Air Travel Tricks I’ve Recently Learned

Derek Transportation, Travel Tips & Advice 99 Comments

As travelers trying to stretch every dollar we have, it only becomes natural that we should try and find the absolute cheapest airfare we possibly can when it comes time for us to fly somewhere. As a result, I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves at some point staring at the computer screen after an hour of flight research, trying to decide whether or not to fly to Cairo on British Airways or to save $150 bucks and fly with Bob’s Flying Bathtubs instead.

And the fact that saving $150 happens to require us to fly to four different continents, spend two nights on airport floors and finally arrive in Cairo at a most inconvenient 2:30am, doesn’t seem to matter. Saving that money is much more important.

Let me share two examples of my ‘low cost’ flying experiences…

Example 1:

When I needed to travel from Bangkok to Dhaka, Bangladesh, no other airline could beat the $90 fare being offered by Bhiman Bangladesh, the country’s official airline. However, as soon as I arrived at Bangkok’s airport, the fun began. Not only was the flight ultimately delayed 11 hours, but when we finally did board the plane, all of the passengers were told to go directly to the rear of the aircraft because of a technical issue that affected the balance. People honestly sat on the floor, stood against walls and even let their children run up and down the aisles…during takeoff! Throw in windows that were duct-taped together, an unscheduled stop in Yangon, Myanmar and an eventual arrival time of 2:00am (which is what led to my kidnapping as soon as I stepped out of Dhaka’s airport) and I’m not quite sure this experience was worth the $50 I saved.

Example 2:

After spending a week looking for flights from NYC to Melbourne, Australia, I couldn’t find a single one-way fare for under $1000 USD. And so, I eventually decided to book a ticket with Qantas that involved only one stop along the way. However, before I hit the “Confirm Reservation” button, I did one last search on Kayak.com, where I suddenly found a flight on Malaysia Airlines for only $850. Without hesitation I booked it! Only after I received the confirmation email did I discover what this flight actually involved. I ended up with a 9 hour flight to Abu Dhabi, a 3 hour layover, a 6.5 hour flight to Bangkok, a 5 hour layover, a 1.5 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur, a 27 hour layover (the airline did provide a free hotel room, although it was 1 hour outside of the city), an 8 hour flight to Sydney, a 4 hour layover and a 2 hour flight to Melbourne. I arrived at my final destination some 66 hours after I had left NYC!

So, is saving money on flights worth all of that?

MY THOUGHTS

Saving money on flights is just groovy, especially considering the long, long list of other things that we’d rather spend that money on once we actually arrive at our destination (street food, I’m thinking about you). As a result, it’s no wonder that airlines such as AirAsia, AirArabia, Jetstar and EasyJet are quite often the airlines of choice for budget travelers.

However, I’ve now learned that what appears to be attractively low airfares offered by these budget airlines are often not really that much of a bargain. Once you add up all of the fees, I found that it’s not uncommon for the prices offered by budget airlines to be just a few dollars less than what a major airline is offering.

A good example of this is in Thailand. You can fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai on AirAsia for around $40 USD, but once the fees and taxes are all added in, that fare jumps to around $65 USD. And a flight on Thai Airways or, even better, Bangkok Airways (which provides an airport lounge with free wi-fi, quite decent food, drinks and comfortable seating for ALL of its passengers) can often be found for around the same price.

Therefore, it always pays to check the fares available on other airlines before booking any flight with an ultra-budget airline. If the price difference is minimal, I’ll go with the major airline every time, not only because the service is generally better and the entire process simpler but because I’m able to earn frequent flyer miles with the frequent flyer programs of which I am a member.

Of course, I’m not denying that sometimes budget airlines are the way to go. When I recently flew from Bali to Singapore, AirAsia offered a fare that was $150 less than every other airline. It was a no-brainer, especially since it was only a 2 hour flight. I’m a fan of budget airlines in these instances, but unless I can save a great deal of money, I usually opt for other airlines.

COMFORT MAXIMIZATION STRATEGIES

Whichever way you go, here are a couple of tricks I’ve learned that have helped maximize my comfort during a flight without paying a premium for it, no matter which airline I happen to be flying.

First, I never pay for extra options, especially those pertaining to seating assignments. I won’t pay to choose my seat, I won’t pay to board before other people and I won’t pay for the right to push elderly passengers out of the way if they’re headed for a seat I have my eye on.

What I do instead is take a quick glance at the online seating map before confirming my reservation. It is this simple map that holds the key to my comfort.

Airline Seating Map

If the seating map is full, with almost no regular (fee-free) coach seats to choose from, I celebrate. And then I show up at the airport check-in counter as late as possible. Knowing that it’s a full flight, there’s a high chance that all of the regular economy seats will have been assigned to other passengers by this point, leaving the airline with no choice but to give me a premium economy seat instead. And since I didn’t ‘choose’ this seat myself, I am not forced to pay the extra fee for all of that extra legroom.

On the other hand, if the seating map is almost empty when I make my booking, allowing me to choose almost any seat I want, I also celebrate (but I still don’t choose a seat). And then I show up at the airport and kindly ask the agent if I can please have a row all to myself knowing that there is plenty of space available.

Of course, I generally book my flights within one or two weeks of flying, which is also what makes these methods effective. If you book a flight months in advance, you’ll need to log-in to your reservation and have a glance at the seat map a few days before your departure date in order to determine the seating situation. And then you’ll be able to use the above tactics.

ONE SEAT LEFT, TWO PEOPLE TRAVELING

Speaking of tactics…

Last year, when I needed to fly from NYC to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, it was JetBlue Airlines that offered the best fare (as they often do). However, there was one minor problem.

There were two of us traveling together but every time I entered “2 Passengers” into the flight search engine, the low $89 fare didn’t appear and instead, I was given a fare of $229 per person. Every time I entered “1 Passenger”, the $89 fare appeared on the screen but with a notation that there was only 1 seat left at this price.

1 Seat Left

So, I decided to do a little experiment. Using two separate computers, Liz and I each booked the ‘last remaining seat’ at the $89 fare, being sure to press the “Confirm Reservation” buttons at the exact same time on each of our computers. And sure enough, we both ended up paying $89.

I’ve now used this trick a couple of more times, once while booking tickets on Virgin Blue in Australia, once with Jetstar Airlines and most recently with Continental. And each time, that ‘1 remaining seat’ magically became 2 seats!

As a result, I’ve saved over $500, money which I was then able to spend on street food instead 🙂


Do you have any other air travel advice or tricks to share? Please do share!

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Comments 99

  1. Tanisha

    Hey,
    I am trying to travel from Vancouver to either Gold Coast or Brisbane.
    Thank you for the tips!
    I was wondering if you knew who might be decent to go through?
    Also how late do you arrive in check in to get better seats?

    Thank you,

    Tanisha

  2. Robert

    Quick question about the seating trick. How exactly do you book your flight without picking a “class” to sit in? Or do you go to the airport the day of the flight say an hour before and buy the ticket there and then? Every airline that I’ve booked with asks you which “class” you are booking with.

        1. Wandering Earl

          Hey Robert – I’m not sure what you mean. If you book a ticket, it is booked for a certain ‘class’ but that doesn’t mean that you have been assigned a specific seat.

        2. Kim

          I think he was saying, if you are last on the plane, they have to give you whatever is left. So book economy and after they make all the other economy passengers sit in economy until it’s full, then whoopsie, all that is left for me is this an upgrade.

          It sounds like something that works if the flight is full but not too full (though sometimes I don’t mind a bump if it means an extra night in the city)!

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  4. Nicole Lemenchick

    Hey, I was wondering if you’ve heard of online websites tracking your visits via cookies and the more times you visit looking for flights, the prices change. I have been told to clear your browsing history regularly when looking to book a flight because it will bring the prices down. I’m not sure if this works or not, but when looking for flights I have noticed price increases when I revisited a site hours later.

  5. Mark

    I know this is an old post, but extremely valuable. Great advice on the ‘1 seat left at this price!’ situation which drives me nuts. Ran into the same issue with American, TPA to SXM, and I was tempted to try the trick but was afraid I’d be stuck paying a higher fee for the second ticket and I am too stubborn to give into the pricing schemes. So I checked the seat map and the plane had 10+ economy seats available. Searched google to see if there was a work-around and found that you had success–thanks for posting!! Worked for me as well. A good $350 total savings. And I won’t be choosing my seats, either 🙂

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  7. Will

    Great tips Earl. Sounds like you are “travel hacking” and learning the ins and outs of the airline business.

    What do you use for your frequent flier miles? Is there a credit card or airline you find most useful for travel?

    1. Earl

      Hey Will – I use a couple of credit cards, but mostly I use a “Rewards” card these days and not an airline credit card. I’ve found this to be the most useful for me. I use the Capital One Rewards Card, but I do have a United Airlines Credit Card too.

  8. Bethaney Davies

    Hi Earl,

    That trick about booking the “1 seat remaining” is excellent. Will definitely try that out. Especially when travelling with a family, any extra savings per ticket really add up.

    I got caught out on Air Asia this week. I booked a promo fare from Kota Bharu to Kuala Lumpur which was cheap – only US$16 per adult. I booked the two adult fares and an infant fare. Air Asia have a standard charge for carrying infants which was slightly MORE than the price of the adult fare. I should have booked a child seat for the baby. As it stands now, we paid more for two seats and to hold the baby on our lap than it would have cost for three seats. SO ANNOYING! I didn’t think about it properly until after I’d hit the button and paid for it.

    FYI Air Asia now displays prices for fares as “All In” meaning when they quote a fare it includes the taxes and fees. This makes a big difference when comparing fares. You don’t have to click through to the next screen to see what the actual price will be. It still doesn’t include optional extras like baggage, meals etc but that’s fair enough. Now if only we could get them to ditch their pesky credit card fee!

    Bethaney

    1. Earl

      Thank you for sharing that information Bethany! And that is crazy about the infant fares on Air Asia. I guess when we try to make the most of the system, we’re bound to get caught out every now and then 🙂

  9. Brigid

    Great post! I was wondering about the whole ‘one seat left – two people traveling’ scenario. We’ve been searching for one way flights from Melbourne to LA (via Hawaii) and whenever we check out prices on Hawaiian Airline’s website it is always more expensive when searching on two passengers rather than just one. Glad that I’m now in the know! Cheers!

  10. Evan

    I’ve sent you two emails and already saved about 480 bucks on taxi fare, hotel costs and bank planning, and this is before I even bought the plane ticket…thanks a lot once again, my friend. And uh, since I am here, opinions on most cost efficient airline to Kolkata late May? You think a Malaria doxycycline travellers course for two months on should suffice for the long term, and for how long? Typhoid vaccination I will partake in, and also the Hep A/B vaccinations, but I think I will roll the dice on the Hep E vaccination, unless you have some stories persuading me otherwise. I am thinking about all involved with the trip, various situation, and my newly found “portable gym” that can fit in to my backpack, along with all the other recommendations you made to me, I am more often lately considering an inexpensive storage facility for two large bags in Kolkata, two changes of clothes, the “gym” apparatus, toiletries, minimal supplements and a long wherever the hell things lead kind of trip. We’ll see…….Pretty cool that Earl guy. lol

    1. Earl

      Hey Evan – It’s been my pleasure to offer whatever advice I can! As for an airline, you never know who has the cheapest fare but often times you can find great deals with Jet Airways. But make sure you look into flying to Delhi as well because it is quite easy to get a cheap flight from Delhi to Kolkata on one of India’s budget airlines such as Kingfisher or Air India Express. With the vaccines, I’ve never taken malaria pills so I’m not too sure what would be a good course of action and I didn’t get Hep E either. I always tell people to get the vaccinations that they feel comfortable with. If you don’t feel one is necessary, then skip it. If you want to get a vaccination for every potential illness, then that’s what you should do. Either way, chances are you won’t run into any problems!

  11. A Jibilian

    I have had a lot of luck keeping the price down by buying tickets for my family on the “code sharing partner airlines”. Ex: if Delta says there is only one ticket left at $200 then i go to Klm and often they will have several more tickets available at that price. It just means splitting up the booking but you all check in together.

    1. Earl

      Haha…well, I’m not proud of beating you on this one! And I’m sure you’ll have some opportunities to retake the lead soon enough 🙂

  12. katarina

    I never go for the budget airlines, I am no cheapie. At the end you end up paying almost the same price or even more – these tactics of theirs are geared at people who dont use their brains. Travel does not have to be the cheapest possible, it just needs to be good and rewarding. And being angry already when stepping onboard is not worth it. So – nothing for me, sorry.

    1. Earl

      Hey Katarina – While sometimes that’s true, there are definitely cases where you can find excellent budget flights for much cheaper fares. As an example, last month I flew from Bucharest to Istanbul and used Pegasus Airlines, paying $60 USD for the flight. They had no extra fees whatsoever and it was a great experience. The other flight options I had was $110 with Tarom and $190 with Turkish Airlines. So, sometimes, it does work out quite well, as in many parts of the world, there actually aren’t any extra fees with the budget carriers.

      1. Federico

        Amen. I find this particularly true when flying to SEA from Europe- nothing beats the Air Asia flights from Londont to KL for just over 200USD. Sure, food is an extra 7usd and the personal TV is another 7…so what? This is my fav airline in the world!

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  17. Roy | cruisesurfingz

    Wow, this stuff is gold Earl. Thanks for the tips. You’re totally right – with some low cost airlines, it’s so much time & hassle that you might as well go overland if you need to save the money.

    1. Earl

      Hey Roy – That’s another great point…sometimes the best option is to just get on a bus or train! If you take all the planning involved with air travel as well as having to travel to the airport, then wait at the airport for a while, go through airport customs, etc, we can sometimes save a lot of money and time by using other modes of transportation. Central America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia…these are all places where flying is not the only option that should be considered!

  18. Kristina

    The older I get, the less willing I am to suffer in exchange for saving a few dollars. I always pick the shortest, most direct route possible even if it means spending a little more. In addition, I’ll pay a little more for a non-stop flight over one with one or two stops because there are fewer chances for something to go wrong en route. But I’m not a full time traveler and my vacation time is at a premium for me so travel time is always a huge consideration.
    Thanks for the tip on “one seat left.”

    1. Earl

      Hey Kristina – Ok, ok…I’ll admit that age may play a factor in my desire to choose a more direct route these days as well 🙂 If I can save a lot of money then I’m certainly willing to make a stop or two en route to my destination but if the difference in fare really isn’t too significant, I’d much prefer the non-stop.

  19. Charles McCool

    Great stuff, Earl. Like Melvin, I am skeptical about simultaneous booking when “only 1 seat” is shown. In such situations when I have more than one person on an itinerary, I book one at the low price and the others at the next price bucket. I have tried the two different booking sites before without success. I will try again.

    Another seating strategy is to simply change seats after boarding. The gate agents may not be able to assign front of cabin or emergency row seats–but the flight attendants do. Indeed, as someone said, be nice to the airline workers. When boarding, if I see the first row empty, I will ask the FA if I can switch to that seat (especially if boarding at the end of the process). The crew wants to get the door closed and the craft moving, so they are more likely to grant that request.

    For cheaper air tickets, may fave two ploys are probably split tickets and one-way flights. Split tickets are buying separate flights through an interim city to save lots of money and even create two vacations. Example, instead of buying a roundtrip ticket from DC to Australia for $1400+, I would buy round trips from DC to SF and then SF to Australia–which I have done for as little as $700 total when Virgin had $500 intro fares.

    Best wishes. Happy travels!

    1. Earl

      Hey Charles – The split ticket idea seems very wise and I can see how that could potentially save a great deal of money. I normally purchase one-way flights myself and on occasion have pieced together separate one way flights from different airlines to eventually reach my final destination for a lower total cost. It can work out perfectly especially when, as you described with Virgin, there is an airline offering such a sale for one segment of the journey.

      And when I booked the ‘only 1 seat’ on two separate computers, I booked them both on the same site. Kayak.com took me to JetBlue.com and I then booked them simultaneously from there. I figured that the worst that can happen is that one of the tickets doesn’t process and I have to then buy it at the next available fare, which is what I would have had to do anyway. Of course, this is for personal travel. If I was responsible for other people’s reservations, I may not want to attempt this method just in case 🙂

      I appreciate the comment and tips Charles!

  20. The World of Deej

    Anytime I fly somewhere, I look for the first flight out in the morning, even if its a 5:30am departure. Reason being is a ) it’s usually cheaper, but b) a flight leaving that early almost always means the aircraft arrived the night before, meaning less likely for a delay/cancellation. Enjoyed the post!

    1. Earl

      @The World of Deej: Thank you for sharing that piece of advice! And it’s a good one. I never really thought about that but it makes perfect sense that the aircraft would have spent the night at the airport. I shall remember this for my future flight bookings 🙂

  21. optionsdude

    Wow. I never would have thought of ordering two separate single tickets to get the lower fare. That is amazing that trick worked. I love it.

    Not sure that I would have stayed on a plane that needed everyone in the back for “balance”.

    1. Earl

      @optionsdude: I think any wise traveler would probably do the same and get off that plane. I’m not sure what I was thinking at all and never felt so lucky as when the plane finally landed in Bangladesh!

  22. Cailin

    Great tips, I especially love the one at the end with the “one seat left for $89” I’ve always wondered about that when I have seen that on websites.
    Recommendation for anyone going to Iceland from Europe Iceland Express is amazingly cheaper then Iceland air even after the high taxes and fares even though the planes are slightly dated its only a 3-hour flight and that works for me 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Cailin – That’s good information as I’ve never even heard of Iceland Express before. For a 3-hour flight, I’m sure it’s more than suitable, especially if they offer the lowest fares. Knowing me I’d book something like that only to later discover the flight stops in Tokyo and Buenos Aires first 🙂

  23. Car Negotiation Coach

    Earl, I’m a frequent traveler and these tricks are new to me, so consider me impressed.

    One of my tricks for small commuter planes to avoid baggage fees is to take two bigger carryons (and not worry about weight). Knowing that they won’t fit in the overhead and that they will be checked at the gate, I avoid the baggage fees…..also, I don’t have to wait at baggage claim to get my bags because they are handed to you when you get off the plane!

    Also, if you are travelling on a birthday, honeymoon, anniversary, etc…..always mention this to the gate agent….i’ve been bumped to 1st class on more than one occassion by just doing a little sweet talkin’.

    1. Earl

      @Car Negotiation Coach: Excellent tips and I appreciate you sharing them! I know that your baggage trick will also sometimes work for larger planes as well. You can ask the gate agent whether or not the flight is full and if it is full, you an offer to have your large carry-on checked at the gate in order to help ‘save space’. By doing so, they normally won’t charge you a fee for your goodwill gesture.

  24. Stephen

    66 hours. Wow, that sounds painful. I’ll admit that I’ve spent a fair number of nights on a bench at an airport, but I’ve certainly never punished myself with something that long!

    I tend to find that the budget airlines really come into their own on their sale fares rather than their normal fares. My most recent exciting find was a RT from KL, Malaysia to Yangon, Myanmar on Air Asia for $38 with baggage and everything. Especially if you’re traveling for a long time, you can book these flights on whatever timeframe the sales are working on and then make your way to the departure city by the time you need to.

    1. Earl

      Hey Stephen – That’s an impressive fare to Yangon and back. And I do agree with you. When you can catch a sale fare with a budget airline, the price is unbeatable and luckily, many travelers can tailor their itinerary to match the time period of the sales. It reminds me of a one-way flight I landed last year with JetBlue from Cancun to Florida for $30 including all taxes and fees. The only problem was that I had to leave the next day, instead of waiting 10 more days in Mexico like I had planned.

      Enjoy your visit to Myanmar. I think it’s quite certain you won’t have to sleep on an airport bench on that journey!

  25. Gemma

    Hey! 🙂
    Your blog is totally appropriate for me this week – finally booked that flight to Thailand, though gave up on Jetstar (story below) and booked a Qantas flight on sale using some frequent flyer miles so it was super cheap.

    But Jetstar was being weird. When I searched for flights at work (at around 2pm), it was showing return flights from Sydney to Bangkok from around $550. But when I went home and checked that night, they were around $900. Thinking I may have missed out, I checked again the next day and lo and behold they were again $550 return. But stupidly, didn’t try to book until that night from home and again they had gone up to around $900. What the…? Why would it be different depening on what time of day? Peak/off-peak??

    Heard you’re back in Mexico. Not sure how long you’ll be there, but if you get back to Thailand I’ll be there from 27 May to 5 June.

    Gemma

    1. Earl

      Hey Gemma – Congratulations on booking your flight to Thailand! And a super cheap fare on Qantas beats a flight with Jetstar any day I’d say.

      Airlines do use several tricks tricks themselves and it’s not uncommon to see fare patterns like you’ve experienced. Unfortunately, as you learned, the key is to grab the low fare as soon as you see it as there may not be another opportunity to do so. But, all has worked out for you in the end it seems.

      We are back in Mexico at the moment so it looks like we won’t be in Thailand while you’re there. But I look forward to hearing about your trip and if you need any recommendations, let me know!!

  26. Sabina

    Earl, you are hiliarious. I think yours is the only travel site where I can laugh almost all the way through posts. I understand your glee over saving $150 on that flight, but 66 hours from the US to Australia? Oh, my gosh I hope you sleep well on planes and in airports! Your tips on seating, though, are invaluable. I’m not too picky about seats, but now that I know your secrets, I think I’ll start using them.

    1. Earl

      Hey Sabina – Well, I’m certainly happy to hear I keep you entertained! Although, I hope you weren’t laughing when you read my post about me having intestinal worms. That would just be rude 🙂

      As for flying, the problem is that I don’t sleep well on planes. Actually, I almost never sleep on planes, no matter how long the journey. And this is precisely why I read the details of every flight I’m about to book over and over 25 times these days just to make sure I’m not missing anything strange, such as a hidden 19 hour layover….

  27. Melvin

    That last trick, with booking at the same time sounds interesting…. I’m a travel agent & was sure that this wouldn’t work. Now I’ll keep it in mind! 🙂

    I like to check-in online. Usually you can reserve your seat for free then. I choose a row where 1 seat is already booked. The chances are low, that another person is going to reserve the 3rd seat (if it’s a row of 3, of course).

    Also nice are the first 2 row seats at the back of a plane, right after the 3 row seats. There you have room for 2 1/2 seats. 😉

    1. Earl

      Hey Melvin – You’re right, for many major airlines we’re able to choose our seat for free online. It’s some of the more budget airlines around the world that force you to pay if you want to choose ahead of time. And that’s a great tip about the row at the back of the plane. I think the back of the plane has a bad reputation for some reason and a lot of people like to stay away from it, although, as you’ve pointed out, there can be plenty of benefit from sitting back there.

      The only downside is, when flying internationally, sitting at the back of the plane means a longer wait at immigration!

      Thank you for adding these tips!!

  28. Amanda

    Great post, Earl!

    I, too, usually try to find the best deals on airfare, but I’m not insane about it. I would never trade a 20-hour travel time for 66 hours! But, if a flight with 3 layovers instead of 2 will save me $150 and only add 2 hours to my travel time, I’ll do it. I did this with a trip to Hawaii in February, and it worked out great.

    Unlike you, though, when I fly, I usually only have a fixed number of days to travel, so finding flights that fit in with my schedule are a must. I would love to be as flexible as you, but, alas, it’s not to be. 🙂

    Though, I definitely won’t pass up an awesome fare deal! When I was contemplating a 2-week trip to NZ, I was torn between traveling in May or December. Then I found out AirNZ was having a fare sale in May, and I snagged a round-trip ticket from Los Angeles to Wellington (with a short stop in Auckland) for $1200. Can’t beat that price, so I booked it.

    Thanks for the seating tips… will have to try that out sometime!

    1. Earl

      Hey Amanda – The flexibility factor does make it a bit easier, I do admit. But like you have shown, even looking at airfare for two different seasons can result in some significant savings. Any form of flexibility increases ones chances of finding better fares and in your case, finding one fantastic deal to NZ 🙂

      And not being insane about airfare is a good point. Sometimes it’s better to just book a ticket than spend hours and hours trying to save a small amount of money!

  29. Raymond

    I do a similar trick when it comes to seating. Most airlines have the online check-in/seat selection 24 hours prior, so I choose a seat as close to the emergency exit as possible. I wait until the last possible moment to board, then just march myself over to the emergency exit section. Hasn’t failed me yet!

    1. Earl

      Hey Raymond – I like that trick a lot. It makes perfect sense and is quite easy to implement. Every bit of extra legroom counts so there’s no reason not to give it a try. Thank you for sharing!

  30. Scott lehmann

    Good advice Earl,
    I’ve used some of those tricks myself. One other piece of advice to get an exit aisle seat of course because you’ll get more leg room. But beware they don’t all recline, and when your on a long flight that can become one uncomfortable flight. If there are two rows of exit seats, take a seat in the second row, the first row typically does not recline, it’s a potential safety hazard if it does.

    1. Earl

      Hey Scott – That’s a good point. A non-reclining seat is not fun at all. A good resource for anyone who wants to choose their seat while booking a flight is SeatGuru.com. They have detailed seat maps of every airline’s aircraft with notes on which are the most comfortable seats and which seats should be avoided!

  31. Erin

    Great tips. We don’t fly that much having travelled mostly overland through South America in the last year, but we just flew with Spirit from Costa Rica to Florida and were shocked that they charge for carry on luggage! We thought we were getting around fees by travelling hand luggage only.

    Do you manage to get decent flight prices booking only a week or two before travel? We prefer not to be tied into plans but when I know we need to be somewhere (like Vancouver for TBEX) I worry about leaving it too late to book. Cheap airlines especially seem to be much cheaper if you book ahead.

    1. Earl

      Hey Erin – Yeah, after hearing about Spirit’s carry-on charge I’ve stayed away from them now and go with JetBlue every time instead. As for last-minute bookings, I’ve never really had a problem finding good fares, although it probably has to do with the fact that I’m generally quite open in terms of my departure and arrival airports. When I was in Kurdistan last year and needed to get to Bangkok, I chose to fly from Damascus (2 day journey), but I landed a ticket for $250 just 3 days in advance. Such deals seem to be abundant as long as I’m somewhat flexible.

      And if I can’t find a cheap fare to where I want to go, I don’t mind going somewhere else!

  32. John Bardos -JetSetCitizen

    I think it can be worth it to pay to board early on discount airlines. My wife and I really hate the cattle car feeling of everyone pushing and shoving to get on the plane quickly. An extra $10 or $15 is worth it to get on early and make sure their is enough space for carry on luggage.

    Booking the exit rows is generally a good idea if you want extra leg room. You will also get your meal a little faster because you are closer to the front.

    I still haven’t had a chance to fly business class. On longer flights, I will definitely consider paying extra for a business class experience. A good sleep and comfortable experience would make the following 3 or 4 days much more enjoyable.

    Safe Travels!

    1. Earl

      Hey John – I’ve never gone with business class yet either. However, I also try to avoid long-haul flights these days and instead prefer to break the journey into segments. I’d much rather spend a few days at a mid-way point than travel around the globe non-stop. The exit rows are always a good place to sit and that’s what I’ll typically ask for when I arrive to check-in. If nobody’s purchased these seats ahead of time, they’re usually quite willing to give me one of those seats, especially if I check-in later than most people.

  33. Didi

    Thanks for the tips Earl! I encountered the same problem (1 seat left, 2 seats left crap..) trying to book a flight on BA from London to Manchester 2 months ago. Attempting a smart daylight robbery, FAILED. Oh, and thanks for the tips on choosing seats too! VERY VERY useful for my future trips! 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Didi – Yeah, that 1 seat left trick certainly makes a difference. I can’t imagine all of the times I failed to do this years ago and how much money I’ve lost as a result! Good luck with using the other tips. Hopefully you’ll get to test them out soon…

  34. Jennifer Barry

    Hi Earl, the arriving late trick is an interesting one. I usually don’t try that because you have a higher chance of being bumped from the flight altogether. If you have plenty of time that is okay but I frequently have a limited vacation.

    My favorite “trick” is being as nice as possible to the airline personnel. This has gotten me a free upgrade to first class before.

    1. Earl

      Hey Jennifer – Being bumped is always a possibility and luckily, that hasn’t happened to me as of yet. But I can see how you might not want to risk it in some situations. And at the end of the day, the being nice trick is probably the most useful of them all. Whenever we talk with any employee who must deal with demanding people all day long, a smile and a few kind words can definitely lead to some positive results!

  35. Leigh

    You’ve got some great tips in there that we’ll all be able to use at some point. I always read the fine print so I don’t get caught (at least very often) with too many connections or bad layovers. Don’t know mentally how I would have handled 66 hours – longest I’ve done is 48 hours and I’m in no hurry to repeat that experience.

    1. Earl

      Hey Leigh – Had it not been for the night in a hotel during my layover in Kuala Lumpur, I might have just ended the journey in Malaysia 🙂

      You probably felt the same way at some point during your epic 48 hour adventure! And yes, reading the fine print is a great idea. I was just so excited to find a ‘bargain’ that it didn’t even occur to me that the flight might involve such a complicated journey.

      Thanks for the comment!

    1. Earl

      Thanks Michael….yeah, I guess you’re the wrong person for this advice 🙂

      But hopefully they’ll prove useful whenever you do choose to fly somewhere…

  36. Tim Richards

    I find that people often place no value on their own time. Would it be worth the extra $150 to fly 20-something hours from NY to Melbourne instead of 66 hours? For me, the answer would be “hell yeah”.

    1. Earl

      Hey Tim – That’s how I feel these days as well. When I first started traveling, I would have taken the cheaper option every time, but now I realize that a more direct route offers a long list of benefits that help me maintain my sanity. And like you said, I’d much rather have those extra 40 hours in Melbourne than in a variety of airplanes and airports!

  37. Miles

    Nice tips. Regarding the last bit about tricks used by booking sites, another one to note is that sites often ‘know’ when you’ve been visiting over the span of a few days. They do this using browser cookies. I’ve personally witnessed prices go up significantly from one day to the next (even if I’m looking at flights months in advance) and then cleared my browser cookies to see the price drop back down to the original cost. There are a number of blog posts around the web talking about this kind of trick.

    1. Earl

      Hey Miles – It’s a bit frustrating that this is how the system works but that’s an excellent trick to know in order to level the playing field. Thanks so much for sharing that with us!

    1. Earl

      Hey Gillian – That’s quite a valid question and I’m not too sure of the answer 🙂 I guess in the end, splitting the difference would still be a good deal if one had to pay the higher fare. Luckily I haven’t had to deal with that yet!

      1. Dayna

        Lol last year my friend and I tried that for a flight from Melbourne to Auckland on air nz… There was legit one seat left on that plane. I ended up getting in 6 hours later on a much more expensive ticket- lucky I have a good friend though, we just split the price

  38. megan

    Yeah, you definitely have to read the fine print! 66 hours is epic…!! I was recently going to book a ticket with Spirit for a flight from LAX to Guatemala City through Ft Lauderdale, but didn’t realise until I almost finished the booking process that the price quoted on the initial page didn’t include taxes and charges, so it was nearly $200 more! (In Australia airlines have to show these fees up front by law). I ended up getting a ticket with Delta, a direct flight instead of via Florida for only about $20 more.

    1. Earl

      Hey Megan – That’s a perfect example of how it works. We get hooked into the promise of a low fare on the initial page and then by the time we’ve completed everything, they assume that we’ll still purchase the ticket even once they add on all of the fees. I’ve almost flown Spirit a few times but always backed out in the end as well. Glad to hear you found a direct flight for only $20 more! That will a much more enjoyable flight I’m sure 🙂

  39. Henway

    One trick I like to use it to sit in the front of the airport lounge and ask the next person if they swipe me in, since most people can bring in a guest or 2. It never fails, and I dun have to wait with the other ppl.

    1. Earl

      Hey Heway – That’s an excellent piece of advice and also one that I never even considered before! I will definitely try this out the next time I’m flying.

  40. Ozzy

    I like a few those tricks. Though a part of me is a big fan of the budget traveling. It’s where some of the best stories come from. And hey, next time you are in FL and you need to get to NY (or vise versa) here’s a way. Fly from FL to Roanoke, VA – Allegiant Airlines for $31 one way – then grab a bus or train to DC, then grab the China town bus to NY for around $15 (it’s $30 round trip – you pick the hour you want to leave and you can stay for as many days/weeks as you want) – you leave from DC china town and arrive in NY’s china town.

    1. Earl

      Thanks for the tip Ozzy! I’ve used the chinatown to chinatown buses before on the Boston – NYC run and those are quite an inexpensive method of transport. I’ve never heard of Allegiant Airlines before so I’ll have to check them out. I appreciate the information.

  41. Sanny

    I particularly liked the notion of a whole row to yourself. I’ve always wished I wasn’t sat next to someone smelly/overweight/chatty/other.

    What frequent flyer clubs do you use?

    1. Earl

      Hey Sanny – As much as I don’t mind talking to people on flights, I’ll always choose an empty row and have all of that room to stretch out!

      And I mainly use United Mileage Plus (Star Alliance) for my frequent flyer miles as the Star Alliance includes the airlines that I fly most often. I also earn miles with OneWorld which includes American Airlines, British Airways and Qantas although that’s always my second choice…

    1. Earl

      Hey Jill – Yeah, it is a bit crazy that the airlines do that, but at least we now know to always enter ‘1 passenger’ when searching for airfare! If the airlines want to set it up that way, there’s nothing stopping us from playing their game as well 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Matt – The showing up late trick definitely works and you never know, I guess it could lead to a bump up to first class as well!

      1. Raoul

        The Late Trick did work with me. Straight upgrade to Business Class with Free 3 Course Meal and No charges, That’s What i call karma.

  42. James

    That flight from NYC to Melbourne with all the layovers is one crazy flight. I guess you get to relax more, but still, 66 hours is a lot of time to be traveling.

    1. Earl

      Hey James – That was definitely the longest flight journey I’ve ever taken and one that I hope I won’t have to take again. And there wasn’t much relaxing going on as the journey just became an annoyance about halfway through and I just kept wishing it would end 🙂

  43. Mimi - SleeplessInKL

    You are right, Earl. It *is* important to pay attention when booking flights with low-cost airlines. You’ve got to factor in the extra charges for luggage, food, and taxes. Plus you have to be careful with sites like AirAsia that automatically charges you for picking a seat or adds insurance by default!

    1. Earl

      Hey Mimi – My favorite fee is the one applied for using a credit card, especially considering that there is often no other way to pay for the flight! Usually that fee puts me over the edge, causing me to choose another airline.

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