Well, I’m leaving (on a jetplane) again. For Los Angeles, again. And once again, I’m reminded how much I hate the experience of modern air travel. I might not have any way to combat the tedious (and possibly ineffective) safety regulations, but I have come up with a system to save as much money as possible.
Tip #1: Don’t pay for it. Ok, this really isn’t “advice,” since not everyone has big, doe-y gray eyes like I do. But if you happen to be good at it, get someone else to pay for your flight. I’m not advocating begging, pleading or blackmailing (unless you’re really good at those) – instead, I just wait around until someone else buys me a plane ticket. It happens more often than you might think.
Tip #2: Don’t pay much for it. Although someone else usually pay for my ticket, I’m always charged with the task of tracking down the cheapest ticket. Because I’m exceptionally good at snaking my way around the internet and finding a deal? Probably not. It’s probably more along the lines of “I have a lot of time on my hands to scour websites.”
The best thing to do is use some of the “fare aggregator” websites, which search of the other plane fare websites for you. I have a confession to make: last time I went price checking, I brushed off the best website of all – didn’t even visit it, let alone fill out the search box and look up fares. Funny story, actually. Because the site is named Kayak*, and I can’t swim and thus am deadly afraid of kayaks (the idea of getting flipped over in one and being trapped under water gives me the heebee-jeebees), I didn’t even visit the site. I completely avoided it.
Not so this time, however. I bounded over to Kayak and fell in love at first search. Not only did it find me the lowest fare, but the advanced search options allowed me to both be flexible about dates and airports (I can fly out of Rochester or Buffalo, and land at LAX or Burbank… doesn’t matter to me) in order to find the bestest best fare for me. Win!
I’ve got this cute Kayak site widget, if you want to try it out right now:
The other site I use is SideStep, which didn’t find me the same low fare as Kayak this time, but it’s worth checking both sites every time.
Tip #3: Don’t buy anything at the airport. Seriously, there’s nothing there you can’t buy elsewhere, and probably at a quarter of the price. Be a little prepared, and you won’t need to buy anything in there. I just went to the supermarket and loaded up on Pringles and those little cheddar cracker sandwiches with peanut butter inside them. Bring your own books and magazines – airport bookstores are about the only place you’ll ever see books selling at their list price.
The only thing you really have to buy in the airport, maybe, is a drink, since they won’t let you bring one in. But you could always bring in an empty water bottle and fill it at a drinking fountain once you’re through security.
Tip #4: Definitely don’t buy anything on the plane. $5 for the world’s shoddiest pair of headphones? And don’t even get me started on those SkyMall catalogs. You’re being catapulted across the country in a metal tube – now is not the time to be buying lawn ornaments or massage chairs. And if the in-flight movies aren’t free, forget about them. They’re usually not that good anyway, and even if they are, they’re usually edited for content.
Tip #5: Park the car for free. This might be hard to pull off. Since I’m flying out of Buffalo again, it’s particularly hard to find someplace to leave my car for a week, without getting charged $50. Thankfully, I have a friend who goes to college in Buffalo, who doesn’t mind me leaving my car at his place, and giving me a ride from his campus to the airport – in exchange for a plate of brownies.