Airfare Hacks: 5 Tips Every Smart Traveler Should Know

Increasing baggage fees. Super-long security lines. Extensive flight delays. Flat-out cancellations.

These are just a few of the hiccups air travelers experience each day. And it’s not getting better. In fact, despite improvements like reliable Wi-Fi and newer planes1, U.S. airline customer complaints increased by 38% from 2014 to 2015, according to the 2016 Airline Quality Rating report.2

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The good news: While you can’t control for factors like weather and equipment malfunctions that often result in delays and missed connections, it’s possible to make air travel a bit smoother — and less expensive — with a handful of expert tips.

1. Book separate legs.

Planning a trip to Paris to celebrate your tenth wedding anniversary? Instead of tapping your favorite booking app, or going directly to an airline’s website to order two round-trip tickets, consider flying the same route on combined one-way tickets.

“At times, you can save on your flight by booking two separate one-way trips rather than an inclusive round-trip flight,” says Andrew Schrage, editor-in-chief of personal finance website MoneyCrashers. “It may involve using two separate airlines, and you might have a bit more legwork to do, but it can save money.”

2. Monitor prices a day after booking.

While many travelers pay for non-refundable tickets to save on airfare, savvy travelers know that airlines and booking apps typically allow changes within 24 hours. That means if prices change over that time, you can rebook and pocket the difference. “Keep researching your fare price, even after it has been booked, especially for the first day after doing so,” says Schrage. “Even flights that are so-called ‘non-refundable’ do normally have a clause included where you can cancel and not lose any of your money within 24 hours.”

3. Consider vacation packages.

“Bundled vacation packages often include lower-priced airfare, and this is especially true when buying directly from airline vacation divisions,” says Forbes travel reporter Larry Olmsted. “But you do not have to buy a full-blown package to take advantage; sometimes just adding a hotel stay can greatly lower your flight price, especially on short notice. I had a trip to Chicago come up a few days out, and airfares were quite high. But, when I went to United Vacations and added a night’s hotel room, the entire package came down to less than just the airfare for the exact same flights.” Keep an eye on your credit card provider, especially if you have a travel rewards card. Some partner with hotels and airlines to offer travel discounts at select times throughout the year.

4. Go small.

Looking to avoid crowded terminals and missed connections while paying less? Consider smaller hubs, especially when traveling internationally. “For European travel, consider lesser-used hubs, especially Dublin, Istanbul, Copenhagen, Oslo and Amsterdam rather than changing in Paris or London,” says Olmsted. “Turkish Airways, Norwegian and Aer Lingus have all been reinvented as quality discount carriers with vast service across — and beyond — Europe.” Don’t let what might seem like an atypical stopover deter you.

5. Shop smart.

Keep track of your credit card rewards points and be on the lookout for discounted travel for which you can redeem them. What’s more, resorts and cruises compete heavily for customers, which often means subsidized airfare. “This is especially true for ski vacations and cruises,” says Olmsted. “Major destination ski resorts often offer airfare credits, basically a $200 to $400 reimbursement for your cost of getting there, and cruises also sometimes discount airfare below cost to get you on the boat.”

Resources:

1. http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/11/travel/jd-power-north-american-airline-survey-2016/

2. http://airlinequalityrating.com

Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

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