much as I have the past few years is by utilizing credit card rewards programs. There are many travel cards out there that offer awesome sign up bonuses that you can take advantage of. Now this is no way an endorsement to go out and apply for as many travel cards as you can. Applying for a credit card results in a hard inquiry on your credit which will affect your credit score negatively. However, if you’re responsible about applying for credit cards this can be a great way for you to save on that big trip you’ve been planning. Here are some of the credit cards I’ve used in the past and some of the benefits associated with them:
Capital One Venture card
The Capital One was my first travel credit card and offers some awesome perks to its members. Firstly, when you spend $3000 in your first 3 months you will receive a 40,000 point introductory offer that converts to $400 in travel credit. You also receive 2 points for every dollar spent regardless of category. There is a yearly fee of $59 but it’s waived for the first year. As a result of using this card for all of 2015, I was able to save $1,100 on a plane ticket to Italy to see my family (Paid $250)! Definitely one of my favorite cards and I highly recommend it.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
This was my second travel card and another awesome option for would-be travelers. Unlike the Venture card, Chase Sapphire Preferred members receive 2 points for purchases on travel and restaurants as well as 1 point for each dollar spent on all other purchases. It also carries a $95 yearly fee that is waived for the first year.
Although these terms may seem less favorable than the Venture card, there are some other aspects of the card that make it extremely appealing. When you spend $4000 in your first 3 months you’ll receive 50,000 points which corresponds to $500 cash back or $625 if you book your travel through their travel platform! As a result of using this card I’ve been able to accumulate $750 in travel credits which I’ll use to book a May trip to Montreal, Canada for my girlfriend and I.
*As of this writing I ended up paying $135 for 2 tickets to Montreal, Canada from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Pretty sweet.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Also part of the Chase family of travel cards, this card is the big kahuna. It’s massive introductory offer of 100,000 points after $4000 spent in the first 3 months is matched by its equally large yearly membership fee of $450. Although this may seem like a steep price to pay for a credit card, hear me out first. Each point accrued on the card is worth 1.5 points if you purchase tickets via Chase’s online portal. That means that the 100,000 point introductory offer could be worth $1,500 in travel credits! You’ll also receive $300 in additional travel credit each year as well as a $100 credit to apply for global entry.
Along with all these perks you’ll receive free access to priority pass lounges across the world where you can relax on long layovers. The card also gives 3 points for every dollar spent on travel and restaurants as well as 1 point for every dollar spent on all other categories. If you play your cards right, you could use this card for the first year to receive $1800 in travel credits! I’ll be using my points to take my girlfriend on an end of the year trip to Asia.
*As of this writing, the introductory offer for the Chase Sapphire Reserve has dropped to 50,000 points. This is still a very good travel card that is worth considering.
As you can see, some of these cards offer a significant amount of points that you can use to travel. Have you ever wanted to make a big trip to East-Asia or Europe? These points could help subsidize or completely pay for your trip! Utilize your bonus points wisely and make the most of them.
Bringing it all together
After looking at his credit card bill for the month, Ray knew that he had to get smart about how he booked for travel. For his next trip to Houston, he used the site www.skiplagged .com to find a flight to Albuquerque which had a layover in Houston. He also made sure to book the flight 7 weeks in advance and adjusted his schedule so that he could leave on Wednesday morning and come back Saturday around midday.
As a result of him signing up for the Capital one venture card he was able to get his plane ticket completely paid for using his travel points! Ray is now able to have a fun relaxing vacation without breaking the bank. Do you have any travel tips that you’ve used in the past to save on travel? I would love to hear from you.
My recommendation for this article is the blog “Nomadic Matt”. This blog is packed with useful tips and tricks to make the most of your travel experiences. Many of the money saving tips I came across from other sources are referenced on the site. It’s an awesome resource that I highly recommend.