5 Ways to Get a Cheap Flight and a Comfortable Flight

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.

Best travel tips for beginners

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.

The one bag that’ll never get lost

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.

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Published: August 29, 2013