7 Easy Ways to Save $20 or More on Every Flight

I know that 20 bucks doesn’t buy what it used to, but every little bit helps. I’ve got seven easy ways to save $20 – and in some cases, a whole lot more.

Travel expert Rick Seaney tells editor Anne McDermott saving money is real simple:

1. Save $20-plus on baggage fees

Here’s what to know about baggage fees:

  • Checked-bag fees: Some airlines charge $20 for a checked bag but most charge $50 round-trip. Use a carry-on and save at least couple of twenties round-trip.
  • Free checked bags: JetBlue and Southwest charge nothing for a first checked bag.
  • Carry-on fees: For most flyers, Allegiant, Spirit and Frontier charge for carry-ons. If you fly with them, the earlier you pay, the cheaper it is. If you wait until you get to the gate to pay, it could cost you $100.

See all airline fees here

2. Save $20-plus on airfare with smart shopping methods

Two things to remember: Compare prices and shop early.

  • Compare prices: Your favorite cheap airline isn’t always the cheapest. Example: We’ve seen fares that cost $20 more on Southwest compared to Delta. Sometimes Southwest has the cheapest prices – as does JetBlue or Frontier and others – and sometimes these carriers do not have the best prices. You won’t know if you don’t compare.
  • Don’t delay: Prices typically rise on legacy carriers within 2 weeks of departure, and often within 7 days of departure on the discount carriers.

Find cheap flights fast here

3. Save $20-plus by adding a stop

Non-stops are great but you often pay $20 (or more) for the convenience. Add a stop or even two and you can save up to 60% on your airfare.

4. Save $20-plus by avoiding the phone

Shop for airline tickets online. With the notable exception of Southwest, most airlines charge a $20 (or more) call fee if you make your reservations by phone. If you don’t have a computer, borrow a friend’s or go to a public library.

5. Save $20-plus by flying cheaper days

Here’s a recent example from FareCompare: A coast to coast flight for a Friday/Sunday cost $380 round-trip. By moving the days to Wednesday/Wednesday, the price dropped to $250. If you can move only one day, you will usually still see some savings.

Rule of thumb: Cheapest days to fly are typically Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.

6. Save $20-plus by flying to/from hubs

Here’s a good recent example, also found on FareCompare:

  • Fly from Toledo to Washington, D.C. – $490 round-trip
  • Fly from Detroit to Washington, D.C. – $240 round-trip

Note: Detroit’s airport is 60 miles from Toledo. Only you can say if the drive is worth it.

7. Save $20-plus on getting to the airport

Airport parking is expensive: The closest garages to LAX terminals are $30 a day and even the economy lot requiring a shuttle costs $12 a day. But taxis aren’t cheap either so here are a couple of ideas:

  • Get a friend or neighbor to take you (and do the same for them when they need airport transport)
  • Use a SuperShuttle (available at many airports) or in Los Angeles, try the Flyaway bus
  • Public transportation: Buses and subways are easy if you use a carry-on

More from Rick Seaney:

7 Ways to Save a Quick $20 per Flight


Published: September 16, 2013