The price of airfare is frequently one of the biggest hurdles travelers face when planning a cruise vacation. Cruise lines have become really good at coming up with attractive deals. But unless driving to the port is an option, getting there usually means flying which can often cost as much or more than the price of the cruise. Today we have some tips that will save on cruise airfare to get the most out of your travel budget. Those savings can be used for shore excursions, spa treatment, beverages and more.
Check the Websites. I like Cheapoair, Kayak and CheapTickets but any three you favor can work too. The point is to get enough information in front of you to get an idea of what is available. You’ll know pretty quickly if your idea of a good flight time will cost you dearly or is a bargain. This is a good step to take before you buy the cruise and are looking at options there too. It might be worth getting the kids back in school a day late to save hundreds on airfare.
Don’t give up on the cruise line. For a long time, cruise line airfare was a horrible value. Now, some have new fare options that can be competitive and offer included transfers. More importantly, cruise line airfare often (but NOT always) offers assistance should you miss a flight for reasons beyond your control and that results in you missing the ship. Some lines (but not all) will do whatever it takes to get you there.
Visit the Airline Websites Directly. After you found what you think is the best value for you in airfare, l, visit that airline’s website directly. The sites like those listed in steps 1 and 2 often charge booking fees to pay their bills. You should be able to find the same flights on the airline site for $10 – $20 cheaper on a roundtrip flight, most of the time. You benefit from buying your cruise with a travel agent working for you. Buying directly from the cruise line is never a better value. Buying directly from the airline, though, can be.
Consider Discount Airlines. Most of them do show up on the above search engines, but not all. Southwest Airlines often has low fares or sale fares, but you have to visit their website to find them.
Fly Midweek. Most of the least expensive airfares will involve traveling on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. You may also be able to find discount fares for travel on Thursdays or Saturday. Often you can save enough here to pay for a night in a hotel before the cruise. This is always a good idea not only for the savings and getting to start vacation a day early. Scheduling flights a day early gives cruise travelers extra time between leaving home and getting on the ship which might be needed if flights are delayed. This is an especially sound strategy if flying from the northern United States the south for your winter cruise.
Use Alternate Airports. Many major cities have more than one airport to choose from. For Chicago, you can choose O’Hare or Midway. For New York, you have LaGuardia, JFK and Newark NJ. When booking your flights, consider these alternatives as they can save you money. Consider the cost of transferring from your chosen airport to the pre-cruise hotel or cruise ship too.
Use Booking Windows to Your Advantage. Most airlines have booking windows during which rates change. Generally, these are 21 days, 14 days and 7 days prior to your departure date. The closer you get to your departure date, the more your airfare will be. On the flip side, airlines like Southwest do not allow you to book more than a few months in advance so you have to wait. One way to make this work for you is to add on the cruise line airfare when you book the cruise. If you find flights and prices that work better for you later you can usually cancel your cruise line airfare without penalty. Just make sure to do so before you make final payment on your cruise.
Be Flexible on Dates. Sometimes leaving a day earlier or later can make a difference in the price. Many of the top travel sites allow you to factor this into the search, but if it doesn’t, be sure to check on your own, if you have the flexibility on dates. A bonus comes when you save on cruise airfare; those savings can be used for pre- or post-cruise hotel stays too.
Try Last Minute and Bidding Sites. If you aren’t that picky about your airline, these may be a good way to go. After you’ve found the lowest price via the above means, use that information to place a bid on Priceline, to see if you can get it a bit cheaper. Be warned though, you won’t know your airline until after you pay. Hotwire.com doesn’t make you bid, but like Priceline, it also doesn’t let you see the airline until after you’ve paid.
Sign Up For Mailing Lists. Save on cruise airfare by visiting two of my favorite travel deal websites are airfarewatchdog.com and travelzoo.com. Both list various airfares that are especially good. Sign up for their mailing lists (and those of the airlines serving your destination) to get the latest deals as they happen. If you’re worried about spam, sign up for a free email at gmail.com, hotmail.com or yahoo.com and use that. Twitter users follow @JohnnyJet for lots of good information as well as @Elliottdotorg
Photos- American Airlines
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