Airfare Poker – Know the Rules to Win the Game
You do not have to cash in Billy’s college savings to go on a vacation. Travel, especially by air, can cost quite a bit. However, like everything else in our world, there are deals to be had. But remember, this is the vacation you have been planning for quite a while and sometimes it pays off in the long-run to not be as frugal as possible when traveling. That being said, there is no reason to over pay for things like airfare. Like a game of cards, knowing the rules is the only way to intelligently win the game.
There are many factors that you will need to consider and decide upon before you begin to make your arrangements. For most of us, the first big decision will be on how much you can afford to spend. Once you have an idea of how much you would like to spend and how much you can spend, it is time to start doing your research. There are two main categories of travelers that I would like to address. The first are those people who are going to go to a specific place for a specific timeframe. The other group of travelers I will address are those looking to go someplace, sometime and have the flexibility to do so.
Rule # 1 – Do Your Research
The best places to start your research will be the large travel sites like Travelocity, Expedia, Cheaptickets, Bing and Kayak. Once you have an idea of what is available, resist the temptation to book immediately. If there is a specific flight that you would like to be on, check the airline’s own site as most airlines now offer the lowest rates on the web through their website. Now that you have some preliminary information you will need to be dedicated to your search in order to jump on the best rate when it becomes available. I have heard that Tuesday mornings are often a good time to get the best rates, however I know that most of us can not sit and play airfare poker all day at work. Because of this, I have recently come to rely on Bing Travel to help me make my decisions. This unique and innovative site not only allows you to see who is selling what for how much, but it also makes very accurate predictions on the price of airfare for most U.S. cities. It is very simple to use, all you need to do is give some itinerary information and the site will advise you whether to buy now or wait.
Rule #2 – Buy Early
Since most of us are bound to work and school schedules, there is a specific timeframe that we will need to get our accommodations for. In addition, this group of travelers usually has a specific place or activity in mind such as a Florida vacation at Walt Disney or a ski trip to Colorado. When planning to book your flight, start out doing your research several months in advance. You should ensure that you have your tickets in-hand at least 3 weeks before your trip. If you have not bought early, you may pay the price. Once upon a time in the world of travel, it was beneficial for those who waited until the last moment to purchase tickets. For most of us this procrastination will end up costing more. If you are going to a specific place over a specific time, most airlines will begin to raise their rates 21 days, 14 days, 7 days and 3 days before the trip
Rule #3 – Shop Last Minute
For those lucky and adventurous enough to decide on a travel itinerary based on value, the computer age has ensured that you will be the recipient of the best deals. My favorite site for last minute travel deals is TripAdvisor. About once a week they send me deals on airfare, most of the pricing that comes through is so low that I want to book it and go. The other truly amazing site for last minute travel deals is LastMinuteTravel. Before jumping on the amazing airfare, be sure to know how much the rest of the trip is going to cost you and that there are reasonable accommodations once you get there. A few years back my wife and I jumped on a last-minute deal from Minneapolis to West Palm Beach for less than $200 per round-trip ticket. We stay with my sister in WPB so hotel availability was not an issue for us, however since we were planning to do activities while my sister was working, we needed a rental car. The only car that was available for rent was an older Suzuki Swift. I am not saying that I need to be in a luxury car when I vacation, but an automatic transmission and working power-steering would’ve been nice. As inconvenient as this first seemed, it turned out to be an adventure and the Swift will live in our memories for a long time.
Rule #4 – Make a Budget
Once you have a definite cost on your tickets it will be much easier to budget the rest of your trip. I recommend getting as much of the budgeting done at home so that you are not worried about the financial end of your vacation, while on vacation. Everything is going to cost a bit more than you anticipate. Have at least 10% of your total vacation budget set aside for unplanned outings, emergencies or that gotta-have souvenir .
You have managed to save up until this point for your get away. Following a few of these tips may leave enough left over for you to take off the next day of work following your trip. The old saying “I need a vacation after my vacation”, is very true. I always recommend having at least one full day back at home before returning to work.