Affordable Airfare 101

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Thanks to the never-ending fluctuation of fuel costs, airfare is the biggest hurdle to every trip from the simplest week at the beach to the most adventurous long-term trek. Many travelers don’t think twice about booking an easy and convenient nonstop flight with a major commercial airline, but there are so many other choices for lower-cost travel. You’ll be surprised how just a little extra effort pays off with big savings.

Fly on a budget airline

“Budget airline” isn’t exactly a familiar concept to Americans – it sounds like it belongs in the oxymoronic camp of “jumbo shrimp” or “military intelligence.” But for the price of a few bells and whistles, you can save hundreds of dollars on your plane tickets. If you’re flying from the Boston, Baltimore, or Washington D.C. area to Europe, plan a pit stop in Reykjavik. The Icelandic budget carrier WOW Air offers round-trip airfare between these cities for as little as $300! You can also fly from New York to London for about the same price with Norwegian Air Shuttle. There are dozens of smaller scale airlines you may not heard of, but even a simple search on Kayak.com will uncover these. Don’t fear a multi-stop flight – when you’re on a shoestring budget, connections and layovers are your best friend

Budget airlines are your best friend if you want to save some money

Always arrive in a major city

Sure, you may ultimately want to find yourself in the countryside or a picturesque beach town, away from the bustling crowds of a sprawling metropolis. But flying directly into a smaller town, like Bordeaux, instead of a large city, like Paris, can make your ticket cost creep higher and higher. Large international airports, as in London or Sydney, see more flights come through and that greater volume of options translates into lower ticket costs. Book a flight that will land in a major hub airport and brave the bus or train station to get to your final destination. As an example, depending on your exact travel dates, a direct roundtrip flight from New York’s JFK airport to Munich will likely cost you about $1200. But flying into Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport and taking a train to Munich could cost less than $700. Not only can a little overland travel save you hundreds of dollars, but it’s also a better way to experience a country or even several.

Large international airports are cheaper to fly to

Become a frequent flier

Saving a couple hundred dollars or so is all well and good, but what if you could skip the cost of airfare altogether? Several banks, including Capital One and Chase, offer special credit cards which are affiliated with airlines’ frequent flier programs. With large signup bonuses and frequent flier miles accrued for every dollar you spend, you can quickly work your way towards a free flight. By keeping a careful eye on your spending habits and making sure you can pay off the full balance every month, you can take advantage of these programs without hurting your credit score. A particularly good choice is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard which offers a whopping 40,000 mile signup bonus and two miles earned per dollar spent. Not only will you earn more miles with Barclaycard, you won’t be tied to one airline – you can redeem miles on any travel purchase, from airfare to hotels to luggage.

Saving money on airfare, like other budget travel tactics, does mean giving up a few perks, but being a little less comfortable in transit will ensure you have the funds to fully enjoy your destination – and that’s the important bit.