I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane… For Free
I had been looking for somewhere to go for a much-needed break from work. Because 10 days was about the max I could take off, anywhere I went would have to be relatively close. I also wanted somewhere that is warm, compact and geographically diverse (jungles, mountains, beaches, etc.)
I crossed off Hawaii because I had been before and it’s relatively expensive. Jamaica was X’d out mainly because I didn’t want to be murdered or maimed. I thought about the Caribbeans but being single and going to a romantic getaway didn’t seem so awesome. This left me with Central America.
Travel Independent is great for a quick rundown on prospective places to go and I narrowed it down to Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. Guatemala, although described as the most interesting, was crossed off because of its size. Down to Belize and Honduras, I eventually chose Honduras because it was cheaper, had a better backpacking scene (Utila) and had great diving.
Now that I had my destination set, I had to book a flight. Choosing a place is hard. Booking a flight is even harder. It seems like airlines purposely try to bend you over by completely randomizing their ticket prices: one day they’ll be at $200, the next day at $500, only to drop down to $150 on the third day. It’s like trying to deal with a schizophrenic on crack. Luckily, Al Gore was born and invented the internet which has a lot of useful sites to help you find the right ticket at the right price (and even refund your $ back if you don’t).
1. Kayak – The best price crawler on the web. I’ve noticed that they consistently produce better results and prices than Orbitz, Expedia, etc. They also show a calendar that shows the best prices other people have booked similar flights. Other cool features include searching nearby airports (you might get a way cheaper flight to a local airport), flexibility in timing (+/- 3 days), ability to map out multi-legged journeys and they have hilarious commercials:
2. Yapta – A great price tracker built on top of the Kayak platform. Once you’ve found your flight on Kayak, track it with Yapta. You can track multiple flights and Yapta will show you a price history. They also have a cash back feature that will refund you the difference if someone books your flight for cheaper but I haven’t used it before so I can’t say for certain how it works.
Those two sites are sweet and all but what’s even better is flying on miles. I managed to snag my Honduras flight for a total of $27.50 (taxes; would have been ~$700-800 otherwise) because I had existing miles on Continental from my South America trip and also signed up for a Continental credit card. While everyone and their mother knows about frequent flier miles, I’m willing to bet that most people don’t take advantage of the credit card offers that can really boost your miles.
Recently, a lot of airlines have been giving tons of miles for signing up for a credit card and making a single purchase or hitting a spending limit. British Airways had an 100K offer, United 50K and a slew of 30K have hit the wires.
Another great site I discovered is AwardWallet. It’s a great miles/points/reward programs tracker. You sign up for an account and it lets you login to all of your reward accounts from one screen and see a snapshot of your total rewards activity. It also auto-updates and tracks your itineraries for you. Pretty awesome if you happen to have multiple reward accounts.
I use all of these sites when booking for a trip and although it seems complicated at first, you’ll find that it soon becomes second nature. You’ll also hopefully save a ton of money by either getting a great price at Kayak/Yapta or cashing in your miles.
As for my flight, I’m booked from August 4th to the 16th, flying into San Pedro Sula from SFO and out of Roatan. STOKED!