We understand that finances typically play the largest part in someone’s decision to travel. While there are tons of inexpensive countries to visit around the world, oftentimes the flight is the largest expense incurred. To help mitigate this, we’ve provided some helpful tips below, along with general flight tips to make your international commute as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
Book Early/Book Late
This is a common tip found everywhere on the internet. While booking early typically yields the cheapest flights, booking late can have its benefits as well. Using flight apps like Hopper or Fareness, you can find last-minute flights to wherever you’re wanting to go. However, you run the risk of there being no availability and having to wait a little while longer, or of the flight being too expensive because of high demand.
One interesting tidbit is that the average cheapest day to book your flight is 54 days beforehand. Keep an eye on this window (we recommend about two weeks before to two weeks after) for booking your flight. It’s never a bad idea to set up flight tracking through websites like Google, Hopper, or credit card companies’ flight portals.
If you’ve got a bit of time to spare on your travels or are looking to add another stop along your journey, consider booking a connecting flight, or even two separate flights… this is what we call City-Traversing. Some flights will have overnight connections (be sure to check the available amenities at the airport you’re staying at!) while others may have a day-long or multi-day connection that lets you get out and explore the city a bit.
If you’re not feeling the connection, try to find the cheapest flight to the continent you’re wanting to visit, then use regional airlines to get where you’re wanting!
For example, say you want to visit Rome from Houston, but your round-trip flight runs you $1,300 flat. There might be a flight to Amsterdam that costs you $800 and a round-trip flight from Amsterdam to Rome that costs $200 on an airline like RyanAir or easyJet. You’ve taken a few extra hours out of your journey (maybe even cut some hours out!), but you’ve saved $300. Not that bad of a tradeoff for the financially savvy traveler!
City-traversing allows you the freedom to book flights whenever you’d like to wherever you’d like. If you land in Amsterdam and realize you’d actually like to explore the city for a couple of days, just wait to book your flight to Rome and start your adventure early!
Book in an Incognito Tab or Clear Your History Before Booking
You’ve probably heard this before, but everything you do is pretty much watched. Not necessarily by FBI agents hiding behind their computer screens, but by the search engine companies and airlines. If you browse flights frequently for a certain destination or for a range of dates, the companies will know that you’re looking to book a flight. Because of this, sometimes they’ll arbitrarily increase their prices.
When you’re ready to book, open up an incognito tab, or delete your browsing/history cache beforehand. This will allow you to snag the cheapest flight possible if they’ve been raising their prices!
Book on Thursdays
For a while, it was rumored that Tuesdays were the cheapest day to book flights. Then it came out that Tuesdays were only the cheapest for domestic flights, while Thursdays were the cheapest for international flights. Now, it appears that Thursdays have taken hold of that title.
The chief data scientist at Hopper claims that you can save about 3.4% on domestic travel and 3.5% on international by booking on Thursdays.
Book on a Credit Card
Booking on a credit card is a quick and efficient way to build up credit (as long as you pay it off on time!) and to build up additional or miles or points that ultimately allow you to travel more for less in the future.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (we’re not sponsored, just so ya know) gives you 2x miles for every dollar you book through them. If you buy a thousand-dollar flight from them, you’ll receive 2,000 points. They have a 1:1 trade in with airlines so that you can exchange your points for miles with most companies. However, they also will multiply your points that you use booking flights by 1.25x. That means that your 2,000 points would then be worth 2,500 miles that you could put toward lowering the cost of your flight!
Individual airlines like Southwest, American, and United all offer various credit cards and promotional sign up deals that will grant you anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 free miles or points when you choose them. Leveraging these correctly can pay off your expenses for several adventures around the world and as you use their cards, you keep building up that account!
Consider Rearranging Your Days Off
If you’re thinking of taking say, a Wednesday through Friday off and traveling from Tuesday night (after work) until Sunday evening, look into pushing everything back a day.
For international flights, weekdays are usually the cheapest flight option you can find. If you’re able to push your travel dates back a bit, not only can you save some money, but you might get to visit some incredible locations on your Monday abroad, since Mondays normally mean fewer tourists than weekends.
In summary, you’ll be taking off the same amount of time while having a better experience for cheaper!
Booking an Aisle or Window Seat
When choosing where to sit, it’s pretty much unanimously agreed upon that no one prefers the middle seat. If you like the middle seat… I guess you could just ignore this section.
For longer flights that happen over the course of a regular day (i.e. when you’re not expecting to sleep a lot during the flight like you would a red-eye), aisle seats are our preference. You have the ability to stand up and walk around, use the restroom, etc. without having to bother any of the other passengers on the flight. You may be bothered occasionally by the people in the aisle or window seats getting up, but they’ll feel less inclined to do it as frequently as you can. There’s also the added benefit of putting up the armrest (the one that’s on the aisle) and extending your legs and body a bit more.
Regarding red-eye flights, our preference is the window seat. For these flights when you’re going to want to sleep for a long amount of time, a small travel pillow (or Mitchell’s favorite of a wadded up jacket) pressed between the wall of the plane and your head makes for some peaceful midair slumbers. While you might have to get up and use the restroom occasionally, you can expect a lot of sleep without many disturbances from your aisle-buddies.
In addition to these tips, a good consideration is always where you’ll be located for the flight.
If your goal is quietness during your flight, first food/beverage service, and quick deboarding, look for seats at the front of the plane. For noise, the noisiest part is typically behind the wings, due to the large amount of wind & air passing over the wings and the engines powering the plane. For service and deboarding, the flight attendants normally start at the front of each section and work towards the back, and passengers usually depart starting in the front.
If your goal is stability on the flight, consider seats that are directly between or before the wings of the plane. The wings help reduce the shaking feeling of turbulence during those rough patches and can prevent you from getting motion sick from small vibrations that occur throughout the flight.
If your goal is cost-efficiency, look for seats in the rear of the plane. These seats typically have reduced costs as they’re typically the last to board (unless you’re on a plane with rear entry/exit, in which case you might be the fastest to exit!).
Extra Tip: TSA PreCheck/Global Entry
While this doesn’t really have much to do with the price or comfort of the flight, it can greatly improve your experience at the airport.
We’re all accustomed to that one family member, significant other, or travel buddy that insists on getting to the airport hours in advance. However, if you’re able to fit everything into a carryon backpack, you can save yourself a lot of time spent in the airport.
With TSA PreCheck, you provide some information to the US Government, do a quick screening and a speedy interview, pay your $85 and you’re good to speed through specially established security gates, keeping electronics in your bag and shoes on your feet. When we travel using PreCheck, we arrive at the airport only about an hour before our departure time, although that’s typically more time than needed considering we get to our gate in about 15 minutes. That extra time can be perfect for downing an overly expensive preflight beer or two though...
With Global Entry, you do pretty much the same steps as TSA PreCheck (except you pay $100) and you’re good to enter a special line upon your return to the States from trips abroad… along with the TSA PreCheck benefits. Rather than waiting an hour or more to get through Customs, you can stop by your line, answer a couple of questions on a kiosk, answer a Customs representative’s questions quickly, and be on your way back home. You unfortunately have to renew every 5 years, but the process is quick and efficient if you do it online.