Affording It: Finding Great Deals on Airline Travel
For most families, this is where the rubber literally meets the road, or at least the runway. Airline tickets for two can be pricey, for a family they can be overwhelming. Here’s how to make your dream holiday a reality.
1. Plan Ahead. Gone are the days when planning ahead automatically saved you money. But if you know where you want to go, start looking online for deals. Set up travel alerts to automatically notify you when fares change.
2. Check the Fares. These alerts aren’t fool-proof however and sometimes good deals can slip by. Home from skiing with a hurt knee, I randomly got online and found a one-day sale for travel to Frankfurt, Germany. The fares were only available online and not from the airline. The upshot: Check daily, or almost daily, in the months before you want to go. See a good fare and then act.
3. Stockpile Airmiles. This is how we are traveling this summer. We have an airline credit card and we save our miles. When we’ve got enough, we book almost a year in advance. Airlines are funny about how soon you can book. It is usually about 330 days before travel. Reward seats go fast. Again, plan ahead.
Infants. Never mind that the airlines allow lap children up to 2 years of age. Drop the cash (or miles) and buy a seat for your baby. Not only does this allow you an empty seat where you can deposit baby gear when your sweetie is on your lap, but it also provides you with a bit more privacy for nursing, and somewhere to secure your napping angel so that you can get some rest.
One Caveat. Check with your airline regarding any specific requirements they may have for approved car seats. Without a care, we once boarded a British Airways, only to find out that our car seat was approved for the U.S. and not Great Britain. Finally a flight attendant eager to get us all seated, helped sort out the mess.
Other Tips for Tiny Travelers: Snacks (if appropriate), picture books for you to share, and simple toys make the time go faster. You can bring milk, formula or juice on-board if you follow TSA regulations. Relish in this time with your child. How often, at home, do you get 6-10 hours (or more!) of virtually uninterrupted time together?
Toddlers. Much of the infant advice goes for the toddlers as well. Make sure the car seat is acceptable to the airline. Bring snacks galore, but just a few books and toys. Make it easy on yourself by limiting what you have to pack and unpack on board the plane. Avoid balls and round toys. These will fall onto the floor and you’ll never see them again.
Pre-School Age Children and Above. Once your child is about four years of age, travel logistics get so much easier. If you’re going to be driving at your destination, you can check the car seat and not carry it on. The kids can carry their own snacks and diversions in a backpack and if you’ve got roll-on luggage, they can pull their own suitcases. Sherpa-parents no more! By the time your kids are in elementary school, they’ll be mostly independent. Help them pack at home and then point them in the right direction. They’ll find the gate before you do.
Two Words About Luggage: Carry On
It is hard with infants and toddlers (who need a lot of gear), but if you can, try not to check your bags. Not only will this save you money, but it may save your vacation. We had an experience where our first flight of the day was cancelled meaning we’d miss our connection. We were told we’d have to wait 24 hours for the next flight to our destination. Then we mentioned that we were carry-on only. Because we didn’t have checked bags, we were rebooked onto a different airline, connecting through different cities. We made it on time and didn’t have to miss a day of fun.
As for having enough clothes, you can always do laundry. I’ve sent our laundry out in Asia, visited laundrettes in France, and everything else in between. The clothes get clean, and you barely have to bring much at all. Just try to avoid hotel laundry — too pricey.
Next Month: Tips For Success
© 2011, braveskimom. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.