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Cheap flying hacks

Traveling is a chance to visit far off places, eat new food, and create memories with friends and family. But, traveling is expensive! Whether you’re an expert traveler or are just getting the travel bug, there are some things everyone should consider when planning a vacation on a budget.

How much should I save for my vacation?

A budget vacation doesn’t have to feel like one. Get a rough estimate on how much you want to save and create a plan. Don’t have a budget yet? Set one up. Then plan for what you might need.

Vacation budgets should include:

  • Airfare
  • Baggage fees
  • Food
  • Lodging
  • Things to do
  • Clothes for your trip
  • Souvenirs
  • Incidentals

Overestimating your costs at the beginning of your planning is a better option than coming up short of funds at the end.

How to avoid baggage fees

When you’re booking airfare, consider the flights that give you a free checked bag. They may not always be the “cheapest” so make sure to look beyond the flight’s price tag. When you consider a checked bag could be $25 - $50 per bag, each way, saving $40 on a flight starts to lose its appeal.

Skip the hassle of checked bags and use your carry-on. Pack that backpack to its capacity! Okay, so pause here. Backpack you say? Yes! This little traveling hack may have you thinking you’re back in school, but with its multiple pockets, heavy duty straps, and pliable nature to fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment, it’s a travel win.

Planning attire for your trip may feel like an extra step, but it’s a sure fire way to avoid over packing and needing to check a bag. Plan outfits that can mix and match or that you can layer if you are going to cooler climates. A popular method is a 5-4-3-2-1 where you would pack

  • 5 tops
  • 4 bottoms
  • 3 shoes
  • 2 suits and
  • 1 sweater

(or 5 tops, 4 shoes, 3 bottoms, 2 sweaters, 1 suit – you decided what works for you for the length of the trip). This gives you flexibility in your packing options but is a good rule of thumb to avoid over packing.

Wear your bulkiest items on the flight. This might slow you down a bit through TSA but not having to check bulkier items can significantly lighten your bags.

Need to check a bag? If you’re traveling with family, avoid “a suitcase per person.” Instead, share luggage to maximize space and minimize costs. Make sure to weigh your bags before heading to the airport. There is nothing worse than getting hit with an overweight bag charge. It’s also good to know how much you can bring back home with you.

Whether you are looking to check items or carry them on the flight, consider using packing cubes. Packing cubes save space and keep your items organized. If only using a carry-on, packing cubes keep clothes in order if you need to get into your bag. Sharing space? These cubes do wonders to keep clothes separated and better to unpack when you get to your destination.  

When is the best day to buy airline tickets?

Tuesdays have long reigned as the best day to buy airline tickets. Airlines usually announce their rates on Monday evenings, and so by Tuesday, competitors are trying to beat or meet those rates. However, the new best day to buy cheap airline tickets online is now leaning towards Sunday. The trick is not really the day you buy, but how early you can buy your tickets.

If you have some flexibility on which days to travel, Tuesday and Wednesdays tend to be the days cheapest to fly. If you can leave on Wednesday and return the following Tuesday, you are able to take advantage of cheaper flights and better hotel rates.

How far in advance is the best time to buy airline tickets?

Booking your flights earlier than six weeks from when you want to travel is ideal. If you can book them sooner, great! This will help to give you even a better idea of your true budget.

Can you bring your own snacks on a plane?

Knowing what food to take on a plane can seriously help cut your travel costs. $4 for a bottled water or $2 for a banana? No, thank you. Whether it’s a getaway for the adults or family trip, making sure you’re well fed and hydrated while traveling can also make a big difference in how you feel when you get to your destination.

Here are some healthy food options that will get through TSA security at the airport:

  • Empty water bottle. Not a little disposable one, but a Nalgene or sports bottle. Make sure it is empty but then fill it up once you are past security. Make sure they can seal closed so they don’t leak. This is also very handy once at your destination.
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts (peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc.)
  • Granola bars
  • Applesauce packs (3.4 ounce or smaller, and the squeezable kind is completely appropriate for adults on the go as well)
  • Low-sodium beef jerky
  • Celery/carrot sticks with no more than 3 ounces of hummus or peanut butter. Many grocery stores now carry these individual portions as well. While ideal to buy bigger and package yourself, the ease of tossing the garbage is just more realistic. You are still saving a bundle versus having to buy them at the airport.
  • Fresh fruit like apples, bananas, oranges, etc.
  • Popcorn in a Ziploc bag

In addition to this list, check out the TSA website to search for what items are currently allowed in your carryon.

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