How can families fly cheap? In this post, we give you the secrets to finding cheap airfare for your whole family.
You need these tips and tricks we use to get our large family cheap flights to anywhere in the world. Because you have kids of a wide range of ages, not all the expert money-saving tips from solo travelers will work for us.
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In fact, these airfare hacks work on cheap airline tickets anywhere including long-haul international flights. If you have been putting off a family vacation because you are on a tight budget then you need to know these tips to radically reduce your family travel costs.
Yes, it is possible to find the best deals on airfare for your family right now, so that your next vacation is affordable even on a budget.
You can still travel in style, you will just need to be a little more creative with your vacation planning and use these hacks.
1. Book 2-4 Months in Advance
Start planning early, especially if you do not have much flexibility in your travel dates or location.
The best time to start looking for airfare is 4-6 months ahead of time. If you plan to travel during the busy season, like the summer or the holidays, prices will continue to rise as the time gets closer.
I like to use Google Flights to get an overview of the price of flights and different airport combinations. I haven’t actually booked my flight through Google though. I find the combination I want and then use one of my favorite search websites or the airline site directly.
Some of the best search engines are Momondo, Google Flights, Skyscanner and Travelocity.
2. Take Advantage of Last-Minute Deals
On the other hand, if you have time and flexibility to travel, watch for cheap airline tickets on last-minute deals and discounts.
A couple of years ago I was watching for tickets to Costa Rica. The tickets went on sale on Black Friday, so we jumped on those and were off to Liberia in January from a tiny regional airport.
Charles and I jumped on a deal for plane tickets to Nagoya, Japan and were on the airplane within a couple of weeks. The tickets were around $500 from Denver and we even got enough bonus miles for a trip to Hawaii!
If you sign up for discounts and cheap fares to be delivered to your email. For example, airfarewatchdog.com will send you can search flights based on a departure city.
Of course, the best way to take advantage of airfare deals is to have money saved in your travel fund already. Start saving money for your travel fund with these tips.
3. Set Airfare Alerts
Whether you are planning 6 months out or last minute, have alerts set to email you when specific locations go on sale.
I know there are theories about the best days to buy airfare, but I have found great deals come through the travel alerts regardless of the day of the week. It’s important to know about these right away, so you can act quickly.
I have cheap airline ticket alerts set with the airlines (United and Delta), Skyscanner, Airfare Watchdog
You can set airline ticket price watches by date, departure city, destination and other combinations of parameters.
4. Travel Off-Season
Traveling in the low or shoulder season will save money on travel because airfare, accommodation, and other things will be cheaper at your destination.
Mid-January, after the holiday rush, is a perfect time for a beach vacation to Central America or the Caribbean.
We learn so much while traveling and I keep up with the kids’ schoolwork, is I don’t mind taking them out of school for travel. I create unit studies around our destinations and the kids work on lap books while we are traveling.
5. Choose Cheap Destination
If you have flexibility in your travel plans, choosing a destination that is cheap to get to and cheap once you are there will save money.
By looking at both current prices and airline ticket price history for the destination, you will be able to judge the possibility of booking cheap flights anywhere.
In the past, we have chosen destinations based on the cost of airplane tickets and the cost of accommodations. Google flights and Kiwi.com are excellent resources for this. You can set your travel city and dates and look at a map with the prices of airfare to many destinations.
6. Consider Different Airports
When searching for the best airfare deals, you should know that most major airlines and discount websites will have a choice for alternative airports.
United Airlines, Delta and American Airlines all have drop-down options to check airports within up to a 100-mile radius. Smaller regional airports are generally more expensive but sometimes I have been surprised by finding a great deal on plane tickets from a smaller airport.
So make sure to check arrival and departure combinations for both your home and your destination.
Don’t discount open jaw if you find you get the cheapest flights by arriving and departing from different airports.
Open Jaw tickets could be a great way to see more of the area that you are visiting without having to double back on the same place.
7. Add a Stop to Cut the Cost of Tickets
Obviously, when traveling with kids, non-stop flights are ideal but adding a stop could save you hundreds of dollars on airfare. Plus, everyone can stretch their legs and get a change of scenery by breaking up long-haul flights.
You can either check the different routes on one airline or piece together an itinerary yourself.
I found that airfare to Tokyo was much more expensive when flying directly from Denver.
In order to reduce the cost of flying to Japan, I found out how we could get cheap flights for our family to Tokyo.
After comparing the options, we could get cheap tickets to Las Angeles and then cheap international flights to Tokyo.
When you use this trick with kids in tow, make sure to give yourself plenty of time in case one plane is delayed. If your itinerary is on one airline, they will reroute you for free if flights are delayed or other problems occur.
With separate tickets, this could become a headache quickly. I plan to fly into LAX and stay the night before flying out to TYO with my family the next day.
8. Fly Before the baby Turns 2 years old
Airlines allow lap children up to 2 years old. Some have discounted tickets for a separate seat for a baby.
The only thing better than a cheap airline ticket a few months from now is a free ticket right now!
What’s more, if you are traveling at low season time and there are empty seats, you can snag that seat for free.
We have done this with each new baby. Our family has a mad dash to travel before the kids turn 2. Since we take up almost 2 rows, I reserve our seats with an open middle for the best chance of getting an open seat between us.
Hint – Make sure you know all the rules for traveling with a baby. We consolidated the rules for TSA, international travel and specific airlines in this post.
For example, just make sure they don’t turn 2 while on vacation (or a few days after) because you will have to buy a seat. And don’t cut it too close because if you get delayed a day or two coming home, you will have a headache to get your toddler home.
9. Be flexible on Travel Dates
I have found that flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday is generally the cheapest airfare.
Fridays and Mondays are frequently very busy with business travelers commuting to and from meetings and family vacationers headed out for a long weekend.
If you know the length of time you would like to go, you can search most sites by a number of travel days and slide the departure dates until you get the best deal.
Some of the best search engines that I use are Google Flights, Skyscanner, Kiwi, and Airfarewatchdog
10. Budget Airlines
Everyone probably has an idea of the best airline to fly based on their own preferences, but budget airlines can be a great way to find cheap flights
Budget airlines are more limited on the times and destinations and but can save money on airfare over the full-service options.
You might give up some legroom free drinks and free checked and carry on bags. Since budget airlines make up some of the cost of discount tickets in fees, make sure to read the fine print and add up the costs.
Compare the prices of the cheap airline tickets with budget carries with all the fees added in, otherwise, you could end up spending more money.
Check with your departure and destination airport’s website (or call) for a list of airlines that fly there.
Another option to find budget airlines is this list on Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of low cost carries all over the world. You may need to contact these airlines directly since they may not show up on the larger search engines.
11. Pack Wisely and Avoid Extra Baggage Fees
I am a big fan of saving money on baggage fees, but I am not a big fan of dragging all our gear through the airport and keeping track of everything at security. What’s a parent to do?
I try to pack light to reduce the total amount of luggage. If it all fits in the carry-ons great! That’s not always possible though and airlines charge $50 or more per bag.
I avoid baggage fees with airline-branded credit cards. A card with
When I do decide to check bags, I try to check only a bag or 2 and a car seat bag. Car seats and strollers are free on most airlines – check the rules in our post here.
pack the family and winter gear in a large roller bag. The car seat goes in a separate bag and I throw extra diapers and light items in there.
Hint: This car seat is narrow enough to fit 3 across in a small rental car. It has a steel frame, so its a little heavy, but virtually indestructible.
We travel with these safety rated inflatable boosters for the preschooler. These can be used on the airplane for the kids to see out the window or deflated into a carry one bag.
If you need more packing tips, check out this family packing checklist for traveling with toddlers and kids.
12. Use Points and Miles to Get Free Plane Tickets
I use the airline-branded credit card for more than just baggage fees. I strategically collect airline miles for various airlines and flexible points that can be applied to a variety of airlines
Sign all your family, including kids up for mileage accounts with the airline your travel. Then start collecting miles and points for the airline you would like to travel.
You can sign up for the airline’s co-branded credit card or a flexible points card like some of the Chase and American Express cards.
Also, pay attention to other benefits from the card such as Global Entry, travel credits, free lounge access, free checked bags, and priority boarding.
13. Search as Single Seats
Interestingly, we have found cheaper combinations of seats both together as a group and separately.
I have read that airlines will mark up a gourd of tickets to the highest price of the group. For example, if they only have one $300 seat left, a $400 seat and a $500 seat, your price for 4 seats will all be $400 or $1600.
I have found seats to be cheaper as a group because some airlines have a child discount. Which is just the opposite of the wisdom of booking separately?
My strategy is to search by individual tickets (search 1 adult to start) because the math is easier for me to compare ticket prices.
Then, I search the same itinerary for 6 of us with the kids’ ages entered. When I know the total, I start checking my favorite search engines and the airline website directly.
So you know more tips on how to get cheap flights right now. That’s just the first step in planning travel.
Read this in-depth guide for planning your next vacation and download the free planner to document your plans.
These airfare hacks will work to score cheap airline tickets for your family
Don’t wait to go on vacation because you are on a tight budget. Follow these tips to radically reduce your family travel costs.
You just read how to get the best deals on airfare right now, so that your next vacation is affordable even on a budget.
How does your family travel in style on a budget? In the comments, share your favorite tricks to get the cheapest airfare.
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Hi, I'm Shauna. Welcome to our blog. We are a large unconventional family, sharing our adventures and stories of traveling together.
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