Full disclosure: This post is not your typical “how to stay within your budget” post full of money saving advice. This is more about mindful spending. I don’t believe in budgets (and apparently neither does anyone looking for a house with House Hunters International), and even when I was single and paying for everything on my own my main concern was spending my money wisely, not necessarily saving a dollar on a flight.
Think you found a great deal? You’re excited for your trip and you just can’t wait to get going… until you discover hidden fees, unexpected costs, and the realization that “close to town” means a 3-mile hike. Maybe an extra $5 for accommodations a couple of miles closer would have been worth your while. So how do you avoid budget blunders like this? Well, take a look at my Saving and Money page, then check out some common blunders (and how to avoid them) below!
Hey, look! $150 round trip to Europe!
Well, look a little bit closer. What’s the total travel time? If you’re looking at a flight from IAD (Washington-Dulles International) to CDG (Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris), the flight should only take about 8 hours. If your total flight time looks closer to 24 hours, that $150 may require multiple layovers and much longer flights than necessary. Sometimes a long layover is fun for exploring another city on the way, but that’s up to you! Just be sure you won’t be too grumpy and exhausted to enjoy Paris when you get there!
Hey, look! A direct flight to Ireland!
Well, let’s see. “Direct” should totally mean you’ll be going “directly” from your starting point to your destination, right? It should be synonymous with “non-stop.” WRONG! That “direct flight” from DC to Ireland required a late-night stop in Philly. Don’t be surprised when you check in and get two boarding passes instead of one! “Direct” in the context of flights is still a mystery to me. Remember: cheap airline tickets are cheap for a reason. Find out what that reason is before you commit!
Wait. What? I have to change airports?
This is another time where attention to detail is key! Washington, DC; Paris, France; Istanbul, Turkey; New York and many other major cities have more than one airport. But that doesn’t mean they’re close to each other! If you decide to take a chance and change airports on your layover, make sure your layover is long enough. You’ll have to pick up any checked luggage you may have AND go through check-in and security again. Is it worth saving $50 to maybe miss your flight due to traffic or other factors? It may be worth spending that extra $50 or even $100 to save time and stress.
$20 flights within Europe? Sign me up!
Not so fast! Better check out that airline’s rules and regulations. Budget airlines are great for quick (and more frequent) trips, but make sure you know their restrictions and fees before you even book. Checking luggage? That’ll cost you $60 for the first bag. Carrying on? Make sure everything fits in one piece of luggage that meets their size and weight restrictions, and oh yeah, it might cost you another $10. Oh yeah, and that $20 for the flight just means you have a space on that flight. If you want to actually have a seat, that’s not included in the super-low price; that’ll be another $12, please. Be sure it really is cheaper to take the budget airline instead of a major airline!
Hey look! This cheap accommodation is “close to everything!”
One question… By whose standard? I’m willing to walk a scenic, safe mile into town. But I wouldn’t call it “close.” Three miles is definitely not close, and that’s what I’ve been stuck with more than once! Get out a map (or open your map app) and map just how far it is from the accommodation to the city center or whatever you’re there to see. Is it walkable? Is there reliable transportation to get there? Also don’t neglect to read the reviews! Is it worth saving $15 if you have to take a cab to and from town every day?
Public transportation is always cheaper!
Well, not always. Depending on what time your flight lands and you get through customs, public transportation may not be available. Sometimes there are strikes. Sometimes there are public holidays. Have a backup plan! And be sure you do some searching to read up on what’s really the best option for getting around. In Bangkok, taking the “airport train” required two train changes and took an hour and a half, as opposed to the same price for door-to-door service with a cab!
Have you ever overpaid or perhaps found out a money-saving secret just in the nick of time? What experiences have you had?
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