Is the Cheapest Flight Always the Best Flight?

The question is, are cheap flights always best? If money is the only consideration, sure.

Airfare expert Rick Seaney cuts to the chase:

You Be the Judge

But for most of us, there are factors beyond finances that must be included – otherwise, a seemingly great deal can turn into a costly mistake. If you don’t have much freezer space, that gazillion-gallon tub of Costco ice cream is not a bargain, right? Here are four examples of cheap flights with upsides and downsides. The biggest upside? All are usually excellent bargains.

1. Connecting Flights

  • Upside: You can often save from 20% to 60% on a connecting flight compared to a non-stop.
  • Downside: You may be adding hours to your itinerary, and if you’ve checked a bag, there are more opportunities for it to get lost. Tip: Use a carry-on and also save on bag fees.

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2. Hub to Hub Flights

  • Upside: The general rule of thumb is the bigger the airport, the cheaper the flight.
  • Downside: Driving to a larger airport adds time to your travel day, but more to the point, you may spend enough in gas and parking fees to negate any savings.

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3. Overnight Flights

  • Upside: What few empty seats remain these days are most likely to be found on these flights so you might get a chance to stretch out.
  • Downside: If traveling with little ones, you risk out-of-whack sleeping patterns and cranky kids tend to be noisy kids.

4. Weekday Flights

  • Upside: Flying Tuesdays and Wednesday are usually the very best for bargain fares.
  • Downside: The kids are in school and you probably don’t want to take them out. The good news is, Saturday is also a cheaper day for flights. Whenever possible, avoid Fridays and Sundays which are generally the most expensive days to fly.

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Published: October 31, 2013