Looking for a quick way to save some cash on your next vacation? Fly solo. We’re not saying you should ditch the family and take off on your own, but it’s often cheaper to fly alone than in a group. Why is that?
The Single Seat Trick
Airlines typically set a certain number of seats aside at different price points, particularly the lower ones. That is one of the reasons you frequently see an “urgent warning” on the cheap tickets: Only three seats left! You might assume that prices go up when they’re gone, but that’s probably not the case. As an example, we had to book a trip for three from DFW to SAN recently. Searching for seats for three got us the following results:
Ouch. Our preferred flight is the 9:25am departure because we need to be in San Diego by noon. Even if we push it just a little, anything lower than $684/person seems out of the question. Only, when we think about the situation, one of us could fly in later and everything will be okay. The tally, according to this: 3x$794 = $2382. Or, if one person takes the next flight, 2×794 + 1x $684 = $2272. We save $110. (Enough for a nice dinner at Bali Hai, by the way!)
Back to the search tool to book a seat for one, but the pricing is way different!
Suddenly, there are many more options at the lower price points throughout the day. Let’s go back to that urgent warning for a second. On the flight we chose, there are “only 5 seats left” at $794. (Oh no!!) But, wait a minute…that doesn’t mean those are the cheapest seats on the plane. There are also two seats left at $684. We didn’t see those because we asked for three seats, and the search tool assumed we all want to be on the same flight. If we book those two, and one of the five available at $794, the total will be $2162 – another $110 cheaper and everyone is on the same flight. If we do the “split flights thing” (notice the second flight is cheaper, also), we come in at $2017 (2x$684 + 1x$649). We’ve saved $365 off of our first estimate! That minor inconvenience is very much worth the savings
You can see even greater differences in First Class where every flight is marked up when searching for three seats; even those flights that don’t appear to have limited seating available. Regardless of cabin choice, or of how many are traveling with you, it’s always worth checking on the cost for just one ticket to see the single least expensive fare. You’re likely to uncover some pricing strategies of your own.
Money Saving Trick #2
You may have noticed another trick to save money: Be flexible.
If you’ve spent any time searching for flights, you’ve noticed a wide range of prices based primarily on what time the plane takes off. Being flexible when it’s time to book your flights can save money – sometimes a lot. Business hours can be pricey since the Road Warriors are traveling at those times and demand is high. We typically like to fly in the middle of the day because often the cheapest flights are between 9am and 3pm. (Okay, really it’s because we hate leaving for the airport before the sun comes up!)
Of course, there is one more lesson here that will save even more money when buying air travel: Book earlier than two weeks out. Shame on us! (For the uninitiated, pricing skyrockets when you’re inside of 14 days.)
What are your tricks for saving on air fares? We’d love to hear them in the comments!