The winter blues seems to have it’s grip on us all about this time of year. I am no exception to that. If you’re a regular reader of the Travel Insure blog, you’ll know that I need to get away to help preserve my own sanity – to the extent that I took a trip from Columbus to Cleveland, via Denver and Charlotte, all for fun (and miles)! (Mostly for fun.)
But because the leaves are brown and the skies are gray doesn’t mean that we can’t dream for warmer destinations. I’m planning my next escape already, to Temecula, California in April. And if I do it right, I’ll be able to take advantage of excellent pricing with the help of diligent planning, as well as some assistance from my cache of miles and points.
So how can you position yourself to take advantage of the best fares, and even get away with some cheap deals in the coming year? With a little planning and flight preparation, you too can get to your destination with some spending money left in your pocket.
1) Set up fare alerts for your destination
In many situations (unless the fare is really good), buying today may not be the best move. Because one website says they have the “best available fare,” doesn’t mean that it’s the best for you – it could be the best for them. One of my favorite search tools available is Hipmunk. It shows flights based on total travel time, connecting locations, and price. Plus, you can set up fare alerts and get an e-mail anytime the price of airfare changes. (To get a good idea IF airfare is going to change, I also like to search on Bing Travel – their price indicator serves as a barometer to the direction of prices.)
2) Compare at alternate airports
Another easy tool for looking for good prices is Google Flights, as their map view gives me a good look at all the available airports. I’m hoping to fly into LAX for my trip to California in April, but they may not have the best price for flying in the area. This is where Google Flights comes in – as they can show me where and how to get to where I’m going:
In this case, for the dates that I’m planning to travel, it appears that flying into Los Angeles International Airport is a cheaper option than any of the surrounding airports. This is okay for me, because it’s I have friends I want to see before I go to Temecula, and I also happen to have family in that part of the world. So, all’s well that ends well. When you’re not sure of a fare, Google Flights is a great way look at other ways to get to your ideal destination. (Ed. Note: The screenshot above reflect the prices on Feb. 19, 2013. Your pricing may vary based on many factors.)
3) Consider a play on points
Do you have an idea of how you’re getting to your destination? Have you already decided what airline you plan on flying, or which hotel you would like to stay at? With that planning behind you, are you still stressed that you won’t be able to get the price you want to pay? This is where you can consider making a run at using points, or a combination of points and cash to make your travels as cheap as possible. In the event that you don’t have the points, many credit cards offer high points bonuses for signing up – which can, in turn, be used to offset costs of your trip. My only caution is to be careful when taking this approach. Credit card sign-ups and spending isn’t for everyone, especially if you like to carry balances on your cards. Additionally, having many cards open at a time can open up channels for fraud. Which is where a product like USI Affinity's ID Recovery comes in pretty handy.
Making your springtime getaway affordable is easier than it looks. And with all the right planning, you can get there for little more than a song. Where do you go when you’re getting away for the spring? Let me know your ideas in the comments below!
(Ed. Note: No incentive was given to mention any product or service in this blog. Travel Insurance Services and its affiliated companies do not endorse nor guarantee any product or service mentioned in this or any blog. However, we sure would love to hear about your experiences with them!)