The people who work at FareCompare love to travel. We love finding cheap flights and heading off on adventures. We also love sharing what we’ve learned about making travel less painful and less expensive. Check out these tips, tricks, and hacks from our insider experts: Tyler, Anne, Jodi, Rich, Connie, Kelsey, Madison, and Lance.
Once you decide to fly, start here.
Fly the right time: Tyler likes to shop early but he also knows buying too soon can mean paying too much. “There’s a sweet spot for buying airfare,” he says. For domestic flights, it’s from about 3 months before departure to 21 to 30 days before take-off. For international travel, the window begins at 5 months and ends about a month-and-a-half before departure.
Be flexible on dates: FareCompare has proven again and again that flexibility can save money on airfare; Jodi says it’s how she cuts costs every time. “I always try to be flexible with my travel days,” she says. Generally speaking, the most expensive days to fly are Fridays and Saturdays and the cheapest days are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Tyler says, “Flying out first thing Saturday morning is almost always the best deal of the weekend.” Other ways to save include comparing fares to/from nearby airports and seeing if there’s a big difference between non-stop and connecting routes. Says Anne, “Sometimes the longer flight can save you big bucks; not always but it is always worth checking.” Madison likes to choose a flight on a less common travel day in hopes that there is an open seat or two next to her family.
Best time to fly: Take it from Tyler, if you’re going on a long flight – maybe cross-country or overseas – the best time to fly is at night. It’s often cheaper, but there are other benefits. “It’s quieter, the lights are off so you can sleep, there are fewer announcements by the crew and there’s a better chance of finding an empty seat next to you,” says Tyler.
Flying with kids: Lance has plenty of experience traveling with kids and recommends flights that depart super early or late in the day. “Flights will often be cheaper but even better, infants and toddlers may still be sleeping and continue on the plane.” He likes to get to the airport at least 3 hours before departure when traveling with the family.
What you’ll need to know about the airport.
Getting there: If you have a friend or family member that will drive you to the airport, it’s a great way to save. If not, Tyler likes to use a ride share service like Uber or Lyft. “It’s cheaper than parking over an extended duration, and faster.” Public transportation is also an option almost everywhere; check your airport’s website for details.
Baggage: Kelsey says always check your airline’s bag fees before you book the flight, “so you have a better idea of what your total ticket will cost you.” Anne always uses a small carry-on bag partly because it often saves her money but mostly because, “The bag that travels by your side is the bag airlines can’t lose. Then, when you arrive at your destination, there’s no waiting around at the baggage carousel.”
Find some water: Bring an empty plastic bottle with you to the airport (or insulated thermos-type container). Then, after you pass through security, find a water fill it up to bring on the plane. But no big water bottles are allowed through security so wait until you’re past the checkpoint.
Mini-wallet: Connie suggests packing a small wallet with only your go-to trip documents, papers, and cards such as boarding passes and ID. “Doing this means I don’t have to dig around in my purse, it’s all in one easy-access place.”
Security help: If you’re in the U.S., join TSA’s PreCheck for a fast security experience. Several FareCompare employees are members and every one of them says it’s worth it. If you live outside the U.S., check with your government’s travel agencies to see if they offer something similar.
Charging devices: Don’t you hate it when phones die? Tyler suggests going to an empty gate area where no flights are taking off, then use a multi-port outlet extension so several people can charge devices at the same time. You will be the most popular person in the airport!
Use your phone: Take a picture of your suitcase so you’ll be able to describe it accurately in case it gets lost. Also, take a picture or screenshot of your boarding pass, your passport, and any other important documents. Hang on to your phone, but put some kind of identifying mark on it in case you do lose it; the lost & found departments of airlines, airports and the TSA are filled with thousands of electronics that cannot be reunited with owners.
Delays: Rich has a good reminder for travelers. “The airlines can’t control weather and bad weather often means delays.” When you need help to get on the next flight out, Rich suggests finding agents that aren’t overwhelmed by delayed passengers. “I’ve found that walking around looking for an agent at an empty gate usually gets me more personal attention; they’re willing to go the extra mile to help.”
On the Plane
Let’s get as comfortable as possible.
Warm up: Blankets and pillows are hard to come by on planes these days, so Tyler often wears a jacket onboard, which he sometimes converts into a pillow.
Entertainment: Lance loves seatback screens to entertain children, but be sure your own devices are charged up in case there aren’t any. Bring your own headphones, too; Tyler says they’re great for discouraging talkative seatmates, too.
Geography lesson: Spend some time on the flight showing kids where you’re going and tell them something new about the place you’ll visit. Airline magazines often have maps you can use to illustrate your route.
Snacks: You could pay airline prices for onboard snacks and meals, but why would you want to? Bring a lunch from home and if you’re traveling with little ones, let’s just say FareCompare parents are not above bribery (cookies, candy) to make the kiddies behave.
Lap Child Seats: If you are flying with a lap child, Madison says to make sure to call the airline and tell them ahead of time so they can add the child to your ticket and assign you the right type of seat. The airline will also have baby food on hand for you but make sure to ask for an “adult” meal if you would prefer that instead.
At Your Destination
Check your city’s tourism site for things to do and see, and here are some other suggestions.
Accommodations: Kelsey prefers non-traditional lodging and rentals when she’s on a trip. “There is Airbnb, and these days they have tons of competitors for every taste and budget,” she says. If you are more interested in motels, hotels, and resorts with lots of amenities, check the hotel deals on the FareCompare homepage.
Food: Lance suggests being proactive when it comes to dining for anyone who suffers from food allergies. Search out restaurants at your destination (even grocery stores) so you’ll know where you can eat without worrying about a health flare-up.
Gear: Madison suggests renting or borrowing as much gear at your destination as possible. “On our last trip, we only brought a stroller and our suitcase, and that was more than enough to carry!”
One Last Thing
Anne has run into more than a few problems over the years but always says, don’t sweat the small stuff. “No trip is perfect but it doesn’t matter, you’re going on an adventure!” She also pointed out, “The things that go wrong will become funny stories you’ll tell again and again over the years. So just relax. And have fun.”
Now get going. And safe travels!