Broke-Ass Financial Coaching: US Air Travel

While being young, broke and beautiful is all well and good, some people’s finances are more jacked than others.  That’s why we’ve invited Betsy Crouch (aka Coach $izzle) to come onboard and dole out some much needed advice.  She is a professional financial coach after all.  If you’ve got a question you’d like answered please email her atcoachsizzle@brokeassstuart.com.  Maybe your question will be the next one answered.

“Hey Coach Sizzle, I am planning a trip to Chicago in September, what are your tips on getting a good deal on a flight?” – FS

Woohoo!  I love travel questions.  After traveling to and through 11 states in the last 112 days, I will finally admit, I do travel a lot.  I always look for good deals, here are a few of my recent ones, all are one way on Southwest Airlines and do include all taxes and fees.

Detroit -> Baltimore: $82.60

NY (LGA) -> SFO: $103.40

San Diego -> PHX: $59.70

Clearly I prefer Southwest Airlines, because of the cities I travel to as well as the fact that I have to check a bag.  Also, the magic of this is all Southwest not me.  I just travel a lot and am super flexible.  You may not have a Southwest hub near you or you do not need to check a bag.  You may have really specific dates that you need to travel on.  There is a lot of information online about finding great deals, so don’t be bashful, look around!  Since you asked me though, I’ll reiterate some of the conventional wisdom with a little sizzle twist.

1.  Don’t check a bag: If you can avoid it, don’t check a bag.  If you have to check a bag consider spending a “tad” bit more on a ticket to fly Southwest if you have to.  Remember on a round trip flight if you are checking 2 bags, on Continental that would cost you $100 more.  Check this awesome list of Airline Baggage Fees Chart.

2.  Common conventional tips: Plan in advance (3 weeks plus), don’t travel on Saturday (not always true), travel during the week, stay over on a Saturday, and check fares from nearby airports.

Here's another tip, don't let these guys be your pilots.

3.  Try multiple airlines and one way tickets: Some sites will give you multiple airlines in the search like www.kayak.com, which is a great site to search flights.  Remember to search Southwest Airlines site separately as their flights do not show up in aggregated search results.  I will look up rates for a round trip fare, and then I will search for the cheapest one way tickets for each leg separately.  One way tickets are weird and sometimes they are ridiculously expensive, but not always, don’t count them out.

4.  Look into special “regional travel” sites: I know you live in Hawaii, so check out Airtech, for other “regional travel” pages, visit Michael Bluejay’s Cheap Airfares page.

5.  Set up automatic email alerts for your locations and dates: I love using Farecast.  Enter in an itinerary and then schedule an email to let you know each day what the price of that itinerary is and the liklihood that it will go up or down based on previous years fare information.  There was once a ticket I was watching that was $400, and one day it dropped to something like $230, I bought it, and the next day it was back up over $400.

6.  Check multi-city itineraries: I was flying to Northern Michigan from SFO, the rates were $700 and higher, yes my parents live near the 2nd most expensive US airport, I hate to brag and everything.  Should I go home or should I go to New Zealand?  Well New Zealand is sometimes cheaper.  I love my parents though.  This year, the fare to get up there was $707 from SFO to Traverse City, Michigan.  Then I looked into going SFO to Kauai to Detroit, where I could get a ride from my sister up to Northern Michigan.  The fare for that flight was $683?!  Seriously?  The way I look at is that I saved money on flights by going to Kauai.  Consider it next time.  I know it isn’t a tough sell.

Is this helpful?

Please share your travel tips, deal sites, twitter deal things to follow.  I know there are many many tips out there.

coachsizzle@brokeassstuart.com

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About the author

Betsy Crouch - Coach $izzle

Betsy hates to brag, but she grew up in Michigan. An unhappy materialist/rabid consumer turned minimalist, Betsy feels right at home in the warm socially responsible arms of San Francisco. With an Economics degree, a basic financial certification, and a range of personal experience, she has developed a unique financial coaching philosophy. She wants you to feel a sense of serenity with your finances and she shares what she has learned from coaching almost 200 people one on one. Betsy wants you to embrace your "sizzle," and for you to become a more confident and empowered Broke Ass.