Tips for saving money on airfare for budget travelers

If you have booked airfare recently I am sure you have noticed the ridiculous difference between a basic ticket and one that comes with a seat!  You can get great airfare rates but it comes at the cost of bringing a change of clothes. Those prices can get in the way of this traveling teacher on a budget.  Read more about how to not pay for luggage fees and save money when you travel.

Tips to save on airfare for the budget traveler

The Economy Ticket and Fees

You can still travel and stay within your budget by using frequent flier programs even if you aren’t a frequent flier. Avoid the fees and your luggage can still fly free.

I was trying to book a flight to Atlanta recently.  The price looked good at $129 round trip from Dallas Fort Worth on a major airline.  But, that the price was for an economy flight. But that means no checked bag. This is, unfortunately, the norm now.  Also because it is an economy level ticket that means that you board the plane, like last, meaning that if there was no room in the overhead compartments you would have to check your luggage at the gate, but for a fee.  

Then to add to the low-status fare you aren’t given a seat assignment.  I was traveling alone this time, but if I had a companion, we couldn’t sit together.  If I wanted a higher status ticket, it would jump to $185, but still with no checked bag.  Adding the bag would have cost about $35 for a new grand total $220. Being a budget traveler means all those extra fees are not optional.  So what is a budget traveler to do?

Tips for saving money on airfare

Frequent Fliers Programs Save Money

I have preached before that having a branded airline credit card can come in handy.  Because these are the key to beating those pesky “economy” fares and fees. I have a few branded credit cards, like the American Airlines Citibank and the Delta American Express card, that I initially got for the mileage bonuses.   

Normally, when I am buying airplane tickets or other travel expenses I use another card that gets me more than 2X miles. But, in this situation, these are the cards that come in handy. When you use your branded credit card, you are entitled to the perks of membership that it comes with.  For example, on Delta, being a SkyMiles member you get Zone 1 boarding and a free checked bag. This made a big difference because I could now book that economy priced ticket without being bound by the restrictions. The only issue was the seat assignment, but what I found if that when you check in online using the app I was able to pick a seat.  Both ways I could get a window seat. 

Save on airfare

More Branded Benefits for Luggage

I have had a similar experience on American Airlines, I purchased the economy fair and using my AAdvantage membership and I didn’t pay the upgraded fee.  Using the perks of being an AAdvantage member I got my luggage free and boarded the plane early. I was able to book my seats ahead of time. Not the day I booked but closer to the travel date.

Again, I am not suggesting that you go into debt to make your luggage free, but it may be helpful to have a few airline-branded cards in your arsenal for these occasions.  

These cards do have an annual fee. But I have found there is still savings. If I had bought that ticket to Atlanta for $185 so I could get on the plane with a carry one, it would have cost me $56 more.  But, I know that I am going to fly at least 2 times on this airline. So using that same flight price I would have spent $112 getting the better ticket. So with that logic, paying $95 in an annual fee still saved me a little money.

So, save your luggage fees and use them on your trip instead.  Hey, if you don’t have a branded card, go find one with a great sign on bonus, save some money, get some seats, and maybe a bunch of miles for your next trip!  For more money saving tips check out our best tips for budget travelers.

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