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5 Ways We Waste Money on Air Travel

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Yahoo runs an interesting site called Yahoo Travel. I often visit the site for travel information and every once in a while read something I want to share. Sometimes the articles are a little too full of facts and figures (for example: Last quarter, U.S. passenger airlines pulled in $5.5 billion dollars in net income, their biggest haul since 2007. And in the industry’s last annual report, U.S. airports said they pulled in $18.2 billion dollars in total operating revenue.) when you just want some travel information – but if you can get beyond those thrown in statistics you will learn some great travel tips. Air fare is very often one of the largest parts of our travel budget planning and I am always looking for new ways to save a few dollars when flying. 

According to the article I read, “. . . air travelers dump a lot of our hard-earned money into the industry’s coffers as if it were our favorite charity — money that, unless we’re also raking in billions of dollars, we need more than they do. From paying fees we could have easily avoided, to purchasing higher fares than we had to, to buying overpriced things in airports, too much of what we passengers spend our money does nothing but swell the airlines’ balance sheets while unnecessarily depleting our own bank accounts.”

Here are Yahoo Travel’s top five ways air travelers consistently waste money (with a little of my own advice thrown in):

1. BAD TIMING

The easiest way to waste money flying is through bad timing — both booking your flight at the wrong time or flying at the wrong time of day or day of the week. Take the time to find out the best times to do your flying and booking.

  • Airline passengers pay about 3 percent higher fares when they book on Fridays at around 3 a.m., so avoid late-night/early-morning ticket-shopping binges late in the week.
  • The cheapest day to leave for your trip is Wednesday (when relatively few people fly), while the most expensive day is Sunday (when just about everyone is flying to get back to work Monday). 
  • Tuesday was found to be the best day for you to return from a domestic trip, while Wednesday was the best day to head home from an international trip. Flying on the right days could save you an average of $85 on domestic flights and $120 for international flights.
  • The best time to book domestic fares is 47 days in advance of your trip. Buying too late or too early can cost you. 

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2. BAGGAGE FEES 

Americans today spend tons of money on excess baggage. Airline fees for checked baggage range from $15 to $50 for the first bag (except for Southwest Airlines of course), and sometimes a much higher fee for additional bags. 

Since most airlines still allow you to carry on for free, unfortunately the only way around this issue to to be as sparse as you possibly can in packing. Learn how to pack as tightly, efficiently and space saving as possible. 

  • Roll, don’t fold – tightly rolled clothes take up less space and don’t get fold creases.
  • Make a packing list (and stick to it!) – this ensures you don’t forget to bring the important things!
  • Shoes – own one pair that goes with any outfit and bring that pair when you travel.
  • Know your airline’s baggage-fee policy
  • Follow the 3-1-1 rule for the Transportation Security Admin. – Attempt to bring a large bottle of shampoo or a full-size gel deodorant through the security line and the TSA will likely confiscate your stuff. 
  • Use your personal item allowed on-board wisely – It’s standard for airlines to permit each traveler to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item on-board a plane (purse, computer bag, backpack). Bring a larger tote bag that will fit under the seat instead of your regular small purse and use this as additional packing space.
  • Wash your clothes on the road – I know – who wants to wash clothes on vacation. In reality it doesn’t take that long so if you know your accommodations offer laundry facilities it’s worth saving $$ on baggage fees. You can wash and wear just a handful of outfits for the length of even very long trips.
  • Pack dual-purpose garments – If it can be used in more than one way, it’s one less thing to pack. 
  • Layer – Wear layers and pack in layers. Your on-the-road wardrobe should feature layers especially if you will be moving through to a different climate. Your bag should also be packed in layers for easy screening. The faster a TSA agent can screen your stuff, the faster you’ll get through a line.
  • Never check essential items – Keep your valuable and important items in your carry-on bag. Passport, identification, money, credit cards, jewelry, electronics, and other valuables should always be brought onto the plane with you. 
  • Use packing aids – I personally don’t like them but many travelers swear by Sacs and/or cubes and use them to shrivel clothes into a vacuum-packed, tiny, tight bundle that takes up minimal suitcase space. Unfortunately, you may then be required to borrow a vacuum from the housekeeper to pack to go home! There are envelope/cube type packing aids that simply separate your items into neat packages. I think these also take up space and rolling works better. 

Sometimes checking bags is inevitable so be careful of weight. Overweight bags can cost an additional $100 on top of the money you are paying to check the bag. Size of your bag, whether you’re checking or carrying on, matters too. Make sure your bag itself doesn’t exceed the size limit or you could end up paying yet another fee.

You are already paying to get yourself there – why waste by paying to get your stuff there too? 

3. BUYING STUFF AT THE AIRPORT

Generally speaking, buying stuff at the airport isn’t as expensive as it once was. According to a survey by Airports Council International — North America, 92 percent of airports in the U.S. and Canada cap the amount airport concessions operators (specialty retail stores, restaurants, duty-free and gift shops, etc.) can charge passengers (source: Yahoo Travel)

With all the high-end retailer shops calling airports home these days, offering marked-up goods, an airport is not really the ideal place to window shop or purchase clothes and electronic gear. Rule: Don’t buy at the airport what you can easily buy outside the airport.

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4. VACATIONING WHEN EVERYONE ELSE DOES

Traveling during the spring and summer will always get you nice weather. But along with the weather comes larger crowds and more expensive air and hotel costs. Early Fall through early December and then after Easter to mid-May will often get you the lowest crowds (and costs). 

5. USE FREQUENT FLYER MILES WISELY 

Getting a free ticket with miles you earn on your credit card and/or airline frequent flyer program is sometimes irresistible. But try to maximum the best bang for your buck. Using 25,000 miles (which is often the minimum amount airlines will allow you to redeem for a round trip domestic economy seat) on a ticket you could actually buy cheaply is a waste of your miles. Don’t blow your miles on a $400 ticket if you know in a few months you might have to pay $1,000 for another trip. Smarter Travel recommends that if the purchase price for the ticket in question is significantly less than two cents per frequent flyer mile (for example, a $500 ticket at 25,000 miles), and you’re likely to fly a more expensive flight in the near future, you’re better off just buying the cheap ticket and saving your miles for a more expensive trip. (source: Yahoo Travel)


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