You know what you want: cheap flights. But sometimes a little comfort makes all the difference. Our recommendations for a better flight experience from start to finish.
Listen as airfare expert Rick Seaney provides bonus tips:
1. Compare Ticket Prices
This is easy, but it is a must. Do not assume your favorite cheap airline will always have the cheapest prices. You must use a comparison search site – yes, like FareCompare. If you simply go to one or two airline sites, you may miss out on a super deal.
2. Pay Some Fees
Sometimes, a few bucks can mean a much more comfortable flight.
Bigger or better seats: Examples include American’s Preferred Seats which starts at just $4 and Delta’s Economy Comfort, from $9. Other examples are here but these fees and offerings are always changing so check with your airline for the latest.
Early boarding: Beat the crowds, plus find plenty of bin space for your carry-on by paying an early boarding fee. Many airlines have some variation on this not-too-expensive fee, and it’s also offered as a perk on some airline-branded credit cards. Bonus: the cards can be a great way to earn extra miles and elite status in miles programs that provide plenty of other perks, too.
Delay in comfort: If a flight’s delayed or canceled, go to your airline’s VIP lounge where some offer one-day passes at special rates. For a few bucks, you can sit out a delay in comfort. Bonus: the less-harried airlines representatives in the lounges have more time to help you get on the next available flight.
3. Avoid These Fees
Baggage fees: If you have elite status or a branded credit card that gives you checked-bags for free, fine. Otherwise, use a no-fee* carry-on bag. Bonus: It’s the one bag that cannot be lost.
Meals: Do you really want to pay $9 for the airline’s cardboard sandwich? See number 4.
*Except on Allegiant or Sprit (and for some travelers on Frontier).
4. Always Take a Small Carry-on
Even if you check a bag, take along a small carry-on, perhaps one that could fit under the seat in front of you (for women, make that a roomy handbag). Use it for the following:
Food from home: To avoid high airport/airline meal prices
Whatever you cannot lose: Medications, documents/passport, expensive electronics
Clothes: Lightweight change of clothes, just in case the checked-bag is lost
5. Know Your Airport
Getting around: If you’re changing planes at Dallas-Ft. Worth International and figure you’ll just walk from one terminal to the other, you’ve got a lot to learn (you’ll need to take the Skylink). Take a quick look at an unfamiliar airport’s website so you don’t waste precious time between flights.
Getting in and out: Maybe you can breeze into a smaller airport like Richmond, Virginia, with a few minutes to spare knowing lines will be short but don’t try this at JFK or O’Hare. Nearly every airline website offers a recommended airport arrival time and this is definitely something to check out before you plan your airport drive time. Nothing ruins a trip quite like missing a flight.