I have spent hours this week trying to get really cheap flights to Central Europe in the fall. The 5 tips below are what I have found personally. I tried both the official sites for several airlines as well as Expedia, Priceline and Cheapo Air. This is what I discovered.
1. The lowest price is not always the best deal. Although the fall shoulder season is somewhat less than summer, the really cheap rates are in the dead of winter. In addition, when you surf the net and see unbelievable rates take a look at how many hours your journey will take at that rate. I found my 11 hour flight could take 23 hours! So it isn’t just a matter of how many stops there are and where they are but what the delays are between the connection. One way this can work I discovered in SE Asia one Dec. I took a non-stop flight from Washington to Beijing. I then flew on to Bangkok where I had booked a fabulous 4-star Novotel at the airport. The next day, as planned, I started out again flying to Cambodia and catching a boat on to Vietnam. The bottom line? If you are faced with a huge delay to save the price is there a way to go sightseeing during the wait or catch up on your sleep without spending a fortune?
2. Carry-on allowances vary widely from one airline to another. I was limited to about 11 pounds flying to Asia for almost 3 weeks’ stay. However, for my fall European trip, the more liberal allowance was 25 pounds! Be careful though to check the measurements allowed for your flight/type of aircraft. The key is the definition of what fits “below the seat”. Even with large jets, the structure of the seats and the placement of entertainment systems can block many types of bags.
3. Airlines are allowed to sell flights with just 45 minutes to connect. You should really avoid that. Even if you are a sprinter, that may not be enough. Why? Even if you are not required to have a visa and are in transit, it can take too much time to get through immigration. Worse yet, I was surprised to see that my connections on the same carriers have often been in different (and distant) terminals.
4. Once you have booked, even on a large jet for a flight abroad, you may not be able to pick your seat. Plan to check at least once a week to avoid getting stuck in the middle seat all the way to Delhi.
5. Avoid “deals” that start with a small connecting flight within the US as the first step in an overseas flight. Speaking from experience, I have found out the hard way that smaller regional jets may be delayed or grounded in high winds or inclement weather. In the interim, larger planes may take off for foreign destinations leaving you at home!
Be aware that the “Real ID” requirement in the US goes into effect later in 2020. In order to board a flight in the US, you must have updated documents that meet the new more stringent requirements. A passport may help if you have a domestic flight and miss the deadline. Click this link for more information.