Most of the student body either live in the Greenville area or drive home for the holidays. For those of us who don’t get to drive home, flying is something we’ve become really good at.
We fly to school, home for Thanksgiving, back to school, home for Christmas, back to school, home for the summer and then back to school again the next fall.
That’s a lot of ticket purchasing for a college student’s already stretched budget. Tickets can cost anywhere from $350 to $600 for domestic flights and up to $1,400 for international flights.
Many of us have learned how to save money and when to fly. It comes from experience. So here is some advice for those of you who are still new to the transferring-your-life-in-100-pounds-every-four-months thing.
First, do your research. Don’t go straight to the airline’s website. Use sites like Orbitz, Kayak, Priceline, Expedia and Travelocity. These sites do the work for you. Just choose your airports and your dates—they find the best deals.
Second, help yourself. Many airlines offer Visa cards that let you earn miles or points for free flights. Every purchase that is made with the card lowers the price of the next ticket purchased. This may not be a great advantage for students, but parents might really be interested in the program.
Third, save money on bags. Most airlines charge you for your one 50-pound bag. But some airlines, like Southwest, let you fly two bags for free, and you can also bring two carry-ons.
Fourth, know when to buy. Tickets are not cheap before, during or immediately after any holiday. And don’t wait until the last second to purchase them. “The optimal time to get a flight is about two weeks to a month from the date [you’re] flying out,” said Josh Sutphin, a senior IT major from Michigan. And if you can’t find a good price immediately? Keep looking. Prices change every few days, if not every few hours.
When you do book your flight, Annie Aiello, a sophomore nursing major from Ontario, said to purchase your ticket just a few days before you have to be at school. “The flights are often overbooked and you could give up your seat for a money voucher,” Aiello said. “My brother and I once got $500 from the airline to use on future ticket purchases.”
Leah Twigg, a junior Spanish major, said that she and her family always purchase tickets for flights that depart on Tuesdays. The tickets are usually cheaper because most people don’t normally fly on Tuesdays. A lot of airlines will also offer lower prices for late night or early morning flights.
So no matter where you are headed over the holidays, keep these tips in mind. They’ll save you from the pain of losing too much money and having a really bad experience.
“And don’t [worry] when something doesn’t go according to plan,” Aiello said. “Everyone makes mistakes and the airlines [can be] very understanding.”