We take a few trips a year. Some are Scott's work trips and two are usually our personal trips (two weeks in September and two weeks in December).
We've done some crazy things, like booking plane tickets without an actual trip planned. That ended up being our trip to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and a day in Grand Teton National Park - one of our favorite trips! We flew into Salt Lake City because the flights were so cheap and drove all the way to Glacier National Park in Montana and then made our way back down to Salt Lake City visiting the other two parks. One time we booked cheap flights to Colorado on a Friday night and flew out that Sunday morning to visit Rocky Mountain National Park.
There are a lot of articles out there on technical ways to save money such as which day of the week to fly, how far out in advance to book, etc. but these tips are just from our personal experience and things we have done over the years to save. Here are a few tips:
Ways to Save Money When Traveling - Flights
1. Set a price watch on the cities that you are considering traveling to. You can sign up through www.TripAdvisor.com to get email alerts when the price changes! The emails I get from Trip Advisor are how we have been able to take advantage of price drops for airplane tickets!
2. Use the rewards from your credit card. We have an American Express that we pay in full each month and “forget” about the points/rewards. We build up a lot of points and normally can use those points each year to book our flight, paying very little - if any - out of pocket.
Note: Using credit cards like this only works to your advantage if you are disciplined enough to pay the bill off in full every single month. We don't buy things we don't need or can't afford just because we have a credit card.
3. Use your SHOP.com account for Cashback! You can get Cashback through your SHOP.com account with select partner stores. Currently Hotels.com and Travelocity offer up to 4% Cashback. If you travel or shop (yes, this means every single person), read my prior post on SHOP.com to learn how to use it and set up an account!
4. Pay attention to baggage fees. Currently (from my understanding) there is only one airline that offers no baggage fees and that is Southwest. If you are not able to fly Southwest try to only travel with a carry-on or just one checked bag total. Baggage fees can really add up. Just one person will likely pay $50 of baggage fees for a trip (multiply that by the number in your party and that number climbs even higher!). If we are not able to carry on all of our bags (mainly when we are taking hiking trips), we always condense to one checked bag. Not only will this save you money but it will save you A LOT of time at the airport!
5. Search for flights using a "secret" or "incognito" browser. I have no evidence to back this up but I always search for flights (and hotels and rental cars) using an incognito browser. If you are using Google Chrome you just click on the three horizontal black bars on the upper right side and choose "New Incognito Window".
So what happens once you've saved all this money on your flight and you get to the airport and then eventually your hotel or rented property? Stay tuned for posts on how to save money at the airport and lodging.