Gone are the days of waiting until retirement to travel and see the world. Travel has become a line item in many budgets, taking a precedent over paying off debt or even saving for retirement.
The average cost of domestic airfare in 2018 was $362. That number doesn’t tell the whole story. You have baggage fees, fees for choosing a seat and on many airlines, fees for snacks and beverages. Traveling can be downright expensive; however, there are lots of creative ways you can save money on airline fares this year.
Use a Discount Service
You’ve most likely heard of discount travel sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline. While you can score some great travel deals on those sites, there are other companies dedicated to bringing you the very best airline discounts.
Dollar Flight Club and Scott’s Cheap Flights are two of the leading airline discount membership sites. For a small monthly fee, you can sign up and get sent cheap flight alerts for both international and domestic flights. Many travelers report saving up to $500 or 90 percent off on airline flights using these services. The best part is that they do the work for you. They search for flight deals, mistake fares and more and then send you daily updates via email or text. It’s one of the easiest ways to stay on top of travel deals.
Fly Into a Different Airport
We are all creatures of habit. You live in a specific city, so you tend to use your local airport for all your travel needs. However, traveling in and out of a different airport could save you a ton of money on your airline fare.
Since airline prices are in constant flux, it’s a good idea to create a list of airports within a short drive of your home. In big cities like Los Angeles or New York, it’s easy to come up with two to three airports that are within driving distance. While this may be a tough task if you live in a smaller city, chances are there might be one other airport possibility close by. When you are doing your search for airfare, also search second and third-choice airports for better rates.
You can also use this strategy to choose your destination airport. A smaller airport might offer cheaper fares. Consider this if you are traveling to Europe, where regional airfares are inexpensive. For example, you could fly from Los Angeles to Barcelona if you found a great rate, and then use a regional airline to travel from Barcelona to Paris for a fraction of the price. Again, airfares are in flux, so take some time to research all your options to find the best rate.
There are so many websites at your disposal when you’re searching for airline prices. Spending a few extra minutes to shop can help you save money. Membership sites such as Dollar Flight Club can be great at helping you find travel deals. Sites like Expedia and Orbitz can help you find vacation packaged deals.
And don't forget about Google Flights, Skyscanner, Momondo and even places like Costco Travel. Airline websites should also be on your list. It’s easy to forget to go directly to an airline website, which might offer you the best deal. Create a list of your top two or three travel sites and check them all before booking your next plane ticket.
Credit card points are also a great way to save on airline fares. For example, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, you earn points for every purchase you make. You can turn those points into travel dollars using Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program. With the Ultimate Rewards Program, you receive an extra 25 percent discount on your airline fares if you book directly from its website. Lots of other credit cards, like American Express and Capital One, offer similar programs.