Smart Flying Tips to Travel on a Budget

Don’t let the cost of flying to a dream destination ground you. To travel on a budget without sacrificing wanderlust, follow these insider tips for flying to save money and preserve peace of mind.

Check Out Airports Within a Comfortable Day’s Drive

When searching for low-fare airline tickets, you may want to look a little further than the closest city’s airport. Low-cost international carriers have begun moving into smaller suburban airports, according to a New York Times report. It might make sense to drive two or more hours if you can get a substantial discount. But remember to factor in long-term parking.

Another plus of smaller airports? They’re usually less congested, so you might get through security and check-in more quickly, making that longer drive a wash.

Save Time and Stress With TSA Pre✓®

Vacations should be stress-free, but all too often the stress starts right at the airport. One of the biggest travel headaches? Waiting in long security lines. The average wait times for the nation’s top 10 airports range from eight minutes for Chicago Midway to 40 minutes for Los Angeles International, reported Travel + Leisure. The longest recorded wait times at airports range from 90 minutes at Washington Dulles to a whopping 232 minutes at John F. Kennedy International.

This is where spending $85 per person for a five-year TSA Pre✓® membership makes sense, even if you aren’t a frequent traveler. According to the latest data, 97 percent of TSA Pre✓® passengers waited less than five minutes in security lines. Another perk: Member passengers don’t need to remove shoes, belts, laptops, light jackets or liquids compliant with the 3-1-1 policy, a plus if you’re traveling with children or those who need extra assistance. And, on the back end of your trip, the time you save going through security could be better spent catching a few extra hours lounging on the beach or sipping champagne in a Parisian bistro.

Add Connecting Flights

Flying nonstop usually comes at a cost, what FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney dubs a “convenience tax.” Choosing a flight with one stopover could save you hundreds of dollars per ticket over a direct flight.

Layovers don’t need to be a slog, though. The savvy traveler knows that with great restaurants, duty-free shopping and other amenities, some airports should factor into any travel on a budget. For example, San Francisco International Airport houses the SFO Museum, which includes more than 20 exhibitions related to art, history, science and culture, as well as the Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum and Library. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport offers travelers relaxation with a meditation center and even an indoor “park,” complete with greenery, birdsong sounds and stationary bicycles for a quick pick-me-up.

Always Compare Fares

Travel booking websites, like Expedia and Travelocity, allow you to compare fares across carriers, adjusting for time of day, day of the week, airport and direct versus indirect flights. Before you book, play around on these sites to find your best offer.

If you find a low fare directly with an airline, provided you book the flight at least seven days before your scheduled departure, some airlines will let you cancel that flight within 24 hours without incurring any financial penalty. For popular flights with few seats left, this buys time to search for lower fares without sacrificing a good deal. Consumerist has a list of domestic and international airlines with 24-hour cancel or hold policies.

Flying puts the world within reach. Seeing the world while saving money is even better.

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