Planning an international trip can be a long, complicated and stressful process. Buying plane tickets is just one of steps on the way to an exciting once-in-a-lifetime trip, and how you go about doing this really does make a difference.
There are several things to consider when deciding what airline to fly with, when to fly and when to buy your ticket. Generally, it is best to buy your ticket several months in advance all the way out to six months ahead of time. This is because most of the time plane tickets will become gradually more expensive the closer to the date of the trip.
However, if you are planning last minute, plane tickets will drop in price about a week before the date of travel. One trick that most people don’t know about is buying plane tickets on a Tuesday.
Again, this rule won’t work all the time, but in most cases buying your ticket on a Tuesday (not for a Tuesday) will save you some money. This is because airlines will post new deals on flights late Monday evening, leaving other airlines scrambling to match their deals.
If you have the option to fly out on multiple days, flying on a weekday is a great option. Travelers frequently have time off of work on Saturdays, Sundays and sometimes Fridays. This means the tickets on these days will be in high demand, putting them at a higher price. In my experience, flying on a weekday can be between $50 and $100 cheaper than flying on the next closest weekend or Friday.
In respect to choosing which airline to fly with there are countless options. Personally, I almost always choose to fly with the cheapest airline, because as a college student I am traveling on a budget. However, this is not always the best idea.
Some airlines restrict the amount of luggage that you can take making the tickets appear cheap and then making up for that lost money in sky-high luggage fees.
The best airlines allow travelers to take one personal item and one carry-on for free. Read through the luggage details on the website before purchasing your ticket and double-check to make sure that this is the case. If the airline allows travelers one free carry-on but no personal item, make sure your personal item can be put inside your carry-on before boarding the plane.
I always travel as light as possible for several reasons. The first is that it saves money, and the second is when you are traveling in another country you might have to carry that luggage several miles on foot depending on where you decide to stay and how frequently you travel within that country.
Travelers can save money by deciding not to purchase checked luggage. This can save you anywhere from $20 to $80 per leg of the flight. I calculated how much money I am saving by not paying for checked luggage on my upcoming trip and the total came to about $250 saved.
Once you have gone through those steps, the airline will give travelers the option to reserve a seat. I have never reserved a seat when flying internationally, even when I am not traveling alone. This is because each time you reserve a seat you are paying up to $40 for a seat you are already guaranteed to have. A reserved seat only serves to allow you decide where in the plane you will be sitting.
Many travelers decide to reserve a seat when traveling with friends or family. However, if your traveling group goes to the check-in kiosk (outside of security) the airline will assign you tickets together when printing off your boarding passes. This is yet another way to fly on a budget.
There are several websites that I use regularly to buy my tickets. Skyscanner is an excellent choice because it allows travelers to pursue all of the airlines at the same time. It also gives the option to sort by fastest, cheapest or best. I always set the filter to cheapest.
Another good website is StudentUniverse. This website is geared towards students and is made for people interested in flying on a budget. It will show you the cheapest day to fly out, and if you are purchasing a round trip ticket, the cheapest day to fly back.
Something to be aware of when flying internationally are layovers. Sometimes flying cheap means having a 10 hour layover in Denver, LAX or any number of places. Often travelers do not want to spend that much time waiting for their connecting flight and decide to pay a extra money for a shorter layover.
When considering layovers, travelers should look to see if the connecting flight is self-transfer. This means that if you checked luggage the luggage will not automatically be transferred to the next leg of your journey. Often self-transfers are shorter layovers, which means if the plane on the first leg of your journey departed late or hit a head wind you might miss your connecting flight. I try to allot time for this kind of bad luck by avoiding self-transfers and choosing flights that have at least a two-hour layover.
After purchasing your ticket the airline website will ask you if you want to email the confirmation information to yourself. Always select yes and write down the corresponding confirmation code before leaving the website. The website will then give you the option to enter in information from your passport anytime up to a week before your flight. I do this right after I buy my flight so that I never forget to do this.
Megan Holmen is a freelance news and culture reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or on Twitter @megan_holmen.