The airfare dilemma.
by, 04-04-2008 at 06:13 AM (1080 Views)
One question that you see often around the forums is the question about when should someone buy their plane tickets and how does one get the best deal. Best deal, of course, is translated to how one can spend the least amount of cash. And that, my friends, is becoming a bigger question every day.
Of course the economy is taking a toll on everyone. And I am not going to go on a rant about that here. Thats for a different blog that I do. But at the same time, most everyone is being very aware of what is being spent. And when it comes to vacationing, that is even more true since budgets are tight and prices are going up.
While I do travel a lot, I dont consider myself an expert. However, in reading some of the articles on msnbc.com and other news media outlets, I have to say that some of the advice given is very good and makes a lot of sense. At the same time, some of the things mentioned are silly or just "plane" dont work. (Yep, bad pun intended.)
But back to what I was saying about airfare.
I can tell you this... it is true that airfares have the ability to change on a regular basis. They can change up or down - it does not matter. But the key for finding a good deal goes more in line with what your travel budget is for you and your family.
Set a realistic expectation as to what you will spend on airfare. For me, going out of ORD to MCO, $300 is the maximum that I would even consider spending even though I think $250 is more realistic and anything around $200 is a deal. (Oh, and thats prices with taxes and the like.) Gone are the days where I can get tickets for $115 RT on a non-stop flight. Even Southwest, which many claim to be the "low cost leader" is still usually above $200 these days -and they used to be the most reasonable. Now, the are in line with AirTran, Ted, and in some cases, AA.
Once you figure out what your budget is, do some searching. I usually use Expedia or Travelocity to get a broad overview of what is available then narrow it down from there according to fare and time of travel. After all, a great deal on a flight is somewhat offset if you dont arrive at your destination till 11PM and have to leave at 7 AM to go home.
After I find what I think I am looking for, I go right to that carriers website. I am usually able to find the same flights and if I decide to book through the site, its usually a little cheaper only because I dont have to pay a booking fee.
One other thing to think about - booking directly through a carrier makes it easier to change things if you run into issues later or even at the airport. Your mileage may vary but this has been my experience.
Once I book, I dont look back. The money is spent. I am going on vacation. That is all that matters. Yes, I am aware that some carriers such as Southwest will allow you to rebook under a cheaper fare if available and give you the remainder as a credit towards your next trip. Just remember to know all the rules as it pertains to such refunds.
Pay with a credit card. Not a debit card, cash, or check. As we have seen this week with the shutdown of ATA, those who have paid with a form of cash are pretty much out of luck since they will have to file a claim with bankruptcy court to get their money. Credit card companies are very good at dealing with taking charges off your account if a carrier goes under, etc. I really hope that does not continue to become a trend in the industry, but it appears that it can happen at any moment.
Well, I am off to Ohio again next week and this time I am flying. I just dont want to deal with that drive again - at least not for a while.
Till next time, my fellow travelers, take care of yourself and dont forget to secure your tray table and put your seats in the upright position before taking off for the weekend!