Monday, August 2, 2010

Flights of frugality

Stretching your dollarThe days of flying standby are basically gone. As those glory days fade into the sunset the frugal traveler must now plan ahead. In "Stretching your dining dollar" we talked about how to save on dining expenses. In "Sleep for cheap" we discovered how to rest our weary heads without breaking the bank. Finally, in this bare-bones last of a three-part cost-controlling series, we'll discover routes to the cheapest flights during the "shoulder" season(s).

The shoulder season(s) run roughly from Easter to mid June and late September to mid-to-late November. These seasons, much like the "high" and "low" tourist seasons, vary by destination. Better weather and access to more attractions make the shoulder season desirable over the low season despite the slight increase in cost. During the low season many museums and other attractions close down or have very limited open times and days.

Finding the best flight prices entails a little Internet leg work:

  1. Research the shoulder season of your destination.
  2. Start with the longest leg. Find the lowest fare on the longest leg and work backward to your home airport.
  3. Search sites like travelocity.com for the best price. Pick two or three airlines with a price in your range.
  4. Go to the airline's web sites and research again. This time add a leg or two into the mix. Remember, typically non-stop flights are most expensive. A two- or three-leg flight can be a great cost saver.
  5. Call an airline booking agent. This is especially valuable if you are using miles to pay for the flight. Sometimes the booking agent can see options that aren't listed online … including upgrades out of economy class.

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