To Book or Not to Book?- That is the Question!

Inside Terminal C, Newark Airport

Inside Terminal C, Newark Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s early enough in the morning and I have been going over plans for travel in my upcoming future. I have to parlay how much money to put aside for travel.Every week I put aside just enough to pay for the trips I am planning for a year in advance. That means I look at my airline miles and decide whether this trip will take miles away or is it cheaper to buy the ticket.

First thing you could do is to take a look at the landscape of what the airlines are pricing and then divide that round trip ticket by the amount of months ahead you are  ready to travel. So if the trip is lets say $350 and you are leaving in 10 weeks then  put aside $70 a week plus the cost of parking and gas it will cost to do this. With careful planning  buy the ticket and have it paid off before you are ready to book. It is a forced savings. Also look at how much money you will need to make up for while you are  away.  Make up your own vacation fund. You are in charge of your life no matter what happens to you.You never want to be short money when you come home as well. Why be stressed out about life? It just makes my head hurt. So lets face it I am always trying to save for travel.

I seek out through all different web sites the availability of flights and put together all types of fares by leaving from one city and looking for bargains in the others.

At times this is a part-time job just looking for flights that suit my budget. In the end I usually end up saving more than $400 or greater per trip. That savings allows me to purchase another ticket for another trip.

Travel does have its rewards. Right now I am in Gold Status with United. What that means is I am usually bumped up to first class by my carrier. So I pay the lowest price possible for my round trip ticket and get to fly  first class. Things they never teach you in school.

Right now since the merger of United and Continental Airlines I am revisiting my status and leaning toward another Star Alliance air carrier US AIRWAYS. They have been decent so far in US travel and my son will experience first hand how they are (US Airways) on an over seas flight. I am looking forward to hearing the report.

I am a bit disappointed at how the service is with United Airlines,lately . Its a cattle car experience in all classes of travel. Maybe the merger caused some hard feelings with the workers. I noticed that the flight crew are not treating the customers (who pay for their salary) as well as they have in the past.

Back to the discussion of to book or not to book. Why would I not fly directly to my destination? Why not just give up the coin for the time being spent? A couple of reasons. Since I have a United credit card I am able to sit in the Presidential Lounge. That access allows me to sit in a comfortable chair. Enjoy free coffee, tea, water, drinks, fruit, cheese ,crackers, newspapers, magazines, and a way to recharge my laptop or cell phone. There is privacy.

All this for way under what I have paid for my economy ticket. So if I find a ticket that usually cost around $450 or $500 round trip and pay $250 to $350 and sit first class well, ultimate score on my part. I do not know about you but I look for all types of ways to be able to do what I enjoy and not pay full price.

What if you had a layover in a city that you always wanted to explore? That is what I will do sometimes. If it is for a prolonged trip then why not sit the extra couple of hours and see the town. There is usually a bus or train at the airport.

I also take into consideration in planning my trip – parking at the airport. That cost can be quite high here in the New Jersey/ New York area. There are budget parking lots and then there are alternative airports. I found on a few occasions it was cheaper to leave from SWF ( Stewart’s – Newburgh) Airport then either EWR ( Newark) or LGA ( La Guardia) or JFK airport. On the rare occasion there is an airport in Allentown, Pa. that is approximately one hour from my home that is cheaper to fly out of. You just have to add in the costs.

By this I mean with each trip add in the cost of travel. That is why I look around the various sites. The $100 I save in airfare will pay for the parking. To give you an idea of what we pay here in the NJ/NY area. JFK, LGA, EWR all cost approximately $18-$24 a day to park.This is at the airport not the budget competitors that sometimes are not so user-friendly at the end of your trip.

SWF parking per day costs are $8 daily. Parking for one week at the airport may end up costing anywhere from $56 SWF  to $158 EWR/JFK/LGA on the high side. Let’s not forget the valet parking at Newark Airport which is $40 a day I believe.

That is why looking for sales when flying become such an important part of the planning. This is what most people do not add into their travel plans. You can save by parking at a train station and taking the train to the airport. Smart ways to park include the park and fly at some bus stations. Stay and fly at some hotels also could be a way to save. There are private companies and if you have great friends or family then you are going for free. Of course you will bring them a present or take them out to dinner.

The extra expenses of travel can be reworked into your daily budget. Sometimes you have to fly out of specific airport just due to schedules. Then look at all the carriers and see if there is anyone who is less expensive going to the same place.

In my search engine I wrote flights NYC to MAD (Madrid). I found all the air carriers their prices and flight schedules. I chose the one that worked and booked the flight. The price range was from $985-$1825. These were all the economy flights. I changed the dates of travel and the prices dropped by a couple of hundred dollars round-trip. If you are able to be flexible with your planning you will save a bundle.

So enjoy your travel. Be creative. Save money for your trip and you will be happy to pay that trip in full. Planning in the future means you never have to feel stressed to see new places and be a world traveller even if it means finding new and exciting places in your own back yard. Book wisely and you will be smiling while you sit comfortably in your economy plus seat that your purchased for the same price if not lower than regular economy.

Peace, Denise

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