How to Travel by Air on the Cheap

When you are living on a tight budget, traveling by air is unlikely to be something you would think of doing very often because of the cost. But surprisingly, if you plan ahead and know a few tricks of the trade, sometimes traveling by air can be little more than the cost of taking a trip by bus or train. In fact, on some occasions, it is possible to make a long trip across the country, or even internationally, at less than the cost of a bus or train ticket, Here are some tips on how to do that.

Book very early

The secret to getting cheap airfare deals is to plan a long way ahead and take advantage of special offers that airlines make at certain times of the year to fill seats on flights that they know from their inventory management won’t run full unless they heavily discount some seats. That means cheap air travel is not an option for last minute trips like family emergencies, but they can be very doable for a vacation that you can plan up to a year ahead. You’ll need to be flexible with dates too because there are sometimes of the year when discounted seats just won’t be available. Register online with all of the budget airlines that serve your nearest airports to receive promotional offers by email, and you’ll soon get a feel of what times of the year cheap seats are made available, and how far in advance you have to book them.

Travel with carry-on bags

As long as you are not traveling at a particularly cold time of the year when you may need to take more clothes, you should be able to pack everything that you need into a carry-on bag to save the cost of checked baggage fees. This also has the advantage of saving time at airports in collecting bags and minimizes the risk of your bags getting lost or stolen on the way. But be aware that every airline has different rules for carry-on bags and often slightly different dimensions for what’s allowed on board. Check out online what the rules are for those airlines that are an option for you, and then go to the website of an online luggage retailer like Luggage Direct and note what brands and models of bags will fit within those dimensions. Such websites list both weight and exact dimensions of most popular models of carry-on bags. Most budget airlines allow one carry-on bag and one personal item free of charge, although a few of the cheapest budget airlines do charge for the carry-on bag on certain categories of a ticket. Again check the websites of the airlines that are available to you, and take any baggage fees into account when comparing promotional airfare offers.

Make use of the personal item allowance

Every airline allows a free personal item like a purse, handbag, briefcase or laptop bag in addition to the carry-on bag. Take advantage of this allowance by taking the maximum size that is permitted. It must fit under the seat of the plane, not in the overhead lockers (which are reserved for the carry-ons). For female passengers, take the largest size handbag allowed and use that for carrying not just your personal items, but for other items that you may not have been able to fit into your carry-on. Review carefully before your trip whether you really need to take everything that you normally carry in your purse on a daily basis, and only take those items that you can’t do without on the trip. For male passengers, the best option is to use a laptop bag, but instead of packing a laptop, use it for the overflow from your carry-on. The only stage of the check-in process where the contents of the laptop bag will be seen will be at the security check – and they are not concerned about airline baggage rules – only that you are not carrying any prohibited items. A cheap briefcase is another option but they are usually heavier.

Take your own food

Some budget airlines sell food items on board, but they are always at a high cost and should be avoided if you are trying to save money. Likewise with food purchased at the airport. Food outlets there pay high rentals, so the price of some items might be twice what you would pay in your local supermarket. Instead, plan to take your own food for the journey and pack in plastic containers that won’t take up too much space in your bag, or which you can fit into the pockets of your jacket. High protein bars and cereal bars are good options for snacks if the journey is not too long. Otherwise, plan to eat a good meal before you leave and another after arrival. Bottled water won’t be allowed through airport security, so take a small empty bottle with you and refill it from a drinking fountain or tap after you have been through the security check. Take that onto the plane full because you need to stay hydrated when traveling by air.

Check-in early

And finally, most importantly of all, do check in for your flight as early as you can. If you miss your flight because you’ve been held up in traffic or you left leaving home too late, you will not be accommodated on a later flight. That only happens for passengers traveling on certain full fares or in first or business class. If you are on a promotional or discounted fare and you miss the flight, your only option will be to purchase a new fare at the full price, and that may mean you won’t be able to afford to travel at all. But if you are prepared to plan ahead, do your comparison shopping online, pack frugally and know exactly what you can and can’t take, you could be flying by air to vacation destinations or to visit family at a fraction of the price of other passengers on the same flight.

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