Our individual trip packages like honeymoons, anniversary trips and family vacations include everything you need: Airfare, transportation, hotel and insurance. However, there are a few times where clients may book their own flights. For example, if you are a destination wedding guest using a group rate, you will probably book your own airfare. While booking air is very commonplace these days, there are some tried and true tips from experts like myself. Even if you are an expert traveler, you may learn a thing or two! Read on to learn more!
My favorite tool for researching different options is Google Flights. Google Flights is simple tool where you enter your home airport, your destination airport and your travel dates. This is a good way to simply research the routes and major carriers for your destination. Without committing, Google Flights makes it easy to see different times, connections, connecting cities and airlines.
Some airlines are better suited to some locations than others. For example, American is one of the most common carriers to smaller islands in the Caribbean, but nearly every airline flies to Cancun several times a day.
You can enter your home airport & destination airport and it will show you all of the major carrier flight times and estimated prices. Beware, these prices are typically not the “Final” pricing, but it will give you a rough idea of what different times and connections will cost. When it’s time to book, DON’T use Google Flights for booking. Head on over to…
If you are booking a honeymoon or an individual trip where you purchase a package, you don’t need to worry about this.
However, if you are a destination wedding group guest and you are buying your own air, it makes sense to book directly with the airline. Avoid third party sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, Booking.com, etc. Why? If there is an airline schedule change or if YOU need to make a change, you typically cannot modify your flights easily on these third party sites. This means calling Expedia, calling Orbitz, etc. and sitting in the queue for long hold times. Budget third party airline sites like these also sell extremely restricted tickets with minimal changes allowed. Booking directly with the airline offers more flexibility if you need it.
You will have a lot more control over your reservation when you book directly on the airline’s website. When you book through a third party (such as Expedia), you often cannot modify your flight on the airline’s website. Instead you’ll have to call Expedia & then have them make changes. This can mean a lot of time on hold & lots of frustration. Do yourself a favor & book direct.
Regular Economy Class Ticket: This is what people will call “coach”. It’s the regular main cabin (not first class, not business class). For all airlines but the discount carriers, this ticket comes with a seat assignment, a carry on bag and the ability to check a bag (for a price)
It used to be so easy! We had First Class & “coach” and that was it. Today, we have all kinds of new fare categories …. Basic Economy – Economy – Premium Economy and more. It can be confusing if you’re not well versed on the basic fare types.
Sub-Economy Ticket: Literally means “Below economy” and airlines may call this different things: like “Basic Economy”, “Economy Basic” or any other term. It will depend on the airline, but typically sub-economy tickets:
Discount Carriers like Frontier, Spirit, Allegiant, etc. are closer in comparison to a Sub-Economy or Basic Economy ticket on a major airline.
“Premium Economy” Ticket : As airlines try to make more money, some offer a “premium” experience. This isn’t First Class or Business Class, it’s sort of in between. This could be called Comfort Plus or Main Cabin Extra on some carriers. Premium Economy seats are usually located right behind First/Business class and have a bit more legroom, dedicated bin space & often include alcoholic beverages and upgraded snacks.
I personally never book basic economy, as it’s a very restrictive ticket. Typically non refundable/non changeable, you’ll be the very last to board the plane (good luck finding overhead bin space!), and you cannot select your seat in advance (hello middle seat).
Main Economy is the better choice, which gives you a lot more choice and flexibility.
Nearly every airline (notable exception: Southwest) charges for checked baggage these days. Many airlines also charge a premium for choosing an aisle or window seat in advance.
You’ll also want to pay attention to your baggage… your luggage, that is. For a regular economy seat, the weight limit is typically 50 pounds per bag. However, this is changing as fuel costs go up. That brings me to….
Airlines such as Frontier, Spirit, and Allegiant are known as ‘low-cost carriers.’ Their basic fares may be less expensive, but watch out for their added costs. They may charge for both checked AND carry-on bags. The weight limit may only be 40 pounds. They charge for refreshments onboard. They have a lot fewer planes and more limited routes, which means if your flight is canceled then you could be stuck for days.
Obviously, nonstop is the way to go, if you live in an area that offers it! Only navigating one flight can shorten your travel day and limit your stress.
Don’t mistake a “direct” flight for being “nonstop”. In the airline world, these are two different things. A direct flight means you don’t change planes, but you WILL stop at another airport before reaching your final destination. A nonstop flight means exactly that, zero stops.
Of course, not all of us are lucky enough to have nonstop flight options available. If you’re like me and live in a city where connections are often the norm, brush up on some basic connecting flight tips:
When flying internationally, your passport is your ID, not your drivers license. This means your airline ticket and international hotel bookings must match the name on your passport. ID. First. Middle. Last. No nicknames, no exceptions. Failure to follow this rule can result in costly change fees or even denial of boarding.
Newlyweds: You need to book your trips under the name that will be on your passport at time of travel. For those changing their name, this typically means booking your trip in your maiden name.
I always recommend signing up for the airline’s frequent flyer program, if you’re not already a member.
Make sure to fill out your profile completely, including day of contact information. This is how the airline will find you if there is a change or an emergency.
If you have a Known Traveler Number (TSA Pre-check/Global Entry), you can attach those numbers to your frequent flyer login. This way, any time you book with that airline your KTN is automatically attached to your ticket.
I also suggest downloading the Airline App prior to your flight. When you log in, all of your booked flights will be loaded on the app. It will alert you to any delays or changes. It can also be handy for tracking your checked baggage or using their in-flight entertainment.
This is probably the single most frequently asked question I get from wedding groups. It’s also the hardest question to answer because no one has a “perfect” response to this.
If I could predict the cost of air, I promise you I would not be planning weddings for a living. LOL! I’d be living on my private island, dreaming of all the ways I could spend my millions!
The truth is, nobody knows. Airline inventory is incredibly variable and can change at a moment’s notice. Fuel costs, crew shortages and international transit laws also impact flight availability and costs.
You’ve probably seen advice such as ‘book your flight on a Tuesday for the lowest rate,’ but in my nearly 9 years of working in travel, I haven’t noticed this to be true.
What I do know: Use tools like Google Flights or Hopper to set up flight alerts for your potential trip. Watch prices over time and get a feel for what is “high” and what is “Low”
That said, my best advice is this: If you see the flight at a price you’re comfortable paying, go ahead and book it.
If you are traveling during a high demand time (such as over holidays or during Spring Break), book your flight as soon as it becomes available.
The major airline carriers (Delta, American, United) typically release their flight schedules about 11 months prior to departure. Southwest has a shorter lead-time, usually about 6 months in advance.
I hope this advice helps you book your next international flight with confidence!
As an award-winning boutique travel agency, Alpaca Your Bags Travel is the fun, off-beat, tech-savvy alternative travel agency modern couples trust with their destination weddings and celebrations. We’ve got your back, so you can breathe easy and enjoy your day in paradise.
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