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Right before COVID-19 resulted in travel restrictions and cancelled flights, I flew back on Dec.24 from my solo travel to the Czech Republic. The crowds were much bigger than I previously found going abroad on Christmas Day. However, since I was holding two adjacent economy seats, I had visions of stretching out on both. Unfortunately, when my planned travel mate was still recovering from an accident and unable to go abroad, the airline cancelled the second ticket. As a result, I was stuffed in tighter than any sardine could tolerate for about 10 hours. Halfway over the Atlantic, I discovered that business class upgrades had been available for $400. While I have found economy class a better fit for my budget, I would have jumped at the chance if an upgrade had been offered. I can honestly say this was the very worst flight of my life second only to the two emergency landings I had on large scheduled commercial flights.
As the welcome news that a coronavirus vaccine would soon be available, the predicted surge of pent-up demand is likely to start immediately. As demand explodes, the cheapest flight deals are unlikely to continue to be available.
It can take a few hours work but worth it. Last night, checking online I saw a $1,300-$1,500 savings on my proposed 5-6 country European fall 2021. After comparing trains, intra-European flights and ferries, I took the risk of waiting until morning to book and pay. This is not generally a good idea if you find the right flight at the right price.
Finding the best flights now:
Tip One: Start by going online and comparing 5-6 largest sites, such as Priceline, Expedia, Kayak, Google Flights, Orbitz and Travelocity.
Tip Two: If you are looking for consolidators or others offering discounted business class tickets, do a detailed background of the company. Be sure that there are no issues which will cause the ticket to be adjusted.
Tip Three: Always see how much money you can save from bundling hotels or rental cars with airfare to save $300-$400.
Tip Four: Get travel insurance to cover missed or cancelled flights.
Tip Five: Alternatively forego insurance and get a fully refundable ticket if no or low fees. Read the terms and conditions carefully to see if refunds are given only as credits not cash refunds. (Typically credits are only good for one year.)
Tip Six: Choose an air carrier, if possible, that has domestic and/or international routes that match your bucket list. That way if you end up with a credit, you can find a better way to use it.
Tip Seven: Don’t try to be a “market timer” as they say in the stock market. I made this mistake in booking a flight to SE Asia one Christmas through New Year’s. Since there were advocates of booking on Tues. or Wed. supposedly to get the lowest prices. After finding a perfect schedule and really good price on Tues., I couldn’t resist waiting to see what even better deals would be published on Wed. The result? My flight was quickly filling up and was now priced at $500 more for economy class! The moral to the story, grab the best deal you see while it is still available.
Tip 8: In any case, the day of the week you travel can impact price. For example, in some jurisdictions, leisure travel can increase weekend demand. In contrast, a financial centers, like NY, may offer deals off-peak hours.
Tip 9: Timing transfers: A trick question: When is a 22 hour international layover be better than a 45 minute connection? While airlines are allowed to sell connecting flights 45 minutes apart, I have almost missed flights abroad with such a short time. The problem is that even if passengers are in transit, time for passport control can be unpredictable if there are long lines. A second problem is that even when transferring within the same airlines, domestic and international flights may depart at opposite ends of long terminals. Whenever I have a really long layover, I check-in to an airport motel and if possible, take a day tour or half-day city tour.
Tip 10: If you are booking intra-European flights, plan up to 3 hours ahead of departure to check in. In addition, international airports around the world seem to always be at least 45 minutes from the city center. That means that a 7 AM flight can mean getting up at 2 AM!
Tip 11: When booking overline directly with foreign carriers abroad, keep an eye on your emails/texts to see if your credit card company is sending you a fraud alert to confirm that you have not been hacked. If this happens and you are about to time-out on your booking, you may have to start over.
Tip 12: If you do find yourself stuck with an overbooked flight, see if you have enough miles to upgrade or if the cost fits your budget.
Act today so you won’t miss out for 2021’s best deals.