Planes taxi at Calgary International Airport
Photo © 2009 Aaron Saunders
Picture this: you’ve found a fantastic deal on a cruise.  In fact, it’s a deal that is too good to pass up.  You’ve researched the ship, picked your cabin, and you’re on hold with your travel agent.  Life is good!  Then you look at flights and your jaw falls.  The roundtrip airfare is going to cost more than the cruise itself!  What to do?

Every cruiser has faced this dilemma at some point – how to get to the ship itself – economically.  I myself spent the better part of my weekend scouring the internet in a somewhat futile attempt to find flights to Barcelona during the summer that wouldn’t require me to leave a DNA sample with my bank as collateral. 

What is surprising, though, is that many people don’t know how the airline system works – or the ways that, if you’re willing to be flexible, you can save some major cash.  I didn’t either when I started travelling heavily five years ago – but I do now.

These tips apply mainly to international flights, but they can be used domestically as well.

Tip # 1 – Consider a different departure airport. 

Here in Canada, anyone within driving distance of a US airport knows the benefit of this – flights reduce drastically in price the second you cross the border.  A flight from Vancouver to Tampa might run you $1100 per person, but a flight from Seattle to Tampa can be half that price – or less.

The same applies to major US and International airports around the world: if flights to London Heathrow are expensive, why not consider flying to London Gatwick instead?  At the very least, it will broaden your transportation options.  Likewise for Paris – some great deals can be found into Paris Orly opposed to CDG.

Tip # 2 – Try a different airline.

Everyone has  a favourite airline, and everyone has one they swear they’ll never fly with again.  So pick something in between.  Say you’re flying from Seattle to Heathrow.  British Airways might pop into your mind, or American Airlines.  Did you know, though, that Iceland Air flies direct from Seattle to Reykjavik and then on to Heathrow?  Not only is their pricing ultra-competitive, but they even offer incentives to stop over in Reykjavik for a night – at no additional charge.

Here in Vancouver, we were looking to fly to New York.  Our options were an ultra-expensive direct Air Canada flight, one with a five-hour layover in Toronto, or – to our surprise – a direct flight on Asian airline Cathay Pacific.  If the price wasn’t enough to get excited about, the fact that flights were operated by spacious Boeing 747 and 777 aircraft sold us.  Have a look around – it can pay off handsomely.

Tip #3 – Be willing to connect.  And connect.  And connect.

Fact: direct flights are often the most expensive.  There’s no getting around it.  But, many destinations have at least one connecting flight anyway.  So treat it as an adventure; you get to see a lot of different places, and it might – might – save you time in the end.

The next time you need to book a flight, play with a site like Kayak or Expedia and see how many options are out there – you might be pleasantly surprised.

 

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