The Highs, Lows, Ups, Downs, & Fluttery Butterflies That Come with Purchasing Plane Tickets
Am I the only one who gets super anxious when it comes time to click the "Yes, Please Take My Money" button when purchasing plane tickets? Did you know that questions beginning with the phrase "Am I the only one..." often end with a very generic statement that applies to a lot of people, exposing the asker's obvious plea for attention? Don't you just hate people that do that? Oh, wait a minute...
For real, for real, though: purchasing airline tickets can be a slightly stress-inducing experience, especially when you look at those fees — for baggage, for selecting where you'll sit, for flight insurance, etc. — that just keep adding up as you go through the process. All of a sudden that $144 roundtrip flight to Houston (or Orlando or Myrtle Beach or Baltimore) doesn't look so cheap anymore, and you're sitting there scratching your head, thinking to yourself, "So, that's how you want to be, huh, Spirit Airlines?"
It's all made that much more nerve-racking due to the fact that most plane tickets are non-refundable, too. But what can you do? Well, my friends, let's start at the beginning: where on the Great Wide Web are you going to hunt down these magical, mystical pieces of paper that grant you access to those winged flying machines? If Google Flights isn't the first thing that popped into your head, you may just have a problem.
Now, I'm not saying Google Flights should be your be-all, end-all when it comes to purchasing plane tickets, but it should be the first place you're checking for the cheapest possible prices (except, of course, if you are a rewards member with a certain airline; just go directly to their site and make good use of those miles, silly) — especially because Google built in that nifty tool that lets you track prices for certain trips over time.
Along with Google Maps, Google Flights is probably one of the most frequent pages I visit on the Internets, because even if I'm not exactly looking to purchase a ticket right at that exact moment, I still might find a deal that I can't possibly pass up. This happened just recently, in fact, where I went to the Google Flights machine all willy-nilly and ended up with a round-trip flight to Denver for $206 — and I seriously hadn't intended on buying anything. But now I'll be in the Mile High City over my birthday weekend this December, and I already know I'll be patting myself on the back for my spontaneity when that time comes.
Let's not kid ourselves, though: my hands were a little sweaty before I hit that final button to confirm. Okay, maybe not sweaty, but just picture something you do when you're nervous and pretend I was doing that; you'll get the idea. The base ticket was $177 for a Thursday through Sunday trip, but then you continue on and the airline (Frontier, in this instance) wants you to pay $70 for a carry-on (no thanks), $60 for a checked beg (okay, I guess, I gotta pack something), and another $10-$25 or so to pick your seat (which isn't required, but still). Where do these rascals get off, anyway?
Word of advice: unless you're traveling with kids and you need to sit with them, don't pay to choose your exact seat on the plane! And if you're like me and want to spend as little on baggage fees as possible, consolidate, consolidate, consolidate. Two or three of you going on an extended weekend trip? Have one person pay for a checked bag and have everyone cram whatever they can into that single piece of luggage. Then you split the cost of the single bag evenly and everyone has a few less grey hairs on their head. And if packing light is problematic for you, why not check out this Lonely Planet article with tips from a master packer?
I'm usually not one to pay for flight insurance — I didn't purchase it for that upcoming trip to Denver, for example — and in most instances, I'd suggest you don't worry too much about it, either. Airlines do lose luggage from time to time and that's something insurance would cover in most cases, but in the nine years since I first stepped on an airplane, I've still never lost a bag (find some wood and knock on it for me, would ya?).
Even the one time I had to cancel a trip — another situation where an airline might be inclined to refund your money if you purchased insurance — I was able to work things out with Delta and turn that ticket to Vancouver into a ticket to New York City a few months later without much hassle, and I'm fairly certain I didn't buy flight insurance in that instance (don't quote me on it though). The long and short of it: if you're trying to save on dough, it's okay to skip flight insurance.
Now, by god, it's probably fairly easy to tell that I had no idea where I was going with this post when I first sat down to write it. Perhaps the preceding paragraphs have provided you with a slight chuckle and a bit of information. Perhaps this has been three minutes of your life that you'd rather have back. If so, I can't help you there, but I can leave you with some helpful links:
- 7 Mistakes You're Making When Booking Airline Tickets (Insider)
- 5 Steps to Booking a Cheap Flight Online (Nomadic Matt)
- 5 Things You Should Know Before You Buy a Last-Minute Airfare (Business Insider)
- Secrets to Stress-Free Flying (Consumer Reports)
- 18 Ways to Navigate Stress at the Airport (The New York Times)