Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer Frugal Air Travel

Summer is often high travel season for many families. Perhaps your family has planned a vacation in which you will travel by air. Our trip this past week reminded us once again of how you can do this smoothly and economically.

Before you book your flight.

There are a variety of things to consider when choosing your flight. Price is usually something that is a major deciding factor in booking our family's flights but it is not the only thing we consider. Weigh your options of the time your depart and the time you arrive. We often do not rent a car when we travel and instead utilize public transportation. This option requires our family to travel light and we are limited to travel within the times that public transportation is open. A simple google search of the city you are visiting will give you all the info you need.

Economy parking can be affordable but you'll need to factor this into your budget. If possible have someone drop you off at the airport and you'll easily save $50 on parking. Our most recent trip we became aware of a coupon that gave us a free day of parking. It was nice only to have to pay for 5 days of parking instead of 6. Check your airport's website to see if there are any coupons for your city.

Also if traveling with children consider their schedule when debating on times. It is best to choose a time where you child is not cranky or tired. Although it is ideal to have a sleeping child through the entire flight chances are likely that won't happen. I've been THAT mom everyone is staring at and trust me it isn't fun for anyone.

Booking your flight

There are a variety of companies to choose from when booking your tickets COMPARE, COMPARE, COMPARE. We've used a variety of companies over the years. Before you book make sure you are familiar with that company's cancellation policy & baggage restrictions. Even though sitting in airports isn't the most comfortable thing to do, we like to leave at least an hour in between flights. This way it gives us some wiggle room if our connecting flight is a bit late.

The Frugal Flier

Since most airlines are charging for baggage ($15-20 bag) this can add up and can be an unexpected fee. Make sure you calculate this into your vacation budget. Try to check as few bags as possible and utilize carryons. If traveling with children take this into consideration when thinking about what you will need to carry throughout the airport. When I've flown with my son alone I tend to only bring a backpack, purse and his stroller. The less I have to worry about the less I'm likely to forget.

Bring food and empty water bottles/cups. Be prepared for sticker shock when looking at the menu in airport food courts. If money is pretty tight consider packing PBJ sandwiches and bringing your own fruit and other snacks. You cannot take any liquid over 3 ounces past security (other than sippy cups and bottles) but you can fill up your empty water bottle once you are through security. Take advantage of the water fountains we have in America. It's much nicer than paying $2.50 for a bottle of water. We've flown several airlines that are now charging for snacks, so you'll want to be prepared to bring your own, unless you feel like forking over $4 for a tiny cookie.

Traveling with kids can be tricky thing at times. Kids will need some wiggle room between flights, so be prepared to spend some time up while waiting on the next flight. In fact encourage it, try to play games that encourage movement. Bring toys, books that you know will entertain your child for an extended amount of time. Some great ideas are crayons (or our favorite Color Wonder markers), Slinky's, busy books. For older kids consider creating some fun games with word searches and crosswords about the place you are going to visit. Although I'm not a big electronic game/DVD fan sometimes these will save your sanity. It's up to your family and you can always borrow them from friends. I always like to consider the time of the flight and bring enough activities that will last twice as long. This might be the time to introduce a new toy, as long as it is quiet. You'll be surprised at how long something new can entertain a child.

After your flight

If you have a frequent flier program don't forget to enter your flight so you can accumulate more points. Check if your hotel has a shuttle service and utilize it. If using public transportation your best bet it to choose something that you can easily get to from the metro/bus stop. We've hauled luggage up and down stairs, through a busy metro, and dragged it several miles before we found our hotel. I highly recommend you finding someplace close.

I hope these tips will help cut a few costs this summer and help make your air travel a little bit smoother. Check out other great tips over at Works for Me Wednesdays.

Happy Jet Trails!


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