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How We Find Cheap Tickets for a Family of Four
*We’re letting you in on some of our tips here, but we’ve been working for months to create comprehensive courses to help families (and individuals) reach their travel goals faster. Our first one will be launching soon!*
Hands-down one of the top questions we’re regularly asked both online and in “real” life is how we can afford to travel so much with a family of four.
Here’s the thing, we aren’t independently wealthy and we don’t have an excess of money. In fact, when our kids were much smaller we were counting every last penny between all of the specialists, therapies and testing our kiddos had to undergo!
While things may be a bit different now, our kids are no longer in need of nearly as much medical attention, we are still an average family budgeting to live in an expensive country with the goal of traveling as frequently and as extensively as possible.
What’s our real secret?
The secret is … we work hard to travel! But not just at our jobs, we work hard to make travel possible for our family within the limits of our income and expenses.
The truth is, a lot goes into enabling us to travel as much as we do (it’s a lot of work to do so), but we thought it was time we dedicate some time to sharing our real tips for saving on travel–especially when traveling with multiple people. Let’s be serious, saving $100 on a flight for one person is great, but saving hundreds on each family memeber is often the difference between going and not going. That savings can be used towards your budget for your hotel, food, etc. It really makes a difference!
One of the top ways we make frequent travel possible for our family is to spend a decent amount of time hunting for cheap flights. As soon as you have to purchase flights for not just you and your partner but for multiple kids, travel begins to feel less possible. But it doesn’t have to! We’re about to share our secrets and the tools we use to find cheap airfare for the first time and they’re real tips that anyone can use if they’re willing to spend some extra time to save substantial money on airfare.
I’m not going to lie to you, unless you’re very lucky it generally takes a decent amount of work to score cheap flights, but if traveling is a priority to you (or you simply have a bucket list destination you want to take the family to) I think it’s worth it! At the end of this article I’m going to walk you through a real-life scenario utilizing all of these tips so you can see how I implement them.
The Proof is in the Pudding … or Flight Confirmation
Just about anyone can save a little money on airfare if they put a few minutes into searching, but saving a substantial amount is a totally different game. I’ve spent years researching and looking for ways to make travel more cost-effective for us and while there’s always more to learn, I’ve got some effective tips to help you start saving now.
Want proof? Using our tips, I recently booked roundtrip flights to Indonesia for our family for $552.36 per person from the East Coast. Trips from the East Coast to Indonesia often average around $900-$1400 per person. That’s a huge savings!
This wasn’t a one-time thing, we’ve saved on almost every flight we’ve taken for a while now and we want to share how we do this with you!
If you hadn’t already guessed, I’m (Doria/mom) the travel coordinator in our family. Generally, organization and spending long periods of dedicated time to something that isn’t hyper-engaging isn’t a strong suit of ADHD, so while Patrick and the boys love to travel with me, the planning falls to me!
Tip 1: Flexible Dates
One of the top ways we’ve managed to get such great airfare deals over the years is that we’ve kept our dates flexible. Sometimes you can save a substantial amount by traveling in a different month or even extending a trip by a day or two. The more flexible you are with your dates, the better!
Tip 2: Flexible Airports
Yes, it may seem a little inconvenient to depart from an airport or fly into an airport that’s a little out of the way, but we’ve saved hundreds (sometimes around 50%) by flying into or out of airports that were a little out of the way. When traveling domestically, it’s sometimes smaller international or regional airports with regular routes between two destinations that have the best rates.
Tip 3: Compare Booking Separate Flights vs. Continuous Flights
This is not always the most convenient option, but it can be the cheapest. Sometimes it’s cheaper to take advantage of cheap flights to a destination somewhat near where you want to go and then book a separate flight between that destination and where you ultimately want to end up.
Tip 4: Set an Ideal Airfare Budget Goal
Do a little research and see what airfares are averaging for the route(s) you plan to take. Then, set a goal for what you’d like to actually pay for that route. Be realistic in the sense that aside from finding airline mistake fares, you’re not going to be able to fly from the East Coast to Australia for $100 (wouldn’t that be nice?). Generally, I’ll calculate the average cost for a trip to wherever we’re going (airfare, hotel, food, activities, etc.), look at the average cost of airfare to that destination and then set a goal for an airfare budget based on what I’d ideally and realistically be willing to pay to make the trip easier on our wallets (and in some cases, possible).
The more research you do, the more realistic your airfare budget goal will likely be. If airfares between two destinations (for example, Orlando and Boston) regularly go on sale for deep discounts you’ll have an idea of what you can shoot for fairly quickly. For less traveled airfare routes you’ll likely have to do some extra digging.
Tip 5: Set Money Aside for Your Cheap Tickets Ahead of Time
However you plan to pay, set aside the funds as soon as you’re serious about booking those cheap flights. We prefer to set cash aside, pay with a card through which we earn airfare points or rewards, then pay it off immediately after. That way our flights are paid for and we’re not paying it off after our trip (enabling us to book more travel), but we’ve also earned some points towards a future trip (more on this in a later post).
In an ideal situation, not long after really dedicating yourself to finding those cheap tickets you’ll find something that works for you. The last thing you want is to find cheap flights that hit your goal budget only to have to pass them up because you don’t have the money to book them. I keep an eye on flights daily to stay aware of what different routes are averaging, but I don’t dedicate all of my Type-A, hyper-analytical energy to really scrutinizing flights unless I know for sure I’m ready to book. I’ve stumbled across some great deals over the last few years while just poking around that hurt my heart to have to pass by–don’t intentionally do it to yourself if you can avoid it!
If you have the money set aside ahead of time, you’ll be ready to book the second you come across something that looks as close as possible to your ideal flights. That’s the best possible position to be in!
Tip 6: Track Flights Using Google Flights and Airfare Watchdog
There are four major differences between tracking flights through Google Flights and through Airfare Watchdog (as of the time of t:
- Airfare Watchdog does not make you commit to specific dates, it simply watches flights between two destinations in a general sense and periodically updates you when they change.
- Airfare Watchdog does make you choose specific airports (you can’t choose all airports in a city like New York or Tokyo)
- Google Flights requires you to choose dates, which can really limit your tracking (remember tip #1?) however…
- Google Flights consistently seems to find cheaper airfare from a broader range of airlines
On the one hand, you can keep track of airfare trends in a general sense with Airfare Watchdog (do they seem to be on the way up or down?), then use Google Flights to keep track of more specific flights once you have a better idea of what direction things are headed.
Tracking flights does not take place of my daily searches once I’m dedicated to booking flights somewhere specific. It just gives me an idea of what to expect and occasionally alerts me to whether or not I need to adjust my goal airfare budget, dates, etc.
Tip 7: Research Peak & Off-Season Travel Months
If you don’t have your heart completely set on visiting a specific destination during a certain time, do some research on when an area hits peak season and when it’s off-season. While you can occasionally hit some good promotions for peak-season, you’ll generally do much better in terms of airfare and (especially) hotels during off-season. In my experience, the sweet-spot is often hitting the very end of off-season or the very end of peak season. The weather is often not bad (weather frequently dictates peak and off-season) and any businesses that close during off-season are generally open (this only really applies to super seasonal destinations).
For example, February/very beginning of March and September/October are often great times to visit Walt Disney World from our experience.
If you do your research and find out when a specific destination hits off-season you can often start there in your search for cheap airfares. Sometimes cheap flights are random (flash sales, promotions, etc.), so it’s good to keep an eye on flights in other months as well, but it can be a great jumping-off point.
That’s it, guys! That’s essentially how I search for flights when we’re looking for cheap flights to specific places. I know it seems a bit tedious, but finding those cheap flights really does require some dedication in most cases.
Hopefully this has been helpful. Please feel free to comment below with any questions or tag us on Instagram with your questions. If you end up scoring cheap flights using our tips definitely let us know! One of our major goals has always been to encourage and help families get out there and travel more.
Safe flights and happy exploring!
Now that you know how we find our cheap flights, where would your family like to visit first?
Stay tuned for future posts on how to save on hotels, (amazing) food, car rentals and more!
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