“Life is short and the world is wide”
So Many Places, So Little Time . . . and Money
You know how it is – you have a destination in mind. Maybe you want to visit Hawaii, with its beautiful beaches and volcanoes; maybe you want to catch a few waves on the North Shore. Or maybe you have always dreamed of visiting Italy, seeing the statue of David up-close and personal; or maybe you really want to try authentic Italian cuisine. Or maybe it’s Ireland that’s in your heart – the land of leprechauns, green hills, and scones with cream and jam.
Whatever your coveted destination, you know that lodging is going to take a big bite out of your budget (unless you’re staying in hostels or with a friend), and you know that you want to have money left for all of that new and delicious food you want to try, and you also need money for transportation and experiences in/at your destination. But you have to get there, right? And you don’t want to spend an inordinate amount of money on just getting there. Do you? I know that I don’t want that!
Hence, the age-old (as old as my age, anyway) question – “How can I save money on my airline ticket?” Every time I am planning a trip, that is one of the foremost questions on my mind. I have approached this question in several different ways over the past years. A few of my money-saving approaches have been: airline miles from business & personal travel, non-cash awards from my husband’s job, and signing up for new credit cards that give away free airline miles, or that give you cash-back towards travel.
All of those aforementioned ideas aside, I have also used different websites that help to find the cheapest options for airfare, and that’s mainly what I want to cover in this post. There are a couple of websites that are worth mentioning. I also joined an email list for a small yearly fee that I want to share.
Until very recently, I had primarily used Hipmunk.com. This website is a great way to look for flights because it includes a component called “agony.” When you look up a flight to a destination, Hipmunk automatically sorts your choices by “agony.” You can choose to change your sorting options to something else, namely – price, duration, takeoff, or landing. But the “agony” setting takes all of those other options into consideration and will list first the options with the least agony. Therefore, if one ticket option is $50 more than the next one, but also has a much shorter flight duration, or less connection hassles to deal with, etc., then it may be listed first, because overall the agony is less, even though the price is a little higher.
In addition to the agony sort option, Hipmunk has some other ways to help. One is by offering different filters in your search. You can sort by # of stops – nonstop, 1 stop, 2+ stops. So, if having connections in your flight is a deal-breaker for you, you can look for only non-stop flights. You can also choose filters such as airlines, airports, classes of service, and booking providers.
I want to stop here a minute and say that even though I have used Hipmunk to find the best deals on flights, I always go directly to the airline I am booking with to actually buy my tickets. I have found that finding a deal and then buying directly with airline, rental car, and in a lot of cases, hotel companies gives you some benefits that you don’t get when you book through third-party sites.
Ok, back to Hipmunk. Once you put in your search parameters and get your results, the information is laid out in a type of grid pattern that makes it very easy to read and to compare one flight to another. You can see which trips are longer or shorter than others, lengths of connections, and whether the flight has wifi or not. There’s also a section over on the right (when you are looking at the desktop version) that lists the amenities on the flight.
One last thing I want to share about Hipmunk is a handy tool that they offer called “Price Drop Alerts.” While you are waiting for your flight results to load, a small screen pops up and gives you the option to enter your email address for their alerts. This is very helpful if you are watching a flight to see if the prices go down or up. Instead of having to check back all the time, the website will alert you through email when the price changes up or down for the dates and cities that you entered in your search. I used this when we bought our tickets on Aer Lingus for our trip to Ireland a couple of years ago. I have also put in some other cities and dates just to watch the timing of price drops for places that I wanted to go. It helped me get a feel for the best timeframes for buying tickets before an upcoming trip.
This brings me to my most recent discovery, and the app that I think is the best that I have found for buying tickets. It’s called Hopper. I am really excited about this one. How did I not hear about this earlier? I mean, I’m always reading travel articles and searching for the best way to save money on everything travel related. A friend of mine told me recently that her husband bought a ticket for somewhere in the western US, and he had watched the ticket prices on Hopper, and she said it really worked for him.
After hearing my friend’s glowing review, I knew that I had to check this out. So I went to the App Store and downloaded Hopper. This appears to be the only way to use Hopper, if you go to Hopper.com on your desktop, it just gives you the option to send the app to your phone.
I really, really like the way this app works. Here’s what Hopper says about itself, as seen on their website – “Relax – booking travel just got easy – Hopper tells you when to book and when to wait for both flights and hotels. Oh, and it’s free!” Also, “Know When to Buy – Hopper predicts prices with 95% accuracy up to 1 year in advance. No ads, no spam, no stress — just accurate predictions and travel deals.” And, “Plan Less, Travel More Hopper has helped 30M travelers track prices and book trips around the world. The Hopper app will monitor prices for you and you can book in just a few taps.”
Here’s how it works: When you open the app, the first screen asks where you are going from and to. Once you enter your cities, it takes you to a page that looks like this (I chose London Heathrow):
On the second page, you see a calendar with colored squares corresponding to the prices at the top. This gives you a visual aide in deciding when you want to take your trip. I personally haven’t seen any other programs or apps out there that have this type of functionality. It’s so great because it allows you to plan your trip based on flight costs without having to go in and enter different dates time and time again to figure out when it is the cheapest to fly.
But, you may say, what if I have fixed dates? What if I don’t have the ability to plan my travel based on cheapest days to fly? Well, Hopper has help for you, too! If you have a particular place and particular dates that you need to go, then once you get to the second screen shown, pick your dates of travel – for this demo, I’ll pick December 9 for leaving and December 15th, for returning. So, I’ll tap December and it takes me to the next screen, I’ll tap the 9th and the 15th, taking me to the next screen:
As you can see, once you have selected trip dates, the app gives you advice. In this case, it advises to go ahead and book because you’re unlikely to find a cheaper price down the road. But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes it may tell you to wait for a few weeks. If you decide that you want to wait, just select “Watch This Trip” and it will notify you if there’s a change in price.
I have played around with the app, putting in different destinations and dates, and it has given me some pointers on places that I have searched for in the past, as shown here:
What a great app, right? We are hopefully going to England with some friends sometime in 2019 and I plan on using Hopper to help us get the best price on our tickets.
The last thing I want to share with you is a program called Next Vacay. I had gotten some advertising through Facebook or somewhere else for this program and it intrigued me. It boils down to this – you pay $25 for a year, and anytime they come across a good deal on airfare from your closest airport, or a bigger, major airport a few hours from you, they send you an email with the info and a link to finding the tickets. Next Vacay doesn’t make any money from selling you tickets, you get those on your own, they just give you the info.
The catch is that as soon as you get the email, you need to act. Sometimes the deals only last for a couple of hours, and sometimes they last for a day or two. I thought it would be fun to watch for places that I would like to visit. I started keeping track of their emails after I had gotten a few. I will share with you what they have sent me so far.
This program works great if you have money set aside for travel and you can jump on the tickets when they notify you. Also, it helps if you have an adventurous side. So far, I haven’t gotten info on anywhere that I really, really want to go. But maybe there’s a place on this list that appeals to you? You never know what destination will show up in their emails!
In conclusion, I hope that this info on different ways to get cheap(er) airline tickets has been helpful. I know that I am always looking for a way to make my dollar stretch, so I can visit allll the places! There’s so much of the world that I have not seen, and so much that I want to see. How about you?
If you have some way of finding great discounts on airfare, please feel free to comment below. I would love to hear them!
Until next time . . . . happy traveling!