Editor’s note: Quorum is not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this article, and derives no benefit from these businesses for placement in this article.
Although flying can be one of the quickest ways to reach your destination, it is not without its inconveniences. From long lines at security and confusing baggage restrictions to costly fees and expensive food, flying can also be a stressful and expensive experience. Fortunately, by taking advantage of some of the simple strategies below, you may find your next flight to be much more efficient, cost-effective and stress-free.
1. Maintain some flexibility in your travel dates and avoid peak seasons.
Do you primarily travel on holidays and weekends? If so, you’re likely paying premium prices for the convenience. Adjusting your schedule by just a few days in either direction could translate into huge savings. Take advantage of cost-saving airfare for mid-week flights and, to the greatest extent possible, avoid major destinations during peak travel seasons like spring break, summer break, winter holidays and more. Kayak, Hotwire, Cheap Air, Travelocity, and Orbitz are just a few great sites that can help you to search for affordable fares during flexible travel dates.
Regardless of your itinerary, try out apps like TripIt, Google Trips and TripCase to help you organize your travel plans, receive real-time notifications of flight cancellations and quickly locate alternate flights.
2. Cut airport parking costs by pre-booking.
The price and inconvenience of airport parking can start any frustration before even entering the terminal. Fortunately, many airport terminals now offer reduced fees and reserved spaces for customers who book parking in advance. Websites such as Airport Parking Reservations and SpotHero offer steep discounts on parking costs and ensure a smooth start to your vacation or business trip.
3. Consider TSA PreCheck to avoid long lines at security.
Most will agree that one of the most frustrating and time-consuming aspects of flying is the long wait encountered in airport security screening lines. Did you know that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) offers a program which allows qualified passengers to sign up for pre-screening, enabling you to skip many of the time sinks at security checkpoints? This initiative, known as PreCheck, gives members access to dedicated precheck lanes at over 200 participating airports and waives the requirement for passengers to remove clothing articles such as shoes, belts and jackets, and the need the remove electronics from carry-on baggage. There’s a 5-year $85 membership, an online application, as well as an in-person background check to take part in the program. According to TSA’s statistics, 94 percent of TSA PreCheck passengers waited in security lines less than five minutes as of September 2018!
4. Access exceptional deals and cash-back offers from a variety of discount websites.
Websites and apps such as Skyscanner, Airfarewatchdog and Expedia can help you shop great deals by setting up price alerts so you can receive a notification when your desired trip falls within your budget. Another resource, CarryOn takes advantage of crowd-sourcing to secure low prices on airfare at group rates without the need to travel as part of a group. Lastly, be sure to take advantage of sites like Ebates and Inboxdollars which often provide instant cash-back savings on purchases you make through a wide range of travel booking sites.
Before comparing prices on travel sites, it helps to clear your historical search data stored in “cookies.” When you shop for airfare or hotels online, some sites may access these cookies to track deals you’ve already encountered or monitor your commonly searched routes. In some cases, travel sites may increase prices each time you conduct a search to make costs appear to be on the rise. Clear your cookies before each search to help ensure you continue to see the best deals available.
5. Pack wisely to avoid excess costs and fees.
The cost of food, drinks and other amenities at the airport and onboard seem to increase every day. Even a light lunch and a drink could add up to well over $20; the cost of WiFi access on the aircraft runs between $10 and $40 depending on the airline; checked baggage fees are around $50 per bag; priority boarding can be $15 and so much more. These fees add up significantly when you consider the cost of a roundtrip flight with multiple layovers. However, with some pre-planned packing, you can make your travel budget go the distance.
Start by avoiding the hefty cost of food by packing some nutritious, balanced snacks such as protein bars to keep your energy up and your costs down. Also, don’t forget to bring an empty water bottle with you through security to fill up at a water fountain. You can also eliminate the temptation to purchase WiFi access onboard when you download your entertainment apps and movies ahead of time or pack a book to pass the time. Cut the need to check multiple bags by either wearing some of your heavier clothing items or opting for discounted laundry services at your destination.
Regardless of your strategy, it pays to keep track of your travel spending using apps (like Trail Wallet, Goodbudget and Mint for instance), which allow you to keep a running tab on your actual travel costs and break down spending by category.
Although traveling by air is increasingly expensive and inconvenient, when you take advantage of the strategies and resources above, you may help make your next flight less stressful.