How to Be the Perfect Family Travel Agent

Congratulations. You’ve just been named the Family Travel Agent. This may be an honor you could live without but don’t panic. The following tips will help you find cheap flights and satisfy the demands of the pickiest of relatives.

LISTEN: Rick Seaney makes it real easy.

5 Easy Steps to a DIY Cheap Flight

Do-it-yourself and do it right.

1. Decide on a cheap vacation destination

Some suggestions: Cheap and cheap-ish cities that can be destinations unto themselves or jumping-off points for fun excursions include Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, Ft. Lauderdale, Seattle and more recently Dallas and Salt Lake City*.

*Not all these cities will be cheap for every traveler but they can be bargains for many.

2. Decide on a not-so-cheap vacation destination

Go where you want: As they say, you only live once so if you’ve been dreaming of Europe, go for it. If you can be flexible, it doesn’t have to cost and arm and a leg (keep reading).

3. Decide when to fly

Make sure everyone in your party agrees to the final itinerary to avoid change fees, which can cost up to $200 per ticket for U.S. flights and even more on overseas trips. Keep your entire traveling party aware of travel dates as you plan, and be sure all are agreeable. Begin making plans with this in mind:

  • Check out Cheapest Days to Fly in 2015. It outlines good dates for Spring Break, Europe trips, summer vacation season and more.
  • Fly Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. These are usually the cheapest days to fly for domestic trips.

4. Know when to shop

Don’t shop too early and don’t shop too late.

  • Shopping for domestic flights: You can begin up to 3 months before departure but have tickets purchased at least 30 days ahead of time.
  • Shopping for international flights: You can begin shopping up to 5 months ahead but have tickets purchased about a month-and-a-half ahead of time.
  • Best day to shop: For U.S. flights, Tuesday – once airlines launch their usual sales and the competition hurries to match prices. For international flights, the dates can vary.

5. Practical money-saving strategies

The most important strategy is to always compare airfare because no single airline always has the best deal. Other strategies:

  • Fly the cheapest days and cheapest times: As noted, the cheapest days to fly for domestic travel are usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Cheaper times to fly are at dawn, overnight and roughly comparable to meal times.
  • Fly from big airports: As a general guideline, hub airports have cheaper airfare than smaller facilities. Compare airports as you compare fares to see if any savings will be worth a longer drive.
  • Look at connecting flights: You can sometimes find fares that are 50 percent cheaper than more convenient non-stops. Compare fares and compare routes.

Almost done, except for – the fees

  • Fees not worth paying: Topping the list are baggage fees. Southwest still offers free checked-bags, but using a carry-on when flying other airlines could save $50 round-trip per person. Note: Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit charge a fee for all bags except small carry-ons that fit under the seat in front of you.
  • Fees that may be worth paying: Depending on your traveling companions’ needs and wants, some fees may be worth it like early boarding (just $12.50 on Southwest). See what’s available and if it’s worth it to you.

See how easy this is? Suggestion: Before you get down to work, check out some of these great travel deals – and start dreaming. 

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Updated: January 13, 2015