I’ve decided that buying airfare in 2018 is a bit like trying to prepare your own taxes.  It requires time, patience, the need for good glasses to read the fine print and a large dose of hope that when you click “purchase” you’ve actually bought what you need.

In the old days, buying airfare was easy – I just called my travel agent and she handled everything. (boy do I miss those days!)

In the days since then, with the internet it became very easy to shop around all on your own and buy at what you felt was a good price.

But today, buyer beware is the true order of the day.  What you may think is a fair price is only a small portion of what you need to pay in the long run.  And it seems like you get emails every day with “Great Low Fare” notices.

So let’s take a look at this in more detail.  We’ll use these two examples:

Example 1:  International Travel

You want to fly to Barcelona for one of our rides that begin just north in Catalonia.  I found the following fares online for a trip from June15-24:

From New York From Chicago From Los Angeles
$548.00 with 1 stop (Iberia Airlines) $879.00 with 1 stop (Norwegian Airlines) $730.00 non stop (Norwegian Airlines)
***Not a bad fare but the total travel time is 16 hours with the layover in Madrid – ouch! ***Again not bad but this included a total of 24 hours of travel and a stop in Gatwick – WHAT?????? ***Success!  No need to look further – a great price and non stop!
$926.00 non stop (Finnair) $1,500.00 non stop (British Airways)  

 

BUT – what about baggage fees?  And what are the seats like, will you need extra room?  Can you select your seat?  All of the above fares are in basic economy.  And this is the kicker – the fine print is all important.

Here’s what it means for the fares above:

  From New York From Chicago From Los Angeles
Base Fare (for the sake of example, I’ll use the non stop fares) $926.00 $1,500.00 $730.00
Baggage Allowance/Fee 1 checked bag allowed (extra bag $82.00) 1 checked bag allowed (extra bag $90.00 if purchased in advance) No bags included – prices begin at $35.00 each way
Seat Selection Starts at $17.00 each way Starts at $11.00 each way Start at $35.00 each way
Revised Fare Price $960.00 $1,522.00 $870.00

 

But wait – you say!  “I’ve heard of great deals to Europe on the new WOW Airline”.

Yes.  You have.

How do they stack up?  See for yourself:

FIRST – you have to add a night as they do not fly on the 24th.  So now, you need to add a hotel room.

From New York From Chicago From Los Angeles
 

 

$980.00

You can only book a one way flight – they have no returning flights on any days in June.  (this also applies to flights from Cleveland and Detroit)  

 

$976.00

     

 

So hmmm, where are those low low fares????  The ones advertised at $350.00 round trip…..

I couldn’t find them.  And the catch is, they only have to have just a very few seats available at those fares, so if you don’t buy immediately, you’ll likely never see them again.

AND – the above fares are only for your seat and 1 carry on item that must fit under your seat.  You are not allowed any overhead bin space.

What happens if you want to check a bag or reserve a seat?

  From New York From Los Angeles
Base Fare $980.00 $976.00
Check a Bag $128.00 round trip $128.00 round trip
Select a Seat $28.00 round trip $28.00 round trip
Revised Fare Price $1,136.00 $1,132.00

 

Oh – and I failed to mention that both flights have a stop over in Reykjavik – with a layover of 12 hours average.

So much for a bargain flight!  But it did get me to spend about 30+ minutes on their site looking at different dates and routes…….arghhhhh!

Ok, let’s move on to the next scenario.

Example 2:  Domestic Travel

Using the same dates of June 15-24, let’s say you want to fly to Denver to take our private ranch ride in southern CO.  (**Note:  Colorado Springs is a closer airport to the ranch but the increase in price was more than renting a car in Denver and driving yourself).

 

From Hartford, CT From Cincinnati From Los Angeles
 

$327.00 non stop (Jet Blue)

$264.00 non stop (Frontier/Allegiant)  

$179.00 non stop (Delta)

 

So that’s not so bad, right?  All non stop.  All from more local airports.

But that’s not the final price.  No surprise, right?

Here’s the real deal:

  From Hartford, CT From Cincinnati From Los Angeles
Base Fare $327.00 $264.00 $179.00
Baggage Allowance/Fee None allowed.  Check a bag for $25.00 each way None Allowed.  Check a bag for $41.00 each way No bags included – prices begin at $35.00 each way
Seat Selection Starts at $17.00 each way Starts at $11.00 each way Start at $25.00 each way
Revised Fare Price $411.00 $368.00 $299.00

 

So how can you save a HUGE amount of time when checking all this out for yourself and planning your next trip?  Here’s my best recommendation:

First, use sites like www.momondo.com, www.kayak.com or www.expedia.com to scope out airfares and see base pricing.  (I was recently shown this site for airfare deals:  https://scottscheapflights.com/ but I’m not very enthused.  To get the really great alerts it’s a pay for service.)

Second, check out the baggage and seat pricing fees here https://www.flyfar.ca/airline-information/

Third, be sure to watch the fares and track them over a period of time – see how they change to give yourself peace of mind when you finally do “book ‘em”.

And then, you can get on with the fun part planning what to bring and deciding if you’ll extend your trip, etc.

Happy Travels!  I’ll try to keep more info like this coming J