Whether you do it on your own or work with a travel agent, planning a trip out of the country can be a tricky – but our international flight advice will help you avoid unexpected pitfalls while saving time and money.
Listen to travel expert Rick Seaney’s new savings tips:
Making sure your passport is up to date isn’t always good enough – some countries won’t let you in if your passport is due to expire up to six months after your trip. The U.S. State Department is a good resource for entry/exit requirements while traveling abroad so check it out at least a few months before your departure date. When it comes to passports, procrastination can cost you dearly.
Finding Cheap Flights
The best way to find cheap flights to Europe, Asia or any destination is by using an airfare comparison search site. If you don’t compare, you may not get the best deal. Other factors to consider:
Seasons of Europe: There are four distinct travel seasons to Europe: summer, the peak season, is most expensive while winter is cheapest. Suggestion: travel in the fall or spring for decent weather and moderate airfare prices.
Avoid Weekend Flights: This is not true for every global destination but you will often find cheaper fares on flights departing on Sundays through Thursdays.
Multiple Airline Flights
Some travelers save by taking a cheap flight on one airline to their jumping-off city where they’ll catch a flight on another carrier to their overseas destination. Or maybe once they arrive at their destination, they’ll fly a local discount to other cities in the region or continent. Both strategies can work beautifully, if you heed the following cautions:
Watch connection times: Don’t allow a mere two hours between your flight from home and your flight overseas. Weather or mechanical problems can cause unexpected delays and if you miss your flight there are no guarantees when you’ll get on the next one. Always give yourself several hours between flights, or do what air travel expert Rick Seaney does: “I like to get to my jumping-off airport for flights to Asia (or wherever I’m heading) the day before I take off,” said Seaney, adding, “That way, I’m rested and ready for a long airplane trip.”
Watch baggage fees: If you plan on flying throughout Asia or Europe on one of the many well-regarded local discount carriers, know that bag fees can be steep and some airlines allow you just a single item onboard – be it carry-on, purse, camera or even a bag of souvenirs. Anything else will cost you.
While most U.S. airlines allow passengers one checked-bag for free on international flights, there is always a chance however remote that a bag could go missing. That’s why air travel expert Rick Seaney suggests using a carry-one even on long trips. “My wife and I each packed a carry-on for a 10-day trip to Italy,” he said, “and we had everything we needed.”
If you can’t or won’t use just a carry-on, be sure to have a day’s change of clothing with you in case a bag goes astray. Also, be careful about the weight of checked-bags – the fees for going over weight allowances can be expensive.
Check on Cell Phone Service
Be sure to check with your provider to find out what kind of service you’ll be able to get while away, and especially, what it will cost you. Then check with your bank to see if your ATM card will work at your destination, and/or discuss alternatives including travelers’ checks.
Check on Flight Insurance
FareCompare does not recommend any insurance but there are several companies out there that get high marks from travelers. Caution: Read the fine print carefully before you buy to be sure the insurance covers everything you need it to. Ask questions and if you don’t receive prompt and complete answers, move on to the next company.