Recently, we wrote about a significant reduction in most airline fares – with flights to Budapest from our town of Asheville, North Carolina now costing less than half of what they were at the beginning of the year. While these fares are enticing, there can often be sticker shock once all fees and taxes are added to the ticket. From baggage fees and seat-selection fees to in-flight services and high-cost airport restaurants and kiosks, flying can really rack up extra costs. Here are some tips on how to avoid paying more for your next flight.
Before delving into airline fees, I want to share with you how to find the best fares. Oftentimes, the best deals can come from the cruise lines themselves. Avalon has been running a Fly Free program nearly all year from select gateways. Emerald is also currently offering free air from select gateways, and Scenic is offering free air for bookings paid in full. AmaWaterways is currently running a promotion with Economy air at a fixed rate of $899 on select sailings.
I like to use Google Flights when booking, but I usually end up booking air through the cruise line’s air department or via a travel advisor. They can often secure better rates than I can find on Google Flights, and oftentimes, you become aware of promotions you wouldn’t have otherwise known about.
There are ways to save money on flights, such as selecting a Basic Economy ticket on most major airlines. In the screenshot above, the Basic ticket is $180 less than the Economy ticket. These tickets do not allow you to select your seat, nor do they permit ticket changes. I’m someone who prefers to choose an aisle seat, especially during long-haul flights, so I would be willing to pay extra for the Main Cabin. Basic Economy also does not include a checked bag, with a hefty $150 baggage fee. So, is it worth it? In my case yes, but it depends on your travel preferences.
Loyalty Programs & Credit Cards
Our readers like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Capital One Venture X Rewards card. Both of these cards offer annual travel credits, lounge access, and extra miles on travel purchases. Many airlines also offer credit cards that earn you miles, like the Delta Skymiles Gold American Express Card. Try to find a card that matches the way that you prefer to shop and travel so you can truly maximize the benefits.
Even if you don’t want to obtain a credit card, frequent flyer programs are free to join and a great way to start accumulating miles, though it will take quite a few international flights to start to see many real benefits. And keep in mind if you choose to fly Basic Economy, you are often prohibited from earning miles. Is it worth the extra $180 now?
Check out Ralph’s story about the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card: Saving A Fortune On Business Class Air & Other Tips For New Adventures
The best way to avoid baggage fees is to not check a bag, but for many of us, that isn’t ideal. Interestingly, however, in a recent survey 11 percent of respondents said they do not check a bag. I love to have a selection of outfits when I travel, and like to have space in my luggage to bring things home for friends. On most major carriers, the first checked bag is free on international flights, unless you book a basic (or the cheapest) economy ticket, in which case you can pay up to $150, as in the example above.
If you’re traveling domestically, it’s important to do your research if you plan to check a bag. I am flying on Allegiant for the first time next week and I have heard all about the hidden costs and fees on low-cost carriers. So, I went on Google Flights and found the best flight that I could to Ft. Lauderdale, then went onto Allegiant’s website to review their baggage policy. If I were to check my bag at the airport, it would have cost me $75. If I would have taken a carry-on, it would have also cost me $75 at the airport. However, I paid $35 to check my large bag in advance, the same price it would have been for me to pay for a carry-on bag in advance.
Other Added Fees
Taxes on some flights can amount to hundreds of dollars. In the example we used above, the taxes and fees come out to $190. Unfortunately, these fees are unavoidable, though certain countries have lower taxes than others – so if you’re really keen on saving a literal few dollars, then you could try to find a work around, but we wouldn’t recommend it.
One way to compensate for these fees is by trying to save money at the airport. Make sure that you make a packing list so that you are not scrambling for last minute supplies at the airport, and bring your toiletries and a spare outfit in your carry-on so that you don’t end up in a pinch.
Instead of buying water at the airport, bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up on the other side. The environment will thank you. You can also pack snacks that don’t need refrigeration, like nuts, grain or bean salads, and certain sandwiches.
Do your research and know what the airline is going to charge you extra for. For example, Allegiant charges $5 for a boarding pass. It’s a small fee, but it can be easily avoided.
When you prepare yourself for the journey ahead, you can avoid surprises. Flying smart and saving money on airfare requires a combination of research, planning, and a little bit of luck. By following these tips and being aware of potential fees, you can enjoy your travels without breaking the bank.