Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How to Fly for Less Money

Our family loves to go on vacation and I am always planning our next one. We usually go on vacation to states that are close to Utah and we always drive because flying can get pretty expensive, especially with 4 kids. But we recently went to Disney World and I realized that flying can actually be affordable if you know how to plan it right.

1. Finding the right fare

Flights fluctuate like crazy! The prices of flights change every day, sometimes even throughout the day. About 6 months before your trip, start checking flights and comparing prices. This way, you can figure out what the average fare is and decide how much you're willing to pay. For example, when I started looking into flights for Orlando, I decided that a good rate was about $320 but I was hoping to find flights for under $300. I was willing to pay about $320 if I hadn't found a flight 1-2 months before our trip. About 3 1/2 months before our trip, I found a flight for $270 so I booked it. I knew that the chances of finding something cheaper were pretty slim and even if I did, I was very happy with the price I got. It was well under what I was hoping to pay.

The best time to book a flight is about 3-4 months before your trip. Once you get to this point, check flights every day, or even a few times a day. A good website to check is Fly.com. This website checks and compares most airlines to give you the best deal. On this website is a fare calendar that will tell you the lowest roundtrip price for each day in a month. If you click on it, it will take you directly to the airline to book the flight. Some airlines, like Southwest Airlines, are not included in this search so you'll have to check those airlines separately.

2. Sign up for airfare alerts.
Before you plan your next trip, sign up for Airfare Watchdog. This is such an awesome website! You sign up for the city that you want to fly to and they'll send you email updates when the flight prices go down. I signed up for cities that I want to watch like Orlando and a few others. This is how I found our flight to Orlando for $270.

Early this summer I got an email alert for a roundtrip flight from Salt Lake to San Diego for $118 per person. We weren't planning on going on a trip but this was such a good deal and we couldn't pass it up! So my husband and I decided to go to San Diego for a weekend. It was so much fun! I also recently helped my sister-in-law find roundtrip tickets from Salt Lake to Phoenix for $98. This website really is amazing.

3. Use credit card reward points.

I strongly recommend this, but I don't think it's for everyone. If you struggle to make ends meet and you think you might not be able to pay off the balance in full, then this probably isn't the best idea for you. You don't want to go into debt just to get a cheaper flight. If you know for sure that you're going to pay the balance in full every month, then the benefits from credit cards can be awesome. My husband was a little skeptical when I suggested this. He hates credit cards and hates debt! I told him to let me try this for a few months and if I didn't pay off the balance, he could cancel the credit card. It's been a year and a half and I haven't paid a dime in interest and I've made over $2000 in travel credit!

We had the Barclaycard and I really liked this card. With this card we earned 40,000 bonus points, which was equivalent to $400, and 2 points per every dollar that we spent using the card. I used my credit card for all of my purchases and paid the balance in full each month. So when we combined our awesome flight deal and our credit card points, we only spent $800 for our family of 6 to fly to Orlando. Not bad, right?

Here are some of the best travel reward credit cards:
Barclaycard Arrival 40,000 bonus points, 2 points per dollar
Capitol One Ventures card 40,000 bonus points, 2 points per dollar 
Chase Sapphire Preferred 40,000 bonus points, 2 points per dollar on dining, 1 point per dollar on all other purchase
Southwest Rapid Rewards card 25,000 bonus points, 1 point per dollar (sometimes they offer 50,000 bonus points) 

Most of these cards waive the activation fee but charge a yearly fee after the first year. If you don't want to pay fees, there are other cards available but the rewards of those cards aren't as high. In my opinion, the rewards of the cards mentioned above outweigh the fees that you would pay.

4. Get creative with how you save.

Anyone can save money and there are many ways to cut back. Only you know your spending habits and how you can save. To save up for our flight, I donated plasma for a year. I'm a stay at home mom with no income of my own so this gave me such a huge sense of accomplishment to be able to pay for our flight.

Good luck planning your flight! I hope these tips help you to save money on your next trip. If you have any other tips on finding good deals on flights, leave a comment below.

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