—Updated on 20 June 2013
From time to time I get emails or other messages asking me for tips on finding low fares, etc. There are all kinds of tips out there so mine are probably not mind-blowing ideas. Still they work well for me and are based on personal experience.
We all know airfare can be quite expensive. It is even more so within the US or when using US airlines which lately charge more and more and provide less and less services. I have especially seen this as we’ve had the opportunity to fly with international carriers within South America. Flights may not be all that cheap, but you get far more bang for your buck. For instance we recently flew with TACA (although the flight was operated by AeroGal) from Colombia to Ecuador. Staff were friendly and helpful, and our 1-1/2-hour flight included free beverages (including wine and beer), snacks, and a light meal. There were no charges for checked or carry-on baggage or for checking in online, and I got to choose our seats for free as well. Try that in the US!
When using super low-cost airlines in other countries, make sure to read the fine print for hidden charges. Ryanair is infamous for this. Your ticket may only cost $50, but by the time you’re done paying all the extra fees you may have spent thrice that. Spirit charges for both carry-on and checked baggage, but what may not be clearly known is that the fee is PER SEGMENT. So if you have to change planes somewhere, you’ll be charged that fee all over again. When we flew to Colombia from Honduras, we ended up having to pay $140 in baggage fees for 2 backpacks that were checked, and they were well within weight limits. They were still cheaper than their competitors, but not by much after that.
When searching for flights, I generally begin with Adioso. So far it has been SkyScanner almost every time. Just be aware that some of the sites listed through them charge an additional processing fee, and currency exchange rates might also apply (check your bank or credit card company for details if you’re unsure).
When I find a good deal, I usually visit that airline’s website as well as sometimes they offer steeper discounts when booked through them directly. It doesn’t always happen, but one time I found a roundtrip airfare for Paris that was $300 USD cheaper on the airline’s website. No, that isn’t a typo.
If you have some extra time don’t forget to check trains and buses. They may take a little longer but they can offer a HUGE savings. For instance to fly from Cuenca, Ecuador, to Quito, a roundtrip ticket will cost $126, whereas by bus, which will take about 8 hours, it will only cost $16 roundtrip. Buses aren’t always the most comfortable ride, but they do offer you a chance to experience local culture and see parts of the country that you might not see otherwise. In some countries the buses can be quite posh. On our trip from Bogota to Medellin our bus had WiFi, individual entertainment systems, foot rests, an extremely clean bathroom, A/C with extra fans, reading lamps, and so on.
In countries with a more developed train system, like can be found all over Europe, they are not only super affordable, but offer less hassle, are cancelled less often than flights, are extremely comfortable and quite fast making them an even better option.
Do you have any other special tips you’ve found to be particularly successful?