Is it a scam? A hoax? A trick?
No, not typically. In the past few years, airlines have begun lowering their prices more and more making it much easier to score those low price, round trip tickets – especially for international trips!
However, there is still wisdom in the old adage: you get what you pay for. Here are some things to consider (and look out for!) before booking that deal that seems just too good to be true.
1. Check what is included
In an effort to provide tickets at a deeper and deeper discount airlines have gotten…”creative” when it comes to what you actually get for your money. Most offer a non refundable ticket option, some only allow a carry on, others don’t serve meals, and still others barely let you bring a purse! Being aware of what is and is not included can save you some headaches the day of departure.
Here is a really good example of this kind of amenity trimming using WOWAir, a budget airline operating out of Iceland.
I decided to book an imaginary trip for my anniversary week in September; departing and returning on a Wednesday out of Los Angeles.
“Oh My LANTA! It’s amazing!! Less than $500 and I’m going to Iceland!!!”
Wait…..what are those little symbols above the pricing?
Closer examination reveals the following:
This changes things a bit for me.
We are staying for a whole week. I’m not going to be able to survive on only my purse – I need some clothing options! On this hypothetical trip, we also wanted to go camping, so having a checked bag for each of us is pretty important (how else will we pack our tent and sleeping bags along?) After looking at the food options, we could pass on the inflight meal, but that big seat is super tempting for my 6’2 hubby – especially on an almost 9 hour flight.
After mulling it over, I decide that it’s worth it to upgrade to the “Plus” pricing, but not the “Biz” pricing, which brings my final flight total to 671.94 per ticket. It’s still a good price, and I’m getting the experience I want, which is worth the extra $200 a ticket to me.
These ones are sneaky – especially when using flight finding services like KAYAK or Hopper Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE using these sites and they can be SO helpful in watching the prices on flights. But again, they’re only guaranteeing a low price to GET you to the location – to say nothing of how long, how many different flights, or how many running-through-the-airport plane changes you will have to take to get there.
I’ll show you an example using Google Flights.
This is an imaginary trip to Scotland in October, departing from Vancouver, Canada.
A preliminary search reveals tickets for $650 p/person round trip. Much better than all those $1000+ tickets, right??
Well…maybe. Here is the itinerary:
See that layover in Toronto? It’s almost TWELVE HOURS. I don’t know about you, but I’m not one of those “hip-hooray-we-have-a-long-layover-lets-go-explore-this-amazing-city-and-have-to-go-through-security-again-and-maybe-miss-our-flight.”
Let’s just say I have “missing my flight anxiety”.
I don’t want to sit in the Toronto airport for twelve hours. These long stopovers are very common on the “low price finder” site. I’ve even seen some that last more than 24 hours!
But not to worry, all is not lost. In the above scenario, I would simply wait around for the flights I DO want to go down a little bit. As an alternative, many of the flights go to Manchester, Dublin, or London so maybe I’ll fly to one of those destinations first and explore for a day or two before heading to my final destination.
As an example, I just found this flight on Delta’s website. I decided to fly Seattle to Heathrow in London. It’s non-stop, there is meal service, and it’s still less than $650 per person, round trip.
Our full itinerary will now include a few days in London and a road trip through the English countryside before our two week road trip around Scotland. Not a bad trade in my opinion.
3. Be SURE about your trip (or get travel insurance)
Most of the cheapest tickets are often those ones where there are NO refunds, ALL the change fees and ZERO flexibility. You might even have to write a letter telling them you died which may or may not convince them to refund the money to you (but not your next of kin).
So, you have two options: Book the tickets all que-sera-sera and then tremble in fear at the thought that you might lose all your money all the way up until you get to your destination (because let’s be honest, if you’re going somewhere awesome, you’re much less concerned about getting back home).
You can get a travel insurance. The most basic and best priced ones are those that cover you in case of emergencies like an unexpected sickness or accident. You’ll be covered for the big stuff and most people don’t need the sort where you can get refunded for literally any reason. (Buyers remorse, anyone?)
I have done both the shaking in fear and the buying of the insurance and truthfully it’s so much less anxiety to not have to worry and really, not that much money in the grand scheme of things for the peace of mind insurance provides.
4. In conclusion….
Get those cheap tickets! Go on that AMAZING international vacation for way less than you thought! Have a MARVELOUS time!
Just remember to take the time to check the little details and you’ll reap the benefits of cheap tickets AND the itinerary you want.
Until next time!