Shoestring Dream Trip- The Flight

The flight. What I consider to be the biggest piece of the puzzle. Probably because when you’re dealing with a family trip, it’s also the most costly. The price of a flight can literally make or break your trip. Sure $100 difference isn’t that big…when you’re flying alone. Family of four? That’s another story. I have a terrible habit of equating money lost on travel as money lost for the trip itself. I guess it’s actually a good thing. It keeps me in check. If I save money on the flight, compared to what I already know is the average airfare, I tend to tell the family, “Cool, there’s our car rental money right there.” To me, that’s the key of traveling on the cheap side. Knowing what the base amount would be, then finding the deals to lower that base price. As I said in the prior posts, knowing what the trip would cost me at any given time, I can figure out an average. That way, when the deals start coming out, I’m quick to pull the trigger. Which, by the way, pulling the trigger can be easy, but it’s the after effect of the purchase that can really sour the mood, especially when those times came that I made the mistake of telling my wife, “Man, I screwed up, that price just dropped $200 less than what we paid.” That always goes over particularly well. So, the example I gave of St. Thomas USVI. For months and months I’ve watched the fares on this trip religiously. Not only out of Nashville, but Atlanta as well. As I’ve said, there comes a point when driving to another airport simply makes sense, you only need to calculate your gas to get there and the parking while you’re on the trip. And no, you don’t have to park at the airport like years past. Hotels have started to allow people to park their cars on the hotel site for a fraction of the fee you would pay at the airport and take the hotel shuttle to the airport. Nice option if you’re trying to save a few bucks here and there, but that’s for another post. Watching the fare alerts each morning from each location and knowing what we spent on a prior trip to this destination gave me a good idea of what would be the average.
From Nashville- $560 RT
From Atlanta- $468 RT
Remember, the key to this trip was to keep all expenses under or close to $2,000 total. Knowing this average for where we live helped to determine what a good deal could be when I see it, since that would waste my budget right off the top. On the prior trip we opted to drive to Atlanta, because a savings of almost $400 was worth the 4 hour trip we made, not so much for the lack of sleep, but the beach and a rum drink makes the tired go away pretty fast. I had figured that if we were going to find a special rate to St. Thomas, we would be driving to Atlanta based on what I had seen for the last year. So how amazed was I when I opened my inbox and saw a rate of $260 RT to St. Thomas…out of Nashville! It was like a golden ticket had suddenly landed in my hand. I had gone from no trip really planned to the islands in a single moment. It doesn’t take much to get me excited but this does. I live a rather simple life you could say. To give a bit of background, that rate from Nashville to St. Thomas USVI was the lowest fare to be found for any city outside 300 miles from Nashville. Knowing it wouldn’t last long, I did what I needed to do. One more tip for family travelers. Don’t book until you talk to the wife, or you may be traveling alone and maybe not coming back. OK, maybe that pleases some of you, but for most, Hell hath no fury…With the green light given to me, I pounced. That deal of $260 RT lasted exactly 3 days, then poof, it was gone, back up to an average of $500. My point is this, know what you can spend, know what the average is and be ready to move when it comes. The internet allows everyone to be quite saavy when it comes to traveling. Rates change fast, very fast. My motto has always been, “I’d be stupid not to book that trip!” Of course it’s just a nice way to justify the vacation itself, but who cares? The best memories we make are when we see new things, experience new cultures and see the places that show us how beautiful this world can be! And, at the end of the day, it doesn’t hurt to save close to $1000 on a flight. So, pick out some destinations and start following the rates for a good amount of time. Find out what the average is, airports that are close and how much you’re willing to spend. After that, it’s a simple click of the mouse and hopefully a big fat grin on your face. Check out the Shoestring category to the right for fare tracking website options.
Be smart with your travel. And remember, “Live within your means and travel beyond them!”

Next up- Accomodations


Serenity now, Insanity later.
– Lloyd Braun

4 Comments

  1. Darcie

    What site do you subscribe to in order to get the flight alerts?

    Reply
  2. The Smiling Suitcase

    I check out a few sites for these but what I find to be some of the best are:
     Travelocity- It’s called FareWatcher and you can start a search for several locations and it will notify you when the price drops below the price you currently see.

    AirFareWatchdog.com- this one you can set your departure cities and it will send you an email everyday and notify you of most fares coming out of that city and includes unpublished sale fares.

    Fare Compare- Has a pretty sweet mapping feature that allows you to see snapshots quickly of prices from multiple departure cities

    Cheapflight travels- another good one that gives me some pretty good flight deals. I prefer the ones above more though.

    I also sign up for a number of twitter feeds from the airlines as they sometimes throw out unadvertised sales.

    Hope this helps. It will definitely give you an idea of how the prices fluctuate and you can start to adjust travel plans accordingly.

    Happy Travels!

    Reply
    1. Amy Cole

      Hello!
      Do you still recommend those above or do you look at others? Trying to start a trip search (not strip search 😉

      Thanks!
      Amy

      Reply
      1. THESMILINGSUITCASE

        I do actually. They are very good and the earlier you can start mapping out trips, the better. It will always give you a good idea of what you’re up against and how quick you should pull the trigger for the least amount of stress. Leave the stress to the strip search in the security lanes! Thanks Amy!

        Reply

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