Off The Grid: Trip-Saving Airline Tips that Actually Work

Travel Lists

Does booking a flight 47 days in advance on a Tuesday at precisely 1 p.m. Eastern significantly reduce the fare? I have no idea. I’ve never had the luxury of doing so. Furthermore, I’ve never heard someone say, “I just saved $200 by booking my flight precisely 47 days in advance on a Tuesday afternoon!”

Unless airlines are colluding to actually reduce fare prices at arbitrary times, this oft-quoted tip is not only unlikely, it’s impractical. But that doesn’t mean practical tips don’t exist to save you time and money when traveling by plane.

Here are five that have produced proven and repeatable results.

1. Book Two, One-way Flights
Humans usually book round-trip flights because it’s easier. But spending an additional 30 to 60 more seconds to compare roundtrips with two, one-way flights can yield significant savings—on the same carrier even. Booking different airlines each way saves even more. You won’t get a single itinerary or as many loyalty miles for doing so. But you can save a lot of dough and let automated check-in emails handle the rest.

2. Book Non-U.S. Airlines
I’m all for “buying American” when competitive. But I also believe the rising tide of globalization has lifted all boats, including American ones. If you feel the same, consider booking a non-U.S. carrier for domestic and especially international flights. Doing so can save hundreds. And sometimes you get better in-flight service, such as free Wi-Fi and those oh-so-refreshing hot towelettes.

3. Book Beyond Expedia, Travelocity and Priceline
Some of you are already do this. Some of you don’t, and it’s costing you. This is because many airlines, most notably regional jets, don’t list their often cheaper fares on big search engines. So find out what airlines serve your area by visiting your airport website, then book direct with those. Oh, and start using Google Flights. Although it doesn’t display all airlines and prices, it’s easier to use and lists a lot more savings and options when considering a flight.

4. Arrive at “Departures” to Avoid Lines
To avoid the crowd for taxis or loading spots, arrange for pick-up at the airport “departures” zone instead of “arrivals.” Cabs and ride-sharing service will likely be there after dropping people off. And there’ll be a lot more open spots to connect with your ride and load your luggage.

5. Be Kind and Ask Nicely
For times when you can speak to an actual human, politely ask if there is any way they can help you save or improve your trip experience. For example, ask for perks like free seat upgrades at the gage for better comfort or dietary exceptions such as kosher or vegetarian meals from the flight attendant for better freshness. With a friendly disposition, you can even get change-fees waived. Just ask nicely.

One more thing… clearing your browser history no longer saves on airfare, according to recent research. Give it up already.

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Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Off the Grid columnist Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. Visit his website or follow @blakesnow.

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