How to Find Cheap Airfare for Family Travel
April 13th, 2010
You’ll often see articles about how to find cheap airfare – including on this site – that say it’s important to cut the cost of your airline ticket because it’s almost always the most expensive part of your travel budget. Never is that more true than when you’re planning family travel – because you’re multiplying the cost of a trip by the number of people in your family. Rather than limit yourself to destinations you can get to by driving, however, let’s look at some ways to find cheap airfare for family groups.
Some of the tips listed below are general travel tips that will help you save money on airfare, but others are tips specifically meant to help you save on airfare for family travel.
Be as Flexible as Possible
Whether you’re traveling by yourself or with your family, the best tip for finding cheap airfare is to make your travel plans as flexible as possible. This means not limiting your searches to just one particular day for your flight, or (even worse) a window of a few hours on a particular day.
Prices for airline tickets rise and fall throughout each day and week, and by limiting your searches too strictly you could easily miss a drop in price that’s within a day or two of when you thought you wanted to travel. if you’re flexible enough to look a few days on either side of your target date, you could save quite a bit on each air ticket you buy.
The easiest way to search multiple dates/times is to use an airfare booking site that allows you to check a box near where you’ll put in your target dates that says something like, “my dates are flexible” – then the system does the work for you.
Find Out When Flights are Cheaper
As mentioned, there are regular spikes and dips in the cost of airfare that occur every day and every week – but you don’t have to work at an airline to have a rough idea of when they are. Although these won’t always be the cheapest days and times to fly, they tend to be cheaper – and are therefore a good place to start when you’re looking for cheap airfare.
Wednesday is generally the cheapest day of the week to fly, followed by Tuesday and Saturday. The earliest flights of the morning are typically cheapest, and after that it’s the late-night departures and red-eye flights.
Learn When Kids Fly Free (or at a Discount)
Depending on the length of your flight, having a child in your lap might not be the most comfortable option. But it’s good to know that most domestic airlines consider children under age two to be a “lap child.” This means that up to the age of two you can buy one ticket for yourself and keep your kid in your lap at no extra cost.
When your kids are older than two, there are still often discounts available for a child’s air ticket. These will vary depending on the airline and the child’s age, but it’s always a good idea to find out the airline’s policy before you book your ticket. It should be said that not all airlines require proof of age when you’re claiming you’ve got a “lap child” or booking a discounted ticket (but you probably don’t want to push it too much in case they do).
Look for Kids’ Airfare Promotions
There are regular promotions on cheap or free airfare for kids in order to encourage family travel. Some of these come as part of family vacation packages to particular destinations, or as part of family cruises, and sometimes they come straight from airlines. Since so many families save up their big vacations for the summer, that’s the time of year when these cheap/free kids’ fares tend to come up most frequently.
Theme parks and cruise lines are perhaps most well-known for “kids fly free” promotions, but – for instance – Israel’s national carrier, El Al, is offering discounts on family airfare for trips to Israel this summer. (They’ll discount one child’s ticket by 10%, and a second’s by 50%.) Certainly, not every airline has promotions like this, but it’s absolutely worth asking. And if there’s a special deal available a few days or weeks after you initially planned to travel, then you’ll be thankful you stayed flexible (as per the point above!) so you could take advantage of it.
Consider All Airports & All Airlines
Whether you fly frequently or not, chances are you have certain airlines you typically look at for airfare and certain airports you always use near where you live. To give yourself the best chance of finding cheap airfare, it’s recommended that you expand your search options a bit.
It’s a good idea to check airfare from all airports that are close enough to be reasonably considered home airports for you (in some cities, there are 2-3 airports within a reasonable distance), because prices can fluctuate widely from one airport to another (even on the same airline). And to have an even better shot at a cheap ticket, it’s also a very good idea to look at budget airlines in addition to the big names you’re familiar with.
You may know the names of the low-cost airlines that fly out of your home airport, but unless you’re flying non-stop to your final destination you should also look up what discount carriers fly into the airport on the other end as well. That way, if you have to change planes midway anyway, you could get a discounted ticket for at least part of the journey.
hilarious photo by Ma1974