Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by PSECU, a Pennsylvania-based credit union.
Airfare often makes up the most expensive part of any trip. Indeed, the costs of flying can stack up quickly, especially for those traveling with kids in tow. Some large families might dismiss flying completely, believing it’s just not financially possible.
Airlines have gotten shockingly good at charging high rates for the bare minimum of services, leading many consumers to look for other travel options. However, some trips require flying. Paying for a flight might have benefits over enduring an extended family road trip, for example.
Luckily, families can enjoy trips together without going broke over plane tickets. Here are five ways you can save money on your family’s next flight.
1. Buy Tickets in Advance
Ticket prices vary depending on season and flight dates. In order to get the best deal possible, people should book tickets early. Prices for flights in the continental United States usually reach their lowest around 70 days in advance, though prime booking time may come earlier or later depending on the season and the holidays around that time.
In addition to buying tickets in advance, families might consider flying on days that have the cheapest ticket prices. Flights in the middle of the week usually cost less than ones on busy travel days like Friday and Sunday.
To take advantage of early booking, start keeping an eye on potential flights as soon as you know your approximate travel plans. Sign up for price drop alerts and check options from a variety of carriers and websites. If you receive a notification about a great sale, you can jump on the opportunity and adjust plans accordingly.
2. Choose a Connecting Flight
Though no-stop flights can tempt families with kids, the work of navigating an extra airport could pay off. In fact, choosing a connecting flight could help families save as much as 50 percent on airfare.
To find the best deals, travelers should seek connecting flights when heading to or from their destinations. You can catch your connecting flight more easily by leaving an hour or more between flights and studying a map of the airport ahead of time. Remember to bring snacks with you to avoid paying for expensive meals at the airport.
3. Compare Prices Carefully
Comparing the prices of different flight options can be confusing and unproductive because airlines may not communicate fees and exclusions transparently. Even the language they use to describe seating choices — think basic economy, standard economy and enhanced economy, which are all different, by the way — make choosing a ticket with the best value challenging.
When choosing tickets, consumers need to make sure they know what they are and aren’t getting for their money. For example, while basic economy seats might cost less, they might not allow seat selection at booking, which could create problems for parents who want to sit next to their children.
Many airlines provide services like early boarding or checked bags only for a fee. When you compare ticket prices, make sure you’re comparing the full costs of flying, fees included, and not just the basic fares.
4. Pack Light When Possible
Though some airlines do offer complimentary checked luggage, many charges a fee for every bag checked. For families with kids, a checked bag for every person could add up to hundreds of dollars depending on the flight.
The Department of Transportation requires airlines to display information about their baggage fees on their websites or through links alongside specific quotes. Make sure you understand the fees for checked and carry-on bags before you buy.
If you do need to pay for checked bags, limit fees by taking as few as possible. Parents can have kids share a suitcase and consolidate their own belongings into a shared bag, for instance. As long as bags come in under the weight limit, this strategy can help families save decent money on luggage fees.
5. Ask for Child Discounts on International Flights
On domestic U.S. flights, parents generally won’t find discounts for children over age 2. However, discounts for kids are much more common on international flights.
Foreign carriers usually offer discounted fares for kids under 12. In order to compete, some U.S. carriers now offer child discounts on international flights as well. Savings on kids’ tickets could be 25 percent or more, which could equal significant savings for larger families flying internationally.
Airlines may not advertise children’s fares to the public even if they have them. To get the best price for all family members, ask about discounted rates for children before buying tickets.
Save Money on Flights for Your Family
Though flights can be expensive, you can find good deals by understanding how airlines charge travelers and using creative workarounds. When you save money on airfare, you and your family can enjoy the trip and still have money to spare once you reach your destination.