People frequently ask us about how we make our international travel arrangements. Several have even encouraged us to write posts about travel logistics. We loved that idea! So, here is our first “How To” post with some of our thoughts on getting to your destination of choice.
Plan Early – We are fairly disciplined about starting travel planning early. We save thousands of dollars a year by booking flights and train tickets months before their departure. Besides, it’s always fun to be thinking about what the summer holds on cold December days! Luckily, as teachers we almost always know a year in advance our summer vacation dates in addition to fall breaks, spring breaks, and long weekends. (Although snow days are always an unknown factor that can extend our school two or more weeks!) Knowing our schedule and searching for tickets at least six months before the departure date allows us to lock in good rates early.
Search for Other Options – Kayak or SkyScanner should be websites that you visit on a daily basis when planning a trip. You can also set up alerts with them so that you are notified when prices drop for the flights you are watching. While we all tend to search the larger carriers such as Delta, United, and American, these websites can help you find better deals with other carriers. For us, Air Canada has recently provided the best flights to not only Canada but also to Hong Kong and Spain.
Be Flexible – Having several weeks off in the summer also lets us be more flexible with not only our dates of travel but also our airport cities since we have more time to drive to alternative airports. This flexibility also makes our travel more affordable. For example, flying to Madrid from Lexington (LEX), Louisville (SDF) or Cincinnati (CVG) can cost around $1200 in June but flights out of Chicago are often half of that.
Use Stopovers – In the past few years, airlines have begun offering free extended layovers or stopovers for several days. These allow you to have a layover in another country either on your way to your destination or on your return. Often large airports like Chicago O’Hare have these more readily available with international carriers such as Icelandair, TAP or Turkish Airlines which offer stopovers in Reykjavik, Lisbon or Istanbul. In addition to the stopover, the fare to the final destination is often at a much lower fare than the largest american airlines. In this way, we’ve flown to Europe more affordably AND also stopped essentially “free” to visit Istanbul and southern Iceland. (A new paellanpie.com post coming soon about this adventure!) These stopovers are becoming more popular as they are a win-win for the travelers as well as for the countries where the stopover happens. It offers the traveler lower cost and an opportunity to visit an additional destination while the country gets a visitor that otherwise would only spend a few hours at the airport. Even in some smaller airports like Cincinnati (closer to us than Chicago!) you can find stopovers with WOW Airlines to Iceland and Air Canada to Toronto. You can read about airlines that offer stopovers in this link.
Remember the Parking – We’ve found that hotels like Lowes in Chicago offer much cheaper extended parking options than even the off-site parking near airports.
Hope this gives you some ideas for your future travel planning. Leave us any comments or questions that you have!