People often ask us what sources we recommend for purchasing flights, how we handle long haul flights, should they rent a car for spending extra days and a myriad of other questions. So with that in mind, I want to share some of the things we recommend (and also personally use) when planning our own travel.
We save for vacation like everyone else – so what we spend matters – it affects if we’ll be able to spend any extra days and if so, what we can see and where we can stay (do we need a rented room in an Airbnb or can we afford a hotel, for example). Our goal is always to get the most from our vacation fund while maximizing our experiences in as safe a way as possible. Here’s our basic “go to” list:
WE PLAN AHEAD
When purchasing our airline tickets we never (if we can help it) purchase them under the two month window. Industry trends are still indicating that the best windows for airfares are 54 days out or longer. And we use sites like these to check and track (be sure to sign up for fare alerts) airfares prior to purchasing them:
(and a nice perk – planning ahead gives you more time to look forward to the trip!)
Travel Tip: Booking an AM flight gives you a better chance of easily handling any travel delays that pop up without disrupting your entire trip. Plus, if the delay is a big one (weather related, you are first in line chronologically of folks needing to be re-routed.
WE CHECK INTERNATIONAL SITES
If you are traveling out of the country, after we checked the above sites, we then go to the international sites. It’s a good investment of a few minutes of your time as sometimes they have better rates.
Travel Tip: If traveling domestically, studies have shown that Tuesday afternoons after 3PM are the best day/time to buy a flight. And be careful of booking on a Saturday or Sunday as airlines are notorious for pulling discounted fares off the market prior to the weekend when people are home shopping.
COMFORT IS KING
When flying anywhere over three hours, we don’t skimp on comfort, especially when it comes to our legroom. But get the facts first. We use SeatGuru to check the seat sizes on the plane fare we’ve booked. And Yes We Do go back and buy a premium seat if it means another 3” of space. If we can’t comfortably extend our legs under the seat in front of us because our knees are hitting the back of the seat (thank you not at all seat pitch of 30”!) we will feel it all the way up to our cramped neck muscles. That’s not how we want to start (or end) our vacation.
Travel Tip: Check out your airlines annual subscription offers. For example (and yes, we rare going there as it’s a good example) United’s Economy Plus Annual Subscription is $499 per year and includes unlimited domestic upgrades to United’s extra-legroom seating as long as a seat is available when you book. And if you really want to pull out the travel stops for the year – for $200 more, you get global access to Economy Plus.
WE DON’T WASTE TIME WAITING IN LINE
If you follow us on Facebook (Active Riding Trips – Equestrian Vacations) you’ve likely seen us mention this frequently. Do yourself a favor and buy (yes buy) Global Entry for $100.00 (for a 5 year subscription). It’s worth EVERY penny if you fly.But if you really can’t stomach the $100.00 fee go ahead and spring for TSA pre check at $85.00 for the same 5 year subscription. Why on earth, in today’s airport crowd craziness, would you want to stand for over an hour in a security line when you can just breeze on through and get to your gate (or the lounge)?
Travel Tip: Buying the Global Entry at $100.00 includes (yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as free) TSA Pre Check – so it’s really a BIGIF and is the total bomb for either domestic or international travel.
WE DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF
Travel is by its own nature, stressful. You can hit unexpected traffic en route to the airport, flights can be delayed (and if you have connecting flights, let your Secret deodorant go to work post haste) and staying connected with folks back home can be EXPENSIVE. Our favorite “go to”: WhatsApp It’s FREE and you can send text, photo of video messages to folks back home without incurring all the data charges.
Travel Tip: Also download the app for your airline which tends to give you much faster access to any changes/delays, etc. as well as allowing you to check in easily from anywhere.
So the next time you are planning a trip, even if it’s not a riding trip (gasp! Say it isn’t so!) check out some of the resources listed above – they have saved us Money, Time and allowed us to go on our merry vacation way feeling confident in our plans.