I keep sharing my experience on the budget – sometimes even too budget – travelling in the US. Check out the previous blogs – three about accomodation and two on Couchsurfing tips at https://bit.ly/2Q1ZLHN and https://bit.ly/2BHwacn
This blog is about how to travel cheap by plane (part 1).
First of all – a couple of general things about air travel. Kinda obvious but might be helpful.
1. THERE ARE ACTUALLY CHEAP TICKETS
All the time I do see people with limited budget who are dying to travel but afraid to buy air tickets thinking that it’s too expensive. As a result, instead of California or Grand Canyon, they go on Greyhound for two days to Richmond or visiting New York all the time they can. Not a worst case scenario though, but it’s challenging to travel by bus from DC further than to Tennessee or Michigan, and, more important – it doesn’t make much sense financially.
The rule of thumb is that air fares ARE NOT ALWAYS more expensive that buses. In my experience, you can reach (with additional bus/car/hitchhiking layovers) any state in the US (except Alaska and Hawaii) with air tickets less than $200. If you eager to see Glacier National Park, but airfare to Montana consists of too many numbers – do not fall into despair. Just the read to the end of this and the following blogs.
2. BOOK IN ADVANCE
Everyone knows it, but a lot of travellers underestimate it. The most widespread tip is to buy tickets 70 days in advance – that’s the best time. However it’s pretty weird to plan 2-day trip to Houston almost three month in advance. I personally managed to find the best fares at least three weeks in advance – if I succeeded to do it later, it was more about unusual luck. So my advice would be to book them 60-25 days in advance.
3. GO INCOGNITO
All the time when you use travel websites – use incognito mode in a browser. If the website sees you searching for a ticket actively, 80% possibility that it can increase the price. Not considerably though – but with a limited budget it’s always better to be safe than sorry. More thoughts about the travel websites – in the next blog.
4. DOW MATTERS
I’d love to write the whole blog about how important the schedule flexibility for the budget travel, but I’m gonna be brief in regards to the airfare. Day of the week matters significantly (sometimes the difference can be more than $500 within one week). The cheapest days are Tuesday and Wednesday. For me the most frequent scenarios was to departure on Saturday and come back on Tuesday. If we are talking about the week-long trips, it’s even easier – departure on Wednesday and come back on Tuesday/Wednesday.
5. TIME MATTERS (BUT NOT MUCH)
The popular travel tip tells us – the best time to buy tickets is 3pm on Tuesday. This legend is old as the air travel itself, so I would keep it in mind. Whenever I tried it – I never saw difference, but maybe you’ll be lucky enough.
6. TRAVEL REWARDS
It’s only relevant if you have been travelling extensively last year(s) or are a big fun of trans-ocean flights. It’s always better to start collecting miles as earlier as possible. However, a lot of people try to gain miles too much – like applying for a whole bookshelf of bonus cards or even preferring more expensive tickets just because they will give them miles. In the majority of cases it doesn’t worth it.
My suggestion – be more sceptical about the specific airline travel bonuses (like Spirit Reward card). Instead, use more universal opportunities – like A Star Alliance bonus system (which, unfortunately, not the best solution for the US lowcosters but is still a good thing). And if you are really into miles gaining – the fastest way is to have a travel rewards credit card.
7. GET RID OF BAGS
This is true that the luggage depends on every particular person. Some would throw a t-shirt with a couple of socks into a tiny backpack while others might have a vanity case measuring a full-scale check-in luggage. But to go cheap – don’t take any luggage except just a backpack.
For the most of cheap airlines you are allowed to bring only the personal item. Again, it varies from person to person, but I know for sure that trips lesser than two weeks would easily fit into my regular backpack (without risk of looking and smelling like a hobo during the voyage). And, in the end of the day, a backpack makes you a way more mobile.
Hence, my message – if you think that you will definitely need a dozen of cool dresses with you and a book that you have been trying to start reading since the high school – think twice. Your back and your wallet would be grateful.
TO BE CONTINUED – the next blog is more important in terms of saving money. Check it at https://bit.ly/2rVjZEy