budget travel

Joys of snagging a cheap airfare

Travelers are always seeking the best deal on flights or hotels or car rentals or admission to amusement parks or whatever way you can save money traveling.  There are tons of articles written about the best days to book flights to score the cheapest fares.  I won’t link to them because if you’ve found my piece, then you’ve read all those articles, too.

I’m not able to tell you the “BEST” way to score a deal because I don’t believe there is any “one” way to do it.  I am able to brag, and probably not as humbly as I would hope, about the airfare deal I just scored.  Like many travelers, I follow a ton of travel accounts on Twitter and Facebook hoping to find a great deal that I can use for my next adventures.  However, I live in a college town with a population of nearly 100,000 people with a local airport that lacks commercial services.  Even the largest “major” airport, which is about an hour away, offers no international flights and most of its flights are connecting to hubs of the Big 3 American airlines (AA, DL, and UA) or to a leisure destination served by Southwest.  So it’s not easy finding a deal for me unless I’m willing to drive to the nearest international airport (ATL), which is a 3-hour drive.

So how did I recently land a deal living in a college town?  I recently signed up for email alerts from Scott’s Cheap Flights (FYI: I’m not getting paid if you click on the link or sign-up for their service) because my wife started following their Twitter account within the past week.  I followed their Twitter account, and decided to sign up for their email notifications because “Why not?”  Last Wednesday as my wife and I were finishing dinner, I got an email notice saying there was a deal from a number of American cities to Budapest (BUD) for $500-$600 for travel during the peak of summer, and Atlanta was included on the list.

To provide a bit of background, my wife and I have been discussing and planning a trip to Europe for summer 2018 to visit friends we met in Southeast Asia on our honeymoon trip.  However, we had not nailed down any flights nor dates to visit England and Ireland, where our friends live.  So we weren’t considering a trip to Central Europe.  Instead of shrugging it off, we checked a monthly outlook starting in late June 2018 on ITA Software to see if indeed we could score a cheap flight from Atlanta.

The best way to check for flights is with the monthly outlook that allows you to choose the cheapest travel days.

We found round-trip flights for $630 on various dates in late June and early July, and after debating the finer points of two connections versus one connection with an extremely long layover we booked the flights.

Our trip will take us from Atlanta to Toronto (YYZ) to Budapest.  We will have 13 days to explore Budapest and other places in Central Europe, although we haven’t decided where we will visit or how long we’ll stay in any place yet.  We literally just booked our flights four days ago (as I’m writing this post).  However, we will have nearly nine months to figure what we want to do and see in Central Europe.

As excited as I am about this deal, the takeaway is that finding deals doesn’t require some trick.  Finding a deal is about being flexible with your destination, realizing that where you fly into doesn’t have to be your entire trip, and patience.  It is frustrating seeing tons of deals from bigger airports to Asia, Latin America, and Europe, but it’s possible to snag a great airfare from just about anywhere.  And quite frankly, sometimes it’s just luck.  I am lucky that I signed up for email alerts from Scott’s Cheap Flights, and am especially lucky that my wife is willing to say “Let’s book it!” after we found a great deal.

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