Fly High for a Low Fare

Traveling so often, people question how could I possibly afford all of it.

Am I secretly rich? Far from it. Do I work more than one job? Nope. Do I still live at home with my parents? Well, yes, that one is true, and it helps tremendously that I can put my “rent” into my travel savings account. But, no, my parents don’t give me money either, no matter how hard I give my dad puppy dog eyes while asking for extra cash. Puuuhhh-leeeeeeeze.

So now here I am, finally explaining to everyone how I’ve managed to keep my trips so inexpensive by sharing tricks on where to find the cheapest flights.

Picking a destination:

The first step, obviously, would be to pick a destination. On the off chance that you have no idea where you want to go, or if you want a last-minute, cheap getaway, Skyscanner has the option to “search everywhere.” It’ll bring up the cheapest destinations from any selected departure airport.

But…. If you have a long bucket list of destinations like I do, then you’ll want to spend less time finding cheap destinations and more time finding the cheapest flight to reach those destinations.

Finding the cheapest time to fly:

IMG_9785With my job, I’m lucky to have the perk of being able to leave whenever, so I’m able to work with when flights are cheap, rather than being limited to a certain time frame. This does mean that I’m sometimes traveling during the off season, though. Was trekking across Paris in the pouring rain ideal? No. But those will forever be my favorite memories.

The first stop on my cheap flight search engine checklist is Skyscanner (again…). They have a variety of different explore options, including being able to use “cheapest month” as your dates of travel. If you already have a specific time in mind, it’ll be good to know that it’s typically cheaper to fly on a Tuesday or Saturday, but if you choose “whole month,” Skyscanner will provide a day-by-day price comparison for your destination, so you can see the high and low days during that time of year.

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Once I have a timeframe in mind, I always “fact-check” with Google Flights. What I like most about Google Flights, that other search engines don’t do, is that Google will suggest changes in your flight plan to make it cheaper. Sometimes, leaving the night before or flying into a nearby airport will produce cheaper flight prices, so I always like to be aware of these options before making a final decision.

Tip: Southwest’s flights aren’t shown in search engines, so don’t forget to check their website for prices.

I was typically booking with Google Flights in the past, but I recently discovered JetRadar. When I compared a search between the two, JetRadar produced results up to $150 cheaper for my upcoming trip. This is because of the “self-connect” option, meaning that not only will I switch planes on a layover, I might also have to collect my baggage and switch airlines as well. For long flights that are broken up by layovers regardless — since I can’t afford a $2,000 one-way ticket for a non-stop — this option was super useful. However, I did notice it brought up flights with an unnecessary amount of stops for shorter flights, turning 6 hours of travel into 20.

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If I plan on making multiple stops on a trip, I’ll take all the destinations I plan to stop at along the way, and search for one-way tickets to and from each location, making the cheapest two options my starting and ending point. Flights within Europe are typically cheap (like I flew from Ireland to Paris for $14 cheap), so I never do as much research for all the little connecting flights. Instead, I refer to a good ‘ole map and plan those flights off the route that makes most sense geographically rather than cost.

Usually, I’d be the first one to urge you to make that purchase, don’t waste any time, what are you waiting for? Go. But it may be beneficial to wait a few days to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

When to buy:

Flight prices change often, so before you hit “purchase,” make sure you’re not buying during the high. Flights are often cheaper when purchased at the beginning of the week, opposed to being bought closer to the weekend. i.e. The same flight that was $600 on Friday, might only be $400 when you search again on Monday.

Other tips:

IMG_9792[1]Don’t wait too long to buy, though. I’ve never actually tested the theory that the Tuesday 6 weeks before the trip is the cheapest a ticket will ever be, but I do always book all my flights at least 6 weeks in advance.

And if you’ve chosen to fly on with a budget airline, be sure to read all the fine print. If you make sure you’re aware of the extras beforehand, even with add-ons, your flight can still cost less than with other airlines. It’s cheaper to add/pay for a checked bag online rather than at the check-in desk, and some airlines will require boarding passes to be printed prior to arrival at the airport to avoid additional fees. I strongly encourage to also pay to reserve a seat. Not because it matters if you’re seated next to your travel buddy, but flights are almost always overbooked, so reserving a seat will guarantee that you will get on the flight over a passenger who opted to not pay for reserving one, saving you from an unexpected sleepover at the airport. (Of course, in the event of flight vouchers being offered, though, you know I’m the first one running off that plane to claim one. Free flight? Yes, please!)

Ready for takeoff? Check out my useful packing tips before you go.

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Packing Tips for Any Trip

I’m often asked by everyone how I’m able to always pack so effortlessly, and by “everyone,” I really just mean my mom. I do have a few tips that I always follow when it comes to packing, though, whether it’s to fly halfway across the world or a drive down the street to my best friend’s house for the night. So to make your suitcase troubles a little less stressful, follow some of my tricks below:

1. Don’t wait until the last minute.

My friends will ask me before a trip if I’ve packed, and I’m pretty sure it’s so they can make fun of me when my answer is not only yes, but that I’ve been packed for a week, maybe two. Waiting until the last minute means you’re going to forget things, and I’m the queen of forgetting things…. Seriously, I’ve forgotten to pack underwear before. I’m not saying to be as dramatic as I am, but pack at least a few days prior to leaving. This leaves you with time to remember items you may have missed during a rushed last-minute job…. or you can continue to pack as you’re walking out the door. If that’s the case, then use my favorite checklist to help make sure you remembered everything (or download the digital version here.)

2. Keep a travel-friendly toiletries bag packed.

img_9270I always keep a toiletries bag packed. There’s nothing more annoying than getting somewhere and not having a toothbrush or deodorant, and who wants to do that awkward let -me-put lotion-on-my-armpits-and-hope-that-works thing. To save myself the trouble of forgetting anything, I keep a makeup bag full of my favorite everyday products, but travel-sized (Tip: Take advantage of free samples from Sephora to fill this bag). It’s easy to grab and throw in your luggage, and it leaves more time to worry about the real important things that need packed, like shoes.

Don’t forget to keep your liquids inside a plastic bag to prevent leaks, or screw a piece of plastic between the bottle and cap.

3. Use shower caps to cover shoes.

Covering the bottom of your shoes will help prevent the soles from causing any unwanted dirt marks on clean clothes, and it will especially come in handy if your trip involves any sort of hiking and mud. *Flashback to those muddy boots in Iceland.* 

4. Don’t take the large suitcase.

No matter how long the trip is or if there’s the need to pack huge coats, I always try to fit everything in a medium-sized suitcase or smaller. If you’re travelling to multiple destinations, you won’t have to worry about dragging a heavy oversized suitcase to each stop (or up three flights of stairs when you find out your Air BNB doesn’t have an elevator.) Here are a few ways I save space:

Roll clothing instead of folding it and place vertically in your suitcase. Since everything you have packed will be visible, this will also keep your luggage organized throughout your trip because digging for items won’t be necessary.

Choose items that can be mix-and-matched. You were probably wondering how a fashionista like myself keeps her clothing packing to a minimum. Well, I’ll pack clothing items that all fall into the same color familythink all neutrals or cool tones – so I’m able to turn 5 items into 10 different outfits. Plus, if it’s a cold weather trip, no one is going to see anything besides your jacket anyway. So instead of packing an extra sweater, grab a scarf for a pop of color. Be sure to pack garbage bags to keep smelly socks and dirty underwear separate from clothes that will be worn again.

If there is the need for some extra layers this trip, wear your coat on the flight. Airplanes are cold, so skip packing the heavy jacket and carry it on with you to double as a blanket.

Use the space inside your shoes to pack a curling iron/flat iron, umbrella, socks, snacks, etc. You get the picture.

Leave the giant vitamin and prescription bottles at home. Instead, take the exact amount of daily vitamins/medicines you’ll need in a plastic bag. This will help keep track of how many days you’ve taken them if your regular schedule is thrown off by a time change.

5. Use your personal item wisely.

img_9271Instead of bringing a small purse as your personal item, opt to take a larger tote or backpack. I like to move my wallet and essentials into my backpack, pack the empty purse in my suitcase and switch back over to my purse once I reach my destination. If you’re flying on a budget like I do, chances are your flight doesn’t come with wifi, so use the extra baggage room to bring along your iPad, a book to read, coloring books, or, my favorite pastime, snacks. A pen will also come in handy for any customs forms that need to be filled out on international flights.

If you are headed overseas, make sure you keep an adapter easily accessible too because you’ll need it to charge your devices during those long layovers while abroad. I like to use this one here because you can charge 3 devices at once, and it’s universal, so you won’t have to buy a different one for each country you visit. (Note: You cannot plug your curling iron/flat iron into this. You will need a voltage converter for that.)

Now that you’re all packed, hopefully you’ve saved enough room to bring home some souvenirs. So make sure to keep a luggage scale handy to help prevent any surprise overweight fees at the airport.

Ready for takeoff? Find my favorite travel sites here.

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