5 Questions to Ask for Cheaper Vacation Flights

You’re making plans for your vacation and want to shop for tickets. First, ask these questions. Then, find the cheapest flight available.

LISTEN: Rick has some especially good advice.

5 Questions for Cheaper Vacation Flights

1. How much inconvenience can I endure?

A good rule of thumb: The longer the trip and the less convenient it is, the cheaper it is. Three of examples:

  • Non-stops vs. connecting flights: On some routes, you can save as much as 50% by taking a connecting flight instead of the more convenient non-stop, but you must compare airfares on the different routes to be certain.
  • Airports: Bigger usually means cheaper, so even if it’s you have to drive an extra hour or two to the nearest hub airport it could be cheaper than flying from your smaller hometown airport.
  • Inconvenient days/times to fly: Overnights and flights at dawn are usually cheaper, as are midweek flights compared to flights on expensive days like Fridays and Sundays.

2. Are my vacation days approved?

This may sound like a no-brainer but plenty of people make vacation arrangements on the assumption they’ll get the time off they want. Be certain you are free on the dates you want before you shop because if you have to change flights, you will likely be hit with a change fee that ranges up to $200 on domestic flights, and up to $400 on international flights.

3. Carry-on or checked-bag?

Don’t get blindsided by fees. Most airlines charge a fee for checked-bags (typically $25 one-way) while some airlines charge for all bags (Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit). Tip: On some airlines, the sooner you pay the fee, the cheaper.

4. I have a favorite airline so why compare?

No single airline always has the cheapest fare, and if you don’t compare prices, you don’t always get the best deal. Simple, huh?

5. When does my passport expire?

If you will be traveling outside the country, please check your government’s passport information site (U.S. travelers should go to Travel.State.Gov). Don’t assume that just because your passport has not expired, you’re in the clear. Some countries require passports be valid for several months even after the visitor has returned home and if this requirement is not met, they traveler could be refused entry.

See more on this in Rick’s latest column for ABC News; see all Rick’s columns here.

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Updated: April 8, 2015