Yes, you could say I've done a bit of traveling. Compare me to a business traveler and I come up sorely lacking in frequent flyer miles, but compare me to most, and I'm a gate-hanging diva. I know my American Airlines frequent flyer number by heart. God has given me some very unique opportunites, and I've learned that when He gives you an opportunity, you should take it, because God doesn't do boring. On the contrary, it's more like wild monkey fun. And I do mean wild monkeys.
I've been asked, quite often now, how I get the best airfare for our many splendid adventures, so I thought it might be of some interest to you to take you through the wild and wooly adventure of purchasing airfare to our greatest pond hop to date- our trip to Perth, Australia. In 2009, which was actually the beginning of our family journeyfortheglory, the three of us said goodbye to family, friends, toys, wedding china, furniture, and seperate bedrooms. We set out for six months of training with Youth With A Miss--n at the Perth base in Western Australia. So the end of 2008 brought a season of education for me- on how to wrangle every last discount out of an airline, because hey, they're wrangling every last dime out of me, right?
My evening looked like this: get Rooster and Cricket some sustenance vaguely resembling dinner, attempt a load of laundry, watch an episode of something on Nickelodeon with the kiddokis, give said kiddokis a tub-dunking and hope they don't stink by morning, get them into bed, and spend the next two hours online squeezing every last drop of information from the internet about airfare.
What a life.
I did learn a trick or two. One is that complete trust in God always bears fruit, even if you can't see it at the time. Two is that banging your head and suppressing naugty words does absolutely no good (don't bang your head on anything, and go ahead and say the naugty words. Quietly. Where no one can hear you). And three? When all else fails, if you happen to have a brother with an attitude and a penchant for getting through to people on telephones when no one else can, go ahead and let him call the airlines- I dare ya!
Down to business- How do I recommend finding the cheapest airfares? Sigh. There is no method that seems to work best every time. Any time that you want to find a deal on anything, block off a good deal of time to spend researching the internet first, and have realistic expectations. A $500 roundtrip flight from Jacksonville to Perth does not exist, believe me.
First, know your fares. As soon as you have a destination in mind, go to every travel website you can find and search the available fares. Many of them will now compare several sites for you, which can cut down on a little of the legwork- use them. Start noticing which airlines offer the lowest rates. Write them down. While you're at it, take a look at alternate airports. Driving a few hours away to an airport with different flight availability can save hundreds of dollars. Case in point: the last time I checked airfare to Port Au Prince, a flight from Jacksonville cost over $700, but a flight from Orlando (2.5 hours south of Jacksonville) was less than $350. Even with the cost of gas and parking, you can come out ahead. Don't get too carried away with this. On this same trip, flying out of Miami cost about $300, but it meant a total of around 8 hours each way in the car. Saving an extra $50? Not really worth it.
So once you know which airlines look the best, go straight to that particular airline's website and look up their published fares. With only one exception, I have absolutely always found the best prices directly from the airlines themselves, not on the travel websites. This is only not true when you need to book a hotel and a rental car too. Typically when you book all three, you pay the regular price for your airline ticket, and next to nothing for the hotel and rental car. So these sites can be worthwhile, but not typically for the work we do.
Next, backtrack your route. I went online and searched for all of the airlines that flew out of the airport in Perth. It turned out that there was a no-frills budget airline called Tiger Air that flew from Perth to Singapore at dirt cheap prices. So in the end, I booked our flights from Jacksonville to Singapore on American Airlines. Singapore just happened to be about as far away as they flew at a reasonable price. It seems that taking a code sharing flight with another airline makes prices rise significantly. Then I booked a flight to Perth from Singapore on Tiger Air.
The savings? Over $1000. That was worthwhile. And our family got a 16 hour layover in Singapore- one of my favorite places on earth! Think of it as an Asian Orlando, except way cheaper. We checked our luggage at the airport and hit the town for a day of shopping and fantastic food, complete with a nap and a shower at a really cute local hotel. Hey, when you're flying for three days with two kids, a shower and a bed is gold, pure gold. The price of a day's worth of food, souvenirs, and the hotel? Less than $100 for the three of us. Between the educational aspects of visiting another foreign city and the chance to relax, the stopover in Singapore would have been worth it without the airfare savings.
I think I have the "Extreme Airline Travel" covered for today. What about you? I'm always looking for the latest tips. Got some for me? What are your favorite lessons about traveling?
Photo courtesy of Christian Großekathöfer.