The Frug’s Super Airfare Travel Hacks

the frug kayak explore

There are a ton of great travel hacking and adventure travel blogs out there. The sites and blogs include lots of great tips like maximizing use of frequent flyer miles, credit card point programs, traveling during off-peak periods to less popular destinations and top 10 lists of great online tools and apps to use.  I’ll start my list here, more to follow shortly.

Despite the abundance of advice out there, one area that’s rarely mentioned is trying to put together some great travel hacks for a family of four (or small group of friends.)  Planning for four or more people takes travel hacking to a whole new level. Keep reading if you’re traveling solo since these tools can also work when traveling alone or as a couple.

When planning for four people, you’re often not only dealing with the worst time of year to travel, like spring break or the holidays, but you’re also trying to use up some of your frequent flyer mileage. This goes against the grain of what most travel hackers recommend, including efficient use of frequent flyer miles and traveling at off peak periods.  The airlines have done a pretty good job at making sure there are  only a few seats available per flight for frequent flyers, especially during peak travel periods. The odds of you getting more than one of them at the exact time you want to travel with short layovers are pretty slim.  To complicate this, the airlines have also added a premium ticket option which automatically doubles the number of points needed to magically make the unavailable frequent flyer seat available. This will only get worse with airline consolidation so use those points now!

So, the goal for the family or group is to a) get the best fare possible b) get to the place we want to go (or at least close to it) and c) use some frequent flyer miles, credit card or hotel points when possible.

The Frug Fare detective

Here’s the process I use for group airfare hacking.

  1. First consider what’s around you. Is there somewhere we can go that does not involve flying at all? During the recent recession, many families discovered fantastic beaches, cities, national parks and small towns they never considered before. Secondly, National Parks and surrounding towns need our support. There are things you may not be able to show your kids someday, so do this first. Tripadvisor.com is a great place to go for ideas and you can login with your Facebook account to see where friends have been and get their recommendations.

  2. If your trip must involve airfare, you need to start with booking the airfare eight months out if you want to do some effective travel hacking.

  3. Think of the airfare as the outline of your trip. Once that’s established, you can color in all the details, get the tough stuff out of the way early and (comparatively) the rest is a breeze.

  4. Since you’re starting eight months out, research more than one destination, some just won’t work out from an airfare perspective so choose a backup destination or two.  In our case, I might start with Mexico but end up picking an alternative destination due to airfare. This is how we discovered the Dominican Republic a few years back. It’s really all about discovery and being flexible.

  5. If your family that likes to travel during spring break or the holidays, the travel industry sees you coming. Think about some alternatives to those dates. Is it possible for your family to travel the first week after school gets out versus during spring break? Usually that’s only an 8 to 10 week difference in the savings are significant if you’re traveling to Mexico or the Caribbean. All inclusive discounts can run up 50% starting in late May.

  6. Start your airfare research using Kayak.com . Kayak is great for comparing prices but how do you know you’re actually getting a great price?  Kayak has a price trend tool in the upper right corner (fare history charts) but the data is limited to a few months.

  7. If you’re looking to go someplace new and just want to explore all your options based on a date and a budget per ticket Kayak Explore is one of the best map-based tools out there. Just use the left-hand navigation for basic info and have fun with the map.

  8. Once you found a couple of low-cost destinations in your time range, go to faredetective.com to get a more complete picture. Go directly to travel tools – fare history and take a look at the one year average history of airfares from your airport to the destination.

  9. Using just kayak and faredetective I recently found four tickets to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for $463 each, during a peak holiday period.  Using faredetective, I put in some basic information to see that tickets to this destination from our home airport rarely, if ever, dipped below $450 especially during holiday periods. They generally run between in the $700-$1200 range at those times.  I could tell I had found a good deal on a good flight and could feel confident pulling the trigger. A week later the fares were up to $770.  They may go down again but at least I felt confident I had not overpaid.

  10. I did a quick check just prior to purchasing to see if possibly one of the tickets would be available with frequent flyer points.  Delta had one seat available at a premium of 70,000 points.  Pretty much what I expected for a holiday, even this far out.

  11. I quickly headed over to American Express Rewards where SuperK has done a great job racking up some points with her non-frugal ways. AMEX will let you use points to reduce the total price of a trip purchased on your card. In this case I was able to knock off $500 from the total using 50,000 points bringing the effective price of the four tickets to $338.75 each.  I’ve used similar programs from Chase, British Air and Bank of America to reduce a portion of the travel costs versus straight points for tickets that are at a premium or limited availability.

  12. I will admit trying to line up multiple plane tickets with these kind of discounts is a pain in the ass. However, if you’re using some of the best tools out there you can wrap it up in a few hours and even discover some new destinations.

 

Once you found your airfare hack now the fun starts. Look for The Frug Super Travel Hacks next.

Coming soon. The full list of the Frug’s travel hacking sites,  this will be updated regularly.  Please add your favorites in comments section.

 

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for acknowledging my contributions in #11! Yes, I do a fantastic job with the AmEx points! And you do an amazing job planning out our Frugal Family Fun Time!

    Love,
    SuperK

  2. taylor

    I appreciate the tip on faredetective.com. I am booking a trip for my husband’s birthday. Thanks.

    ps. SuperK? MY IDEA.

    • The Frug

      Taylor,

      Thanks I really like the name superK. The kayak.com explore feature is very cool for seeking out new destinations.

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