To my faithful blog followers – we’ve got a big trip coming up next month. The family is heading to Italy.
I wrote a post a while ago about researching flights before buying them, and I just want to reiterate the importance of this. When we’ve gone abroad I have now gotten in the habit of booking airline tickets first before I start making hotel and train plans.
I first approached my husband about going to Italy in September when I saw a cheap fare on US Airways out of Philadelphia. By the time I convinced my husband to agree to Italy, that fare was gone. He also said he would prefer if we flew in an upgraded economy ticket (one with extra leg room). I knew I spoiled him in August when we were in the exit row going to and from the United Kingdom.
Well, I really wanted to go Italy, but I also didn’t want to spend an arm-and-a-leg on airline tickets. In my head I had a set budget per ticket I was willing to pay. I thought now that I needed the upgraded economy tickets that there was no way I’d find a good fare that I was willing to pay.
After a couple of hours of research – I found our magic fare. We are flying Delta, connecting in JFK and arriving in Milan. Milan was the magic location in Italy that was at least $400 cheaper per ticket than Rome. If we took a train up to JFK we could have saved an additional $150 per person…but getting to JFK via Amtrak is slightly trickier than getting to Newark on Amtrak…so this time I opted to fly out of the DC area. The downside of this means we now need to get from and to Milan to other places in Italy. But the positives outweigh the negatives. I love train travel (especially in Europe). And I was initially disappointed with our originally anticipated itinerary because I did not think I would get to see the Last Supper Painting, but now we will be in Milan with enough time to see the painting (blog post to follow soon on that booking) and possibly their Cathedral.
Anyway, back to booking airfare early. Another advantage of booking early – the seats that we have booked are the “green seats” on seat guru. I do believe that the longer you wait to book tickets, the fewer “great” seats you can choose from.
Finally, there’s also the benefit that the earlier you book, the more likely your airline schedule will be affected. This could be a negative, but has more potential to be a positive. We’ve had our schedule affected three or four times now. Twice I’ve had to call and request different flights, but those flight changes haven’t cost me a thing because the schedule changed affecting our itinerary. When we went out west to Arizona and New Mexico a few years ago I had been dreading our eight AM flight with a three year old and five year old, but then there was a schedule change and I was able to switch to a ten AM flight instead – at no additional cost. When I had initially booked our tickets the fare for that flight was too costly to book.
When I know I want to travel somewhere I don’t start looking at air fare costs when I’m ready to book that ticket. I start looking months and even years in advance. Other destinations I will periodically query are Alaska, China, New Zealand, and Australia. I still think it will be a while before we get to those places, but I like to keep an eye on air fare trends. That way when I see a great fare, I know it is a great fare and feel good about my decision to pay that price.
So – stay tuned for additional blog posts about our upcoming trip. I’ve also listed our expected expenses in an Excel sheet and after adding everything up – our costs for airfare, lodging, and transportation for four people are LESS than the cost for ONE person to participate in a tour such as National Geographic Family Expeditions. Those tour prices don’t even include air fare, where as my calculations do.