Continuing our summer series on how to stay financially fit during your retirement years.
One of the most expensive parts of any long trip is the cost of airfare. While nothing can change the fact that hurtling through the sky in a metal tube is costly, there are some strategies that senior travelers can use to avoid paying more than necessary.
Some of these strategies are simple, while others are a bit more complex and best left to the experts. There are also a couple of strategies you want to stay away from as they may cause you trouble.
Easy strategies for saving on airfare
Flexible dates. Having to arrive at a specific time or even a specific day, can drive up costs. Having flexible dates (even just a couple of days either way) allows you to choose the cheapest flight.
Time of week. Flying mid-week (Tues-Thurs) is often less costly on many routes.
Avoid extra fees. Many airlines now charge extra for everything from checked or carry on baggage (or both) to boarding passes. Make sure you know the entire cost of your ticket and don’t be surprised at the check-out screen, or even at the airport. Many so-called “low cost carriers” promote a cheap lead in price that can easily double once fees are added.
Beware of “ghosts” (ghost fares, that is!). Just because it’s listed "on sale" online doesn’t mean it’s actually available. Bait-and-switch tactics are common on some online booking engines.
Basic economy. Some airlines now offer basic economy fares in addition to standard economy. In fact, these are often the default results that appear in many online search engines. While basic economy can save you money, these fares have rules and restrictions and are stripped of many necessary features, such as the ability to check baggage or make changes to your itinerary. Make sure you understand the rules of any fare you purchase.
Advanced strategies for saving on airfare (talk to your travel agent)
Break up a round trip into one-way sections. If you are struggling to find the right schedule at a good price, try looking for two one-way flights instead of one round trip. Just make sure to remember to book both halves of the flight.
Package it. Combining airfare into a package with a hotel or rental car or both can often save you money. A good travel agent can do this for you.
Special cruise and tour airfares. If you’re flying in order to take a cruise, or even just to stay in a hotel, make sure you take advantage of special cruise or tour airfares. These fares can offer a significant discount over regular fares, and are usually only available through a knowledgeable travel agent.
Beat the markups. International airfares that you find on online search engines, or even on the airline’s own website, may include a substantial markup. The only way to avoid these markups is to work with a travel agent who can find the same fare at a wholesale rate. While travel agents have to earn a living too, a trustworthy agent should be able to pass some of the savings along to you—a win-win for everyone.
Bonus: One strategy to avoid
Hidden city ticketing. Let’s say you want to fly from New York to Chicago, but this route is too expensive. You find a flight from New York to Atlanta that requires you to change planes in Chicago that is cheaper, and just get off the plane in Chicago. This is one strategy you want to avoid. Hidden city ticketing is contrary to the airline’s terms and conditions, can result in you being separated from your baggage, can cause the loss of frequent flier miles or status, and other problems. There are easier ways to save money.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matthew Exline, CCC, is a CLIA Certified Cruise Counselor and a licensed independent travel agent with Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative.
He does more than just cruises and can help you with any kind of travel, but his specialties are cruises (any cruise line or destination), history tours, and international airfare. He can help both and groups, including family reunion groups, organizations, and fundraising groups.
He is based in Ormond Beach FL but loves to help travelers living anywhere in the US. To learn more or ask for a quote, visit his website or give him a call.
Cruises and general travel: www.timelessjourneystravel.com
History tours: https://www.havehistorywilltravel.com
Toll free: 866-VOYAGE-0 (866-869-2430)