Booking Your Flight: Thinking Through the Process

So you’re planning to book your flight, waiting and waiting for the discount airfare that you’ve wanted, booking online yourself to avoid travel agent services.  But before you keep thinking and hitting ‘refresh’ on your computer in hopes that the price will come down, here are some things to think about:

  1. Be sure you really don’t want a travel agent.  So you’re flying from Toronto to New York and onwards to the Dominican.  Both flights are booked under two separate carriers because this was your cheapest way.  Remember though…had you booked under a travel agent, even though those are different carriers, the agent would help you should you be missing that New York flight for whatever reason (i.e. Toronto was cancelled or delayed).  Travel agents seem costly when everything goes right…but worth their weight in knowledge and experience when things start to go wrong.

Okay, so you still want to do it alone?  I hear ya.  Here are some other things to think about:

2. Connection times.  Too often people assume that connections will work out without thinking about: flight delays, terminal changes, security lineups, etc., etc.  Booking two separate flights online?!  Give yourself PLENTY of time plus some to ensure that you will actually make that connection.

3. What that low-cost carrier really means.  Budget airlines are great for giving everyone the opportunity to travel within a budget.  But remember that you get what you pay for! Low cost often equates no bells and whistles.  Read the fine print and do your math.  Sometimes it’s really not worth saving $100 when in the end you’ll spend MORE on the flight because you have to pay for everything: checked baggage, an extra carry-on, your lunch…

4. Costs to and from the airport.  When I lived in Waterloo, Canada, I had 3 viable options for airplane travel: Toronto, Hamilton, and Waterloo.  You might think that Waterloo was cheaper.  Well, so did I.  Until I booked a flight one day and ended paying more for the cab ride to the airport in my own city, rather than paying for the shuttle to Toronto (an hour away).  If your dime is worth more than your time (as mine was as a student) then it’s worth looking into transport to the airport.

5. Travel times.  The advantage of travelling during the day is that you are more likely to have access to public transportation.  If you don’t have your own transport, either in your home city or at your destination, those cheaper early or super late flights might actually backfire – you could spend more money getting to/from the airport than had you paid more for the flight but been able to take a bus/train/streetcar.

6. Is the travel time really worth saving the money?  Sometimes spending an extra 100$ so you don’t arrive at your destination absolutely exhausted after staying up all night on a layover is worth it.  Sometimes that day flight, or that direct flight, is worth the money…so that your vacation doesn’t start out with you being shattered.  There’s a reason why business travellers choose business class – they arrive at their destination ready to work!  You don’t need to shell out the cash for the upgrade, but you can ensure that you are more inclined to arrive in one piece.

7. If you’re not aware, I recommend the app “FlightScanner”.  It checks for all the flights going between your departure and destinations so you don’t have to worry about missing anything!

Good luck with all your wonderful adventures and happy flight finding! Bon voyage 🙂

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