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  • Writer's pictureRose@WhereToGoTravelCo

Booking Flights: Tips for a Smooth Journey

Ready to explore the world? Our carefully curated tips will guide you through the process of booking flights smoothly and efficiently. Learn how to avoid common pitfalls and make informed decisions that will enhance your travel experience from the get-go.

airplane flying over clouds

Google Flights: Your Ultimate Research Tool

When it comes to researching flight options, Google Flights is a fantastic resource. Enter your departure and destination airports, and you'll see a range of flight times and prices from major carriers. It's a great starting point for comparing your options.

Book Directly with Airlines

The most important advice: always book directly with the airline. Avoid third-party sites like Expedia or Orbitz. Booking directly gives you more control over your reservation, allowing you to make changes easily through the airline’s website. Third-party bookings often require dealing with intermediaries, which can be frustrating and time-consuming. Additionally, join the airline’s frequent flyer program to accumulate points and tie in your Known Traveler Number (TSA Pre-check/Global Entry) for a seamless experience.

Understanding Seat Options: Basic Economy vs. Main Economy vs. Premium Economy

Coach seats come with varying levels of comfort and flexibility:

  • Basic Economy: Typically the most restrictive and least flexible option. You often can't choose your seat, change your reservation, or board early.

  • Main Economy: Offers more flexibility and choice. You can select your seat and have fewer restrictions.

  • Premium Economy: Located closer to the front of the plane, these seats offer more legroom, dedicated bin space, complimentary beverages, and snacks.

Additional Costs and Upsells

Be mindful of additional costs when booking your flight. Most airlines, except Southwest, charge for checked baggage. There are also fees for selecting certain seats (like aisle or window seats) and for overweight baggage. Keep an eye on these potential charges to avoid surprises.

Low-Cost Carriers: Beware of Extra Fees

Airlines like Frontier, Spirit, and Allegiant may offer lower base fares but come with many added costs. They charge for both checked and carry-on bags, have lower weight limits, and often charge for onboard refreshments. Plus, their limited routes can leave you stranded if your flight is canceled.

Nonstop vs. Direct vs. Layover Flights

Whenever possible, opt for a nonstop flight, especially for international travel. It saves time and reduces the risk of missed connections. Remember, a direct flight means no plane change but includes stops. If layovers are unavoidable, ensure you have enough time to comfortably make your connection, particularly when returning to the U.S. through customs and immigration. Aim for layovers of at least 3 hours.

Match Your Ticket Name with Your Passport

Your airline ticket must exactly match the name on your passport. Avoid using nicknames and ensure your ticket reflects your legal name as it appears on your passport to prevent issues at the airport.

Download the Airline App

Before your flight, download the airline’s app. This tool will keep you updated on any changes or delays and allow you to track your checked baggage. It’s also handy for accessing in-flight entertainment and managing your frequent flyer account.

Booking Flights for Cruises

If you're catching a flight for a cruise, always arrive at least one day before your ship departs. Arrive a few days if you can swing it. This buffer helps you avoid missing the cruise due to any flight delays. When scheduling your return flight, check the cruise guidelines for the specific port you are disembarking from. The cruise line will tell you how much time to allow from disembarkation to your flight departure to avoid unnecessary stress.

When is the Best Time to Book?

The truth is, there’s no magic formula for finding the lowest fares. Flight prices fluctuate frequently. While you might hear that Tuesday is the best day to book, this isn't consistently true. Instead, set up price alerts on Google Flights or Hopper, and book when you find a fare that fits your budget. For peak travel times like holidays or spring break, book as soon as flights are available—up to 11 months in advance for most airlines, and 6-9 months for Southwest.

With these tips in mind, you’re ready to book your next flight with confidence.

woman looking at departures board at airport


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