As you can see by now I have many years visiting the United States of America. These days getting good value flights are a challenge. In the mid 90’s airline offers were plentiful and often return fares of £99 were available to the East Coast. Actually the ticket cost of a flight can be only £35 or less but it has been the introduction of taxes by governments and airlines that keep the costs ‘sky high’ excuse the pun.
My starting point has always been finding the best value flight available. That cheap flight might not be all it seems. It is important to check if you are being offered a direct or indirect flight into America. The connection time between flights is the key here because you have to clear Homeland Security and then claim your luggage from the carousel and then go back through security to get back into the departure terminal or even to get the transit between terminals which can take up to 2 and a half hours and your connecting flight will not wait. It is often stressful waiting in line especially as there are probably multiple flights that have arrived at the same time. Even with the introduction of computer terminals that take your photograph and fingerprints the lines build up to be interviewed by Homeland Security.
I have missed a flight at Houston trying to connect to Dallas Fort Worth due to Homeland Security not manning the arrivals hall due to industrial action. There were 43 desks and at best 3 were operational and no matter how hard you pleaded with the staff they weren’t letting anyone move up the line. I would allow three hours minimum especially in Houston, New York JFK, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Tip: All airlines have seasons that directly affect prices so be mindful about this. Peak seasons are usually around Christmas, Easter and Summer Holidays. Shoulder seasons are normally from March (depending on Easter) through to June and from end of August to early October. Low season is from Christmas Day to March and October – Mid November – Thanksgiving.
Tip: Travelling at weekends incur supplements.
If you choose dates that combine seasons they you pay half for each season. School holidays do impact the cost of flights so doing your research and experimenting with different days of the week can be beneficial. I always fly mid week, avoiding Friday, Saturday and Sunday so if you want a weekend away then Thursday through to Monday is perfect.
Tip: If you are using well known online agencies look carefully at the flight duration because the parameters set for flight results are vast and although the cheapest result is returned it can be upwards of 24 hours before you reach your final destination.
Tip: Another thing to look out for is that you are aware of the arrival and departure airports being the same, as sometimes you can be offered Heathrow out and Gatwick back. This is fine unless you have parked your car at one and return to the other. The same can said about departure airports from America differing as well. This is important because of returning a hire car to the correct airport. I have been offered flights arriving into Dallas Fort Worth and leaving from Dallas Love Field which would have caused all sorts of issues with returning the car to the rental company.
Tip: It sometimes can be cheaper to fly further. One flight I booked into Richmond via Boston was cheaper than flying into Boston. The obvious question to ask is so if I pay to go further can I not use my onward ticket. The advice is not to do that because the rest of the ticket will be liable for cancellation.
Tip: When you are using one of the websites that offer savings when you combine flights with accommodation there are sometimes great savings to be made on the flight if you combine only 1 nights accommodation. This is because the airlines has special rates that kick in when added with an ancillary such as a hotel night.
I was researching a trip to Minneapolis/St Paul recently and the flights were coming in around £900 but when I ticked that I wanted 1 nights accommodation the price dropped to about £650 including the accommodation and using the same airline. I suppose unless you are staying with friends or family you are going to need at least 1 nights accommodation.
If you are frequent flyer check your rewards and maybe it is worth cashing in your points/miles with your preferred carrier.
Keep any eye out for airline sales. At the end of summer airlines put sales on for flights into the following year. So plan ahead.
So it worth double checking all your options in the pursuit of value for money.
Long haul low cost carriers are becoming increasingly popular and things to look out for with these are the extras that are added to the often attractively low flight.
Norwegian have the option to purchase a package of a bag 20kg and inflight meals which when added inbound and outbound can make the cost almost the same as one of the full service carriers.
Wow fly via Keflavik in Iceland and don’t offer meals except for purchase because of the flight duration both legs are deemed to be short haul. Also on the return there is limited opportunity for a decent sleep because of the change of aircraft in Keflavik.
I realise that not everyone visits America on a shoestring so not much of the above applies. Of course you may just want to fly in a higher class with flexibility but I think all that happens is you get of the plane a couple of minutes quicker.
Ok so having chosen your in and out city then the research for that Road-trip can begin…..