Do you need to get somewhere today — not tomorrow or next week? Believe it or not, there are ways to get affordable (or at least cheaper) same-day flights. Now, you may have to do a few things outside your comfort zone. You may also need to have patience and a lot of creativity.
Maybe you need to fly out today due to a family emergency such as a death in the family or a medical issue. If that’s the case, you may be eligible for bereavement flights, which often offer discounted rates. Here are our tips and tricks if you want to do so on a budget.
If you recently received upsetting news from a friend or family member and need to travel at the last second, it’s important to not get worked up.
Once you’re on a plane and on your way to your destination, you can process your emotions. At this point, you need to devote your energy to careful and strategic planning to ensure that you get the best price and the best flight. Going about this planning process calmly may be difficult but it can work to your advantage.
2. Weigh Your Options
Do you have someone to take you to the airport? Do you need to call a rideshare service? Consider how expensive or how safe it is to park your vehicle at the airport.
Maybe you have a few different airports in your area. One may be more busy or crowded, depending on the day of the week or the time of day you’re starting your journey. It may benefit you to do a quick group chat with friends, family, or followers to see if they have a preference for one airport or airline over another.
3. Set a Budget Ahead of Time
Check your bank accounts. How’s that credit card bill looking? Think about how much money (or time) you’re willing to spend on a flight. You may want to find the best price but your budget will look a lot different if you need to fly overseas compared to flying a few hundred miles.
Setting a budget ahead of time can help you make searches with airline providers much faster because you can usually filter flights by your preferred price. If you end up finding a flight within your budget and have additional wiggle room, you can splurge later on in your journey — on accommodations or a fancier rental car — or set it aside for your next adventure.
4. Ask About Special Discounts
Airlines may offer discounts and other benefits for bereavement flights. Contact each airline on an individual basis and explain your situation. You may get a discount if you’re traveling due to the illness or death of a loved one.
You may have to provide some sort of documentation or proof of a loved one’s illness or death. You may want to ask other agencies and accommodations if they offer similar discounts.
5. Or, Download a Travel App
There are a variety of travel-related apps that focus on helping you find the best deals. Many of these apps use intelligent algorithms to find the best prices. It’s likely that you will be able to tailor your search based on your desired destination. However, if you don’t really have a destination in mind, you can also shop for the best deals for an impromptu vacation.
Some travel apps include Tripmasters, Skyscanner, Kiwi, Kayak, Priceline, Hopper, and more. Be wary of travel scams, such as claims that you’ve won a free vacation or a free flight. Always call an agency or company directly if you’re unsure about a price or a policy.
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6. Pack What You Need
It’s becoming more and more common for airlines to offer a complimentary bag check but some airlines do not offer this bonus. Pack only what’s necessary so you can save money by not checking excess luggage. You can always ask the family member you’re staying with if you can borrow a washing machine or use one at your hotel.
Packing everything you need into a carry-on and a personal item will ensure that you arrive at your desired destination with all of your luggage. You don’t want to deal with the extra headache if your suitcase ends up somewhere else.
7. Do Your Research
Check out travel apps and sites for traveling on a budget. Also, do some other research — quickly. Trying to make it to the airport during rush hour? Consult your navigation app of choice for which route will be quickest.
You can also check your preferred rideshare app to see how many drivers are available and what the rates are. See if a friend or family member is available to drive you to the airport so you won’t have to worry about parking your car in an unsafe or otherwise expensive lot while you’re away.
8. Or, Head Right to the Airport
You could also plan as you go. Call up your rideshare (or chauffeur) and do research on the way. You could always wait until you get to the airport to search for deals.
If you recently downloaded a travel app, be sure to enable cellular data usage so that you can use the app just in case the airport’s Wi-Fi is spotty.
9. Ask for Help
There are plenty of professionals who are more than happy to help once you get to the airport. You may consider going to a kiosk of a specific airline or simply ask the airport concierge for flight information. After all, it was much more common before the era of smart devices and mobile internet connections for people to wait until they got to the airport to book a flight.
Let the attendant know that you’re trying to fly on a budget. More likely than not, he or she will understand and try to work with you. However, know that patience and a good attitude are key here. The attendant does not control the availability of flights or the prices of flights — so you should treat him or her with kindness and respect.
Speak directly with a representative to ensure that you’re first in line for any openings, schedule changes, and other last-minute availability that can save you time and money.
10. Have a Backup Plan
What if you can’t find an emergency flight within a certain budget? Can you afford to pay a little bit more? Or would it benefit you to reschedule? Things happen, and sometimes making it to a new city or state within the same day isn’t possible.
For example, the day before Thanksgiving is an extremely busy travel day. Trying to buy a flight that will get you home before Thanksgiving will set you back quite a bit, financially speaking. However, you may find a much better deal (a few hundred dollars, at least) if you wait to fly out on Thanksgiving instead. Ask your friends and family to push dinner a little later.
11. Settle for Fewer Amenities
Don’t expect to be able to fly first class if you want to fly on the same day affordably, and don’t expect to be able to pick your seat.
Some airlines assign seats based on when you check in, which is typically a window that opens 24 hours before the flight.
12. Subscribe to Relevant Updates
Sign up for email or notification updates from your preferred airline or travel website just in case you have to fly on a same-day flight again. Many airlines let “insiders” know about discounts or other special promotions before the average user. Buying flights directly from the airline can also limit confusion if there’s a change in the flight plan or if there’s a delay or cancelation.
If you plan to fly frequently, many airlines also offer benefits, discounts, and other rewards for creating an account. You can also open a credit card with the airline if it’s available. Of course, never sign up for credit cards you aren’t planning to use responsibly and pay off in a timely manner.
Be Savvy, Don’t Settle
Flying the same-day can be stressful or exhilarating, depending on your circumstances. However, there are plenty of tips and tricks available to ensure that if you’re not getting the best seat in the house, you’re at least getting the best deal. Remember to use available resources wisely — ask family, friends, coworkers, and travel and airline professionals for help. (Also, don’t forget to take bereavement leave from your employer.)
- “Travel Tips.” Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information. www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0046-travel-tips