Categories
Booking Strategy Budget Travel Holiday Travel Money Travel Trends

The Cheapest Time to Buy Holiday and Thanksgiving Flights for 2019

When do you find the lowest fares for Thanksgiving and December holiday travel? Right now, says the latest data from Hipmunk, derived from analysis of historical buying patterns. Specifically, you can find the lowest fares for both Thanksgiving flights and the winter holidays during the first week of September. But don’t give up if you miss that week:

  • Thanksgiving flights are relatively cheap for the weeks of September 9 and 16 and again the weeks of November 4, 11, and 18.
  • Christmas fares are relatively low again the weeks of October 6, November 18, and, surprisingly, the weeks of December 2, 9, and 16.

Why It Matters More This Year

These findings are in general agreement with reports from other sources for previous years: Your best bet is to buy about three to four months in advance. But buying early might be a particularly good idea this year: Airlines flying the 737 MAX will probably not have their full availability for the holidays so the entire system will have fewer available seats than airlines had planned. Hipmunk mined its purchase data to develop figures for average round-trip coach airfares for domestic travel.

When to Buy Thanksgiving Flights: The Details

Based on past data, Hipmunk found the lowest average Thanksgiving flights, at $417, for the week of September 2. But fares remained in the range of $425 to $440 through the first week of October, and dropped again to around $425 the first three weeks of November. Somewhat oddly, the worst week for low fares was October 14, at $476, and they rose again, to $465, the week of November 25.

[st_related]7 Ways to Save on Holiday Travel[/st_related]

When to Buy Holiday Season Flights: The Details

Christmastime fares seem to be more volatile, with larger week-to-week swings. No other time of year came even close to the average $389 fares found the week of September 2. The week of October 7 was next best, at around $408, with further drops to about $420 the week of November 18 and $450 to $470 the weeks of December 2, 9, and 16. You’ve already missed the worst week in the data base, when the average fares were around $490—even higher than last-minute—although the last minute average was almost as bad, at $480 during the week of December 23. And the weeks of October 21 through November 11 were also bad, with average fares ranging between $470 and $480.

The take-away is that your risk is lowest if you buy early. But if you’re willing to risk a small fare hike to wait for a great promotional fare, you can afford to delay buying your tickets for several weeks. As always, the best recommendation is: “When you find a good fare, pounce.”

[st_related]The Ultimate Holiday Travel Survival Guide[/st_related]

When to Travel; When Not to Travel

Hipmunk also did a comprehensive breakdown of average fares for the mix of feasible departure and return days. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, conventional wisdom holds that the best times to travel are on the Thanksgiving Day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and that the worst days to travel are the Wednesday before and Sunday after the holiday. Hipmunk’s figures say that’s only half right. Sure enough, the three highest fares were on trips returning on Sunday. As expected, the Wednesday-Sunday trip topped the list. But for some strange reason, fares for a trip leaving on Wednesday and returning Friday were near the lowest.

The trip with the lowest average fares was leaving Thursday and returning on Friday, at $307. But other low-fare options included Monday-Friday, Tuesday-Friday, and Thursday-Saturday, at $310 to $323. The three worst trips were Wednesday-Sunday, at $483, Tuesday-Sunday at $459, and Monday-Sunday at $456. Fares varied narrowly from $395 to $420 for other date combinations.

[st_related]The Ultimate Holiday Packing List[/st_related]

With a midweek Christmas this year, there are no obvious weekend peaks. Still, the conventional worst-trip dates, Saturday, December 21 to Sunday, December 29, showed a top fare average of $547. The best trip by far, at $247, was leaving Christmas Day, December 25, and returning the next day. Next best was a big jump up, to $322 for Tuesday to Friday, followed by Christmas Day to Sunday, at $335. Other bad trips were Sunday to Sunday, at $507, and Saturday to Friday, at $491. Hipmunk did not extend its coverage to the following New Year’s week, but presumably fares are high on the Sunday following.

The conventional take-aways here for major holidays are:

  • The lowest fares usually involve traveling on the holiday, itself—an obvious case, because those are the days travelers want to be where they’re going.
  • The highest fares usually involve returning on the Sunday following the holiday—another obvious finding, given that most people want to maximize their vacation time but need get back for work or school on Mondays.

Fare differentials for other dates generally cluster in a narrow range between the maximum dates. Beyond avoiding the worst dates if you can, you’re probably better off timing your trip to meet your best convenience rather than shaving a few bucks off airfares. For more information, see The 12 Best and Worst Days for Holiday Travel This Year.

What to Wear on Your Next Flight

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

 

More from SmarterTravel:

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

Categories
Airport Booking Strategy Budget Travel

7 Airfare Analysts Weigh in on When to Book Flights

According to CheapAir.com, the average airfare changed 62 times last year before departure. With factors like dates and airport origins can’t always be flexible, it’s hard for the average traveler to know what they should be looking for when they’re ready to book a flight.

There are also tons of myths and debates circulating around booking flights, “Are round-trip fares really cheaper? Are non-direct flights always more expensive? Are budget airlines worth it? Is Tuesday really the best day to fly, etc.,” so I wanted to go straight to the experts and ask airfare analysts one simple question: What makes them click “book?”

Airfare analysts spend every day studying fare prices. In my interviews, it became clear there are a three determining factors for when to book flights that every expert analysts use: convenience, price, and timing.

When to Book Flights: Convenience

“According to our research, people are most likely to hit the book/purchase button when the flight is the best deal they can find with as little research as possible,” says Naveen Dittakavi, founder of Next Vacay, a subscription-based flight deal service.

Hans Desjarlais, founder of FlightList, says that layover time is a big factor of his decision-making process, “I don’t like waiting too long in an airport for my connecting flight so if the ticket is very cheap but has layovers more than five hours, I’ll go for a slightly more expensive flight.”

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When to Book Flights: Loyalty Programs and Points

Loyalty programs and frequent flyer points or miles can also influence the decision-making process, even when the fare might not necessarily be cheaper.

“Purchasing airfare using frequent flyer points instead of cash really extends how far I can travel and saves me the most money. I compare every airline that flies to the destination that I want and book the flight which is offered for the smallest number of frequent flier points,” says Adrian Mederos, founder of Aerocred.com.

“Knowing the benefits of loyalty programs and miles I will receive plays a huge part in what airline I fly with. If I’m in a loyalty program with an airline that has a little bit of a higher fare, I will typically pay the extra amount because I know the benefits I will receive for that flight,” says Tom Spagnola, Senior V.P. of Supplier Relations at CheapOair.

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When to Book Flights: Price

Tracy Stewart, an airfare analyst at Airfarewatchdog (our sister site), sums up the pricing game best, “there’s no guarantee that today’s fare won’t double in price tomorrow, or—on the flip side—drop even lower the second after you book … When a search turns up fares that are much lower than I expect, I don’t wait for something better to come along. I book immediately.”

Stewart used this reasoning to book a $150 round-trip fare to the Amazon, “which was clearly some sort of mistake, but was just too exciting to pass up. When you’re excited by how insanely low the fare is, that is a definite sign to book.” You can read more about “fat finger” or mistake fares, here.

Desjarlais, who considers himself to be a flexible traveler always books one-way flights, “Often, they can be found by traveling during the week, usually Monday to Thursday but certain destinations also have good prices on the weekends.” Desjarlais pointed me to an interesting study on the one-way flight trend, available to read here, which found that there’s an increase in the number of markets where one-way premiums are disappearing.

[st_related]The Cheapest Airfare? Here’s When to Book[/st_related]

When to Book Flights: The Booking Window

Booking airfare usually comes down to timing and flexibility. In some cases you have the liberty to change your travel dates or the airport you’re flying into/from and can adjust accordingly, but sometimes you don’t. In these cases, understanding timing, or the booking window, can be helpful.

Here’s the low-down on the “prime booking window,” according to Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir and the company’s 2018 airfare study.

“It’s the period in which the lowest fares for a particular flight tend to be within five percent of its lowest point.” For 2018, CheapAir has determined the window to be 21 days to four months from departure. “Keep in mind, there are situations in which the lowest fare might not be the main mission. If your M.O. is more ‘I like to have the most choice possible,’ you will want to buy earlier, in what we call the ‘First Dibs’ zone (approximately six to 11 months in advance).”

In general, the sooner you can book, the better, Scott Wainner, CEO of Fareness, a flight comparison app advises, “Don’t wait any longer … the longer you wait to book, the more expensive the airfare will be.”

Especially with holiday travel, booking sooner is almost always better as demand only increases closer to the departure date.

[st_related]10 Tips for Finding Cheap Airfare[/st_related]

When to Book Flights: Deal Alerts 

When you are set on your travel dates and destination, setting up airfare alerts on sites like Airfarewatchdog, Google Flights, and Next Vacay can help source deals and gives you a general idea of the average fare.

Stewart advises, “In the months or weeks before your ideal departure date, set up fare alerts across multiple sites and monitor prices to get a better sense of what’s available. If you don’t have the luxury of waiting, you may have to settle for reasonable over cheap.”

As with most purchases in life, it comes down to what you’re willing to pay for what you’re getting. And if you change your mind, don’t forget that you always have a 24-hour buffer window to cancel your flight.

More from SmarterTravel:

Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

Categories
Booking Strategy Peer-to-Peer Travel

The Top 25 Travel Apps to Upgrade Your Smartphone

What’s on your smartphone? Have you downloaded the latest and greatest travel apps, to have them available to help research and book your next trip?

Do you know what the latest and greatest travel apps are?

While they won’t all be applicable to your circumstances and needs, these are the 25 most-downloaded travel apps from the Apple Store, according to an analysis by hitwise, an “audience insights” company:

  1. Airbnb
  2. Booking.com
  3. United
  4. American
  5. Expedia
  6. Southwest
  7. Delta
  8. Hopper
  9. Hotels.com
  10. TripAdvisor
  11. Hilton
  12. Marriott
  13. HotelTonight
  14. KAYAK
  15. HomeAway
  16. Delta (iPad)
  17. JetBlue
  18. trivago
  19. Frontier
  20. Priceline
  21. Allegiant
  22. VRBO Vacation Rentals
  23. Skyscanner
  24. Carnival
  25. Travelocity

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The report also includes a list of the 25 most-downloaded apps for devices using the Android operating system. Although there are some differences between the Apple and Android lists, the names are mostly the same, and Airbnb, Booking.com, and United are the top three for both platforms.

[st_related]JetBlue Preview: More Seats, Less Legroom[/st_related]

Predictably, the largest airlines are fully represented, as are the leading online travel agencies. More surprising, and interesting, the list reveals a number of apps from lesser-known travel services that bear looking into: Hopper, HotelTonight, trivago, Skyscanner. And how about Airbnb? While it has gotten plenty of traction with travelers recently, it was a revelation to find the home-sharing service’s app topping the lists.

Reader Reality Check

What’s on your phone?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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Categories
Booking Strategy Budget Travel Family Travel Holiday Travel

Here’s the Best Time to Book Thanksgiving Flights

Ticket prices go up, ticket prices go down. That much we know. What’s less clear is the timing of those rises and falls. It’s the perennial savvy-traveler question: When is the best time to book flights, to lock in the lowest airfare?

For travel during the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday period, Skyscanner has the answer. Based on the travel-search site’s analysis of 2016 pricing data, the lowest airfares will be found between September 4 and the first week in November.

During that period, the very best airfares are expected to be on offer during the week of September 4, when Thanksgiving ticket prices should average around $300. That, according to Skyscanner, represents a saving of “up to 4%.”

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Paying less always beats paying more, all things being equal. But that 4 percent figure—which, remember, is the maximum savings—leaves me wondering whether it’s enough to warrant much time and energy pursuing. If it were just me traveling, it would be the decidedly modest difference between a $312.50 ticket and a $300.00 ticket. I’d be fine with either, and I expect many others would be as well.

On the other hand, if I were booking travel for a family of four, the potential savings by buying during the lower-fare window would total $50. For that, I’d be more than willing to keep my eyes on the calendar and book 11 weeks out.

All of which is to say, the real importance of that perennial when-to-book question may be overrated. If the potential savings are significant, then it may be worthwhile setting price alerts and keeping a watchful eye on prices’ ebbs and flows. But in many cases, the savings simply aren’t worth pursuing. So book whenever you want, confident that the best price won’t be much lower than what you’re paying when buying at a day and time most convenient to you. No sophisticated data analysis (or airfare  voodoo) required.

Reader Reality Check

How much energy do you devote to timing the market to get the best airfare when booking flights?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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Categories
Booking Strategy Budget Travel Travel Technology

Leapfrogging Rivals, Google Flights Now Predicts Airfare Changes

If you want to find the best price for a flight from Los Angeles to Boston on December 3, there is no shortage of apps and websites that will perform an Internet-wide search and display the results ranked in the order you specify.

Of course, the airfares displayed are those in effect at that moment. By the time you book your flight, prices may rise. Or they might fall. And it matters: No one wants to overpay by booking prematurely, or by waiting too long to lock in a fare that later increases.

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In keeping with its stated mission, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” Google this week added an enhanced airfare-prediction function to Google Trips. “Google Flights can now help you be more confident that you’re booking your flight at the right time to get the best price. We now show you when prices are expected to increase for some specific flights and routes you’re interested in.”

When searching for specific flights, Google Flights users will be notified if there’s likely to be a price increase or decrease, how much the price will differ, and when the change is expected to take effect. That last piece, the timing of the price change, is crucial to making bookings to optimize savings.

The predictions are based on “historic prices for that route,” and presumably other information available to Google in its vast storehouse of data. That means that the tips come with a degree of uncertainty; Google won’t always get it right. But the predictions are likely to be right much of the time, and the algorithm will undoubtedly become more accurate over time.

The new feature gives Google Flights a significant competitive advantage over competing apps such as Kayak, Hopper, and Hitlist. And, more significantly, it shows just how serious Google is about becoming a major player in travel.

The update will be rolled out over the next few weeks.

Reader Reality Check

Sound good?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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Categories
Arts & Culture Booking Strategy Budget Travel Cities Weekend Getaways

6 Luxury Hotels in London, and Their Cheaper (But Similar) Alternatives

Whether you want the best hotel money can buy or a great stay at a more realistic price, we’ve got you covered for your next trip to London. Because here we’ve compiled the very best of the oldest, most beautiful, most charming, and most luxurious hotels in the city and their more affordable—and we promise, still pretty awesome—alternatives. No matter your style, here are six iconic, luxe stays in the city, and nearby properties with similar vibes that come with a lower price tag.

1. The Classic London Pick: The Lanesborough

luxury-london-2

Located in Knightsbridge with Hyde Park on one side and Green Park (and Buckingham Palace) on the other, it’s no surprise that the stately Lanesborough Hotel is one of London’s most expensive and exclusive hotels. Rooms come with Sony tablets, 24-hour butler service, and an extensive in-house movie library…as well as marble bathrooms, naturally. Quintessentially London, here you’ll find Harrods department store a short walk down the road and be able to witness a steady stream of Rolls Royce and Bentley vehicles dropping off and picking up outside. This is high-rollers central.

The Alternative: The Town Hall Hotel

luxury-london-3

In a location that appeals with a different representation of London, Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel is a grand Edwardian-style building with contemporary style. In the heart of the old East End, it is surrounded by the coffee shops, artisanal breweries, thrift stores, and creative enterprises that make up a buzzing, young London. There’s a lot of exploring to get through in this part of town so the luxurious bathrooms and soaking tubs will be welcome after all that pounding of the pavement.

2. The Foodie’s Pick: The Langham

luxury-london-4

When you’re in London and looking for luxury with a foodie slant, why look beyond the place that claims it invented the most classic English culinary mealtime of all: the afternoon tea?! The luxurious Langham Hotel has a prestigious appeal without the pretension of some five-pearl properties, and its elegant interior is home to some exquisite period features. Make sure to indulge in the original Langham’s afternoon tea—around an hour spent waggling your little finger as you drink tea and eat cucumber sandwiches without the crusts.

The Alternative: Boundary Rooms and Suites

luxury-london-5

While afternoon tea is a heritage English tradition, London is a modern culinary capital. TheBoundary Rooms & Suites hotel is located midway between the curry mecca of Brick Lane to the south and the Vietnamese “Pho Mile” to the north. As well as being within short walking distance to some of the best Vietnamese, Indian, and Pakistani food in London, the Boundary Rooms & Suites offers creatively designed rooms within what was once a Victorian warehouse. And if you don’t want to leave for food then you can always try the rooftop bar and grill.

3. The River Thames Pick: The Savoy

luxury-london-6

The Savoy is a renowned London hotel with a history of celebrity guests (Marilyn Monroe was a fan), a beautiful decor that combines Art Deco and classic Edwardian features, and guest rooms so sophisticated they come with their own optional butlers. Oh, and it also has the River Thames running right beside it. Not all rooms come with river views so book wisely, or face having to commiserate yourself with cocktails in the famous American Bar; on second thought, that doesn’t sound so bad.

The Alternative: Mondrian London at Sea Containers

luxury-london-7

With nothing like the grand dame status of The Savoy, Mondrian London at Sea Containers plays to its strengths as a contemporary, sleek, design hotel that happens to have some stunning panoramic views of the River Thames to go with the package. Rooms are artsy and chic, and the restaurant and bars put you either on the river walkway or overlooking the water.

4. The Hip Pick: 40 Winks

luxury-london-8 luxury-london-1

When a hotel proudly advertises that it has space for just three people—one double room and one single room—you know that it’s hip. Thanks to the property’s exclusivity, rooms at 40 Winks are super difficult to book, which just makes the hotel even cooler, right?! Located in Bethnal Green, the intricately decorated 18th-century townhouse is a whimsical, romantic place to stay—if you can ever get a room, that is!

The Alternative: The Ace Hotel

luxury-london-9

All around the world, Ace properties are the hipster’s hotel and in London it’s no different. While you’ll need a room to sleep—they come with record players and vinyls, as well as instruments and radios—you’ll probably spend most of your time outside of it in the buzzing bar or next-door restaurant, Hoi Polloi. It doesn’t come with the price tag of its luxury alternative; instead, Ace Hotel London comes with more cool points than you’ll know what to do with.

5. The Boutique Pick: Blakes Hotel

luxury-london-10

Famously opulent and extremely discreet, Blakes Hotel draws a star clientele to its home in South Kensington. Designed by actress-turned-designer Anouska Hempel, Blakes Hotel features grand, sumptuous decor, intricately detailed to satisfy high standards. As well as 24-hour room service, the hotel has a fitness center and offers Bang and Olufsen electronics in its stylish rooms.

The Alternative: The Hoxton

luxury-london-11

Located in the vibrant neighborhood of Shoreditch, The Hoxton is a boutique venue that offers equally as much style and design as Blakes Hotel, just for a different type of crowd. Rooms each belong to one single category so you can expect comfort, quirky design, and sleek bathrooms whichever one you stay in. As well as free phone calls to UK numbers and select international numbers, each room gets a sack breakfast delivered every morning. The fast Wi-Fi and communal workspaces make it good for those who need to check into the office on occasion.

6. The Aristocratic Pick: The Goring

luxury-london-12

The hotel of choice for the English Royal Family, The Goring was the spot that the Duchess of Cambridge (aka Kate Middleton) chose to stay in the night before her wedding to Prince William. Not that you have to be royalty to stay at the classic English hotel; you just have to have access to a healthy bank balance. Rooms come with marble-lined bathrooms and the benefit of being within close proximity of Buckingham Palace.

The Alternative: Dukes Hotel

luxury-london-13

Dukes Hotel in Mayfair may be a cheaper alternative to The Goring but not by much; still, you’ll save some cash when choosing this option. Home to a famously good martini, the hotel’s Dukes Bar was said to have inspired regular guest Ian Fleming to include the instructions “shaken, not stirred” in his James Bond novels. Along with elegant guest rooms, Dukes Hotel provides a Cognac and Cigar garden for refined guests to enjoy postprandial smoke and liquor.

—Toby Orton

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More from Oyster:

This article was originally published by Oyster under the headline 6 Luxury Hotels in London, and Their Cheaper (But Similar) Alternatives. It is reprinted here with permission.

Categories
Airport Booking Strategy Money

10 Rookie Mistakes People Make When Booking a Flight

You’d think that as long as you had money to spend, a destination in mind, and a decent Internet connection, booking a flight would be a piece of cake. Instead, often the opposite is true.

I see you over there banging your head on the computer keys, struggling to make sure you’ve searched every option and weighed every possibility only to discover—the moment after you hit purchase—a significantly lower fare.

I see you and I’ve been you. The good news is that, while mistakes happen, there are things you can do to make sure that it’s the exception and not the rule. These tips will help:

Booking a Flight to the Wrong Place

The Mistake: Flying to the wrong city.

How to Avoid It:  Check and then double-check.

[st_content_ad]I’ve done this one: Sat smugly awaiting a flight to Orange County (SNA) airport only to discover hours before leaving that I’d somehow booked to San Diego (SAN).  I blame the crazy people who set up the airport code system, but the blame game won’t help you if you make a similar mistake. Instead, skip your gut check and do a real check to make sure that the code on your ticket is actually the place you want to go. Tip: Want to go to Florence Italy? You want (FLR)—not (FLO), which is Florence, SC. And HON is Huron, South Dakota, not Honolulu (HNL).

Trying to Book Your Own Ultra-Complicated Flights

Mistake: Booking complicated flights yourself.

How to Avoid It: Consider a travel agent.

Just because you have the Internet doesn’t mean you always have to use it. If you’re losing patience trying to find a flight, there’s no harm in reaching out to a travel agent to see if their help might be worth your money. I did an around-the-world trip and relied heavily on an around-the-world flight specialist back home to help me find the best fares as I went…without the headache of trying to figure out each leg, or wondering when and where I’d need a visa for entry.

[st_related]8 Simple Rules for Being a Good Traveler[/st_related]

Not Clearing Your Cookies

Mistake: Pulling all-night search-a-thons for the fare you can’t actually buy.

How to Avoid It: Clear your cookies, switch browsers, or buy it when you see it

The jury is mixed on whether the tracking cookies that search engines leave on the sites you visit are smart enough to raise the price on you if you leave a booking site and come back later. Still, there are those who swear by it.

Why take the risk? Clear the cookies on your device before every new search (or switch browsers). Even better: Know what you want to pay and stop looking when you get close enough. Sure there’s a chance there’s a better deal out there, but there’s also a chance you’ll lose the deal (whether to evil cookies or just another consumer) if you wait.

Missing Out on Third-Party Perks

Mistake: Thinking the only thing a travel agent does is book flights.

How to Avoid It:  Consult a travel agent for additional perks.

I know you know how to search for airfares online, but often travel agents can offer than just a cheap flight. Upgrades at your hotel, a rental car at no extra charge, or simply peace of mind if something goes wrong and you need a quick re-route. Loyalty pays: If you’ve got an agent you love, and who loves you, you’ll quickly see the perks pile up.

[st_related]10 Hotel Booking Mistakes You’re Probably Making[/st_related]

Depending on a Single Flight Search

Mistake: Relying on one search engine exclusively.

How to Avoid It: Spread the wealth.

There are some great search engines out there that allow you to compare flight prices on multiple sites at once. But relying on any one of them would be a mistake. Instead, check out the fares at a few different sites. Some to try: TripAdvisor, Google Flights, Skyscanner, Kayak, and Hopper. And don’t forget to compare the fares you find with those offered directly from the airline.

Forgetting to Find Out the Real Price

Mistake: Comparing fares that really aren’t comparable.

How to Avoid It: Factor in taxes, fees, and extra costs.

That $50 return fare you’re drooling over might very well be a $500 ticket. Make sure you check to see if the rates you’re excited about include all taxes and fees. Also consider the other costs (baggage fees, seat choice fees, etc.) you may be facing once you hit purchase. Weigh all of the costs to know if you’re really getting a deal.

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Not Getting Creative with Flights

Mistake: Booking round-trip flights all the way to your destination by habit.

How to Avoid It: Check out short-hop one-way options as well.

You’re going there and back so of course you’ll book a round-trip ticket, right? Wrong. Sometimes booking your major flight as a return and then adding smaller, short-haul flights on a play-it-by-ear basis can save you big bucks. Want to fly to Nice? Why don’t you find a great deal to Paris and consider a smaller commuter flight on a local carrier like Easy jet out to Nice? Sometimes the best deals are found when you are actually on the continent you’re looking to explore.  This option isn’t the easiest way to travel (it will mean looking hard at the fare rules and limitations, and leaving yourself plenty of connection time) but it can net some big savings.

Not Booking Enough Time Between Connections

Mistake: Assuming a plane will wait for you.

How to Avoid It: Plan for the worst.

Generally speaking, if you’ve booked your connecting ticket on the same carrier (for instance, one Delta flight to another Delta flight) the airline is aware of any flight delays and will usually act swiftly to help you connect to your flight (or rebook you ASAP). But if you’ve booked individual connecting flights, you’re on your own. Give yourself a fighting chance by leaving enough time between flights to allow you to make the connection, even with delays. (Different airports have different rules about how far in advance you need to be at the gate.) As soon as you realize you’re not going to make it, reach out to your connecting airline by phone, email, or social media so it can get started on the rebooking process.

[st_related] Tight Airport Connections: What You Need to Know About Making a Connecting Flight [/st_related]

Cheaping Out

Mistake: Booking a flight that’ll make you wish you’d paid a bit more.

How to Avoid It: Know yourself, and book accordingly.

Before you even open your laptop, consider what you want out of the flight you’re looking for. The super cheap red-eye flight or early morning option may come with a tempting price tag, but will it seem as attractive when you arrive in a destination exhausted, or so early that you won’t be able to get into your hotel room for eight hours? Choose carefully.

Paying Full Price

Mistake: Paying full fare when everyone else scored a deal.

How to Avoid It: Stay socially connected.

Technology is a traveler’s friend when it comes to scoring really great deals. You may not be at your desk checking websites constantly for deals, but someone is, and you want to know them.  Savvy travelers are finding deals and sharing the wealth. Social media groups like Nomadness Travel Tribe and SecretFlying often post incredible deals on Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for their newsletters and get to know the group members for additional tips and tricks.

More from SmarterTravel:

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Heather Greenwood Davis is a lifestyle journalist and a National Geographic Travel columnist. Follow her on Twitter @greenwooddavis or keep up with her family’s adventures on GlobeTrottingMama.com.

SmarterTravel.com is a TripAdvisor Media Group property.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Booking Strategy Budget Travel Family Travel Group Travel Money

Do Travel Coupons and Promo Codes Really Save You Money?

Most of us have used coupons or promo codes when buying electronics or clothes online. But did you know you can also use coupons to save on hotel stays? Here’s where to find them–and whether or not they’re worth using.

Where to Look for Coupons

You’ve heard of Expedia, the online travel site. Well, Expedia Inc., its parent company, owns several travel brands online, including Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Travelocity, Orbitz, and CheapTickets.  Most of these brands offer coupons every day of the year.

  • Historically, CheapTickets has had coupons with the deepest discounts–regularly 20 percent off.
  • Both Orbitz and Travelocity regularly offer coupons for 15 percent off.
  • And Hotels.com often has coupons discounting 10 percent off.

Subscribe to emails from these brands or similar sites to get alerts when new coupons are released, or head to their “Deals” page to find the latest.

Smaller travel sites may offer coupons as well. I often find substantial savings on sites like BookIt.com and TravelPony.com, once a coupon has been applied.

[st_related]Where to Find the Biggest Travel Discounts[/st_related]

When They Work and When They Don’t

Once you’ve found your coupon, it’s never as easy as simply applying it at checkout.  There are often restrictions:

  • Many of the larger hotel brands–like Marriott, Starwood, and Hilton–aren’t eligible for coupons on Expedia Inc. sites. (Even after the exclusions, there are still tens of thousands of hotels in North America that are eligible.)
  • Often, a coupon will require you to spend a minimum amount or stay a minimum number of nights. I’ve found that coupons from CheapTickets are the least restrictive in these areas.
  • There is typically a defined window in which you may not travel.

And that’s it.  The short of it is that with a little effort, you can count on saving of at least 15 percent on your hotel stays for the summer and beyond!

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Booking Strategy Business Travel Travel Technology

New Booking Site Rewards Travelers for Their Flexibility

Turn your travel flexibility into cash. Well, not cash actually. Gift cards. But still, a reward with some monetary value.

That’s the value proposition of Upside, a new travel site from the founder of Priceline.

The company bundles airline flights and hotel nights into packages that both save money on the purchase price and kick back a rebate in the form of gift cards from national retailers.

In exchange for the savings of 5 to 15 percent, and gift cards that “could easily be worth $50 – $75,” travelers are given options to choose alternative airports, alternative flights, alternative airlines, alternative hotels.

Do you really need to book American’s flight to LAX, and stay at the downtown Hilton? How about a cheaper flight into Burbank, on Southwest, with a stay at the Ramada just south of downtown?

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The booking app is interactive, showing users exactly how much can be saved by agreeing to a range of trade-offs. And it’s not opaque, like Priceline. Travelers see which suppliers they are booking, and can predetermine which airlines and hotels they will accept as options. The cost: Users pay $35 for each trip booked through Upside.

Upside will launch in beta in “about 10 weeks.” In the meantime, anyone who signs up as a “pre-launch VIP” is guaranteed a minimum savings of $150 for each trip taken through the end of the year.

Upside brings a new level of automation to a process that many budget-conscious travelers already practice, and throws in some gift cards as a rewards kicker.

The booking app, if it works as advertised, will be a handy tool.

The gift cards, on the other hand, are a marketing misstep. As anyone savvy enough to appreciate Upside’s benefits well knows, gift cards’ value is limited by their single-retailer acceptance, and they are rarely redeemed for their full face value. The gift cards should be replaced with cash, even at lesser amounts, or a choice of cash or gift cards, or a choice of cash, frequent-flyer miles, or gift cards. That would be flexibility.

Reader Reality Check

Might Upside be a useful addition to your travel toolkit?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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Booking Strategy Budget Travel

When Should I Buy Airline Tickets?

Q: When Should I Buy Airline Tickets?

A: The very best time to buy tickets is when they’re on sale. In early June, for example, Southwest ran a nationwide sale that major lines matched on many routes. And you could buy fall transatlantic round-trips in the $350-$450 range or a round-trip New York-Hong Kong for $534.

But sale fares are iffy:

  • You never know in advance when some line will kick off a sale, and you never know whether other lines will match.
  • You never know in advance whether a sale will apply to a trip you’re considering.
  • Sale fare purchase windows are typically short, often only a few days.
  • Travel at the lowest sale fares may apply only to limited dates and times.
  • Tracking sale fares can require a lot of effort.

[st_related]Airfare Report Recommendation: ‘Just Go’[/st_related]

Waiting until a month or so before you travel doesn’t entail a big risk. Yes, airfares may increase by a few dollars following a low point that may be months before departure, but the really steep increases don’t start until about a month in advance. You aren’t risking many dollars if you wait, and if you buy too early, you could miss out on a really great deal.

You can track sales by signing up for a handful of airfare bulletins, starting with those we offer at SmarterTravel and at affiliate AirfareWatchdog. Most big online travel agencies offer some sort of airfare bulletin. And you can sign up for notifications from individual airlines, such as Southwest’s Ding. The only downside is maybe more clutter in your inbox.

But don’t hold off too long in the hopes of finding something a bit cheaper. As AirfareWatchdog’s George Hobica puts it, “When you see a good deal, pounce!”

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Booking Strategy Budget Travel Miles & Points Money Travel Trends

This Is the Best Hotel Search Engine for the Cheapest Rooms, Tested

Hotel search engines, or aggregators, have been around now for more than a decade, but which ones actually return the best prices? Time to put it through the test.

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Airport Booking Strategy Budget Travel Business Travel Cities Frequent Flyer Travel Trends

10 New Routes That Promise Cheap Flights This Spring

When airlines announce new service between two cities, it doesn’t just create more flight options. It also drives down airfares. This spring, new routes from major carriers like American, JetBlue, United, and Virgin America will mean big savings on service both in the U.S. and abroad. Here are the 10 routes with the best potential for bargains.

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Adventure Travel Airport Booking Strategy Frequent Flyer Miscellany

Why Europe Travel May Soon Get Complicated

The 26-country no-border-control Schengen area is in danger of collapsing under the migration threat. Presumably, the new border controls will be for no more than two years. But for now, you have to figure on reverting to the bad old days of mind-numbing border hassles within the area.

The basic idea of eliminating border formalities—and delays—was quite simple. Schengen includes all of Western Europe except for Ireland and the U.K., plus the Baltics, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Slovenia. The enabling Schengen treaty provides for free movement of people and goods within the area. Thus, once you enter the Schengen area, all flights within the area are defacto domestic, drivers face no formalities at highway border crossings, and trains don’t stop for border formalities.

But that traveler-friendly system is under threat. To limit the impact of the huge migrant flow and restrict the movement of potential terrorists, Austria, Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway have reintroduced border checks for the next two years, and more countries may follow suit. Those newly reintroduced controls make a difference.

Two years ago, for example, when I flew from Krakow to Geneva with a connection in Frankfurt, on arrival at Frankfurt I just got off the plane and headed for the gate for my Geneva flight with no passport stamping or anything like it, and arrival at Geneva was like arrival on a domestic flight from Zurich. The Swiss-French border crossing inside the Geneva airport was shuttered and dusty. Traveling within the area was like traveling from, say, Chicago to New York.

But two months ago, when I flew from Vienna to London with a 45-minute Paris connection, on arrival at De Gaulle all passengers were bussed to a remote gate and processed through passport control—at a typically French bureaucratic pace. Because the arrival gate was so far from the usual Schengen-area terminal, by the time I had schlepped to the departure gate for London, I had missed my connecting flight.

Anyone planning on traveling within Europe should figure extra time and hassle into their travel plans. If you’re connecting on flights from one Schengen country to another, allow at least an hour for the connection, shorter official “minimum connecting times” notwithstanding. Driving a rented car, figure border delays that could last hours. When will this added hassle disappear? Your guess is as good as mine: When will the threat of terrorism and flood of refugees end?

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

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Frequent Flyer Passenger Rights

The 11 Most Egregious Issues Facing Travelers Today

From deceptive pricing to excessive fees to too-tight seating, here’s how to deal with the biggest concerns.

1. Deceptive Hotel Price Advertising

Problem: Hotels in many popular vacation destinations regularly misrepresent their true prices. They carve out part of the true price, make it a mandatory “fee” with a plausible label such as “resort” or “facility” fee along with a list of services the fee supposedly covers, deduct the fee from the true price, post the remaining phony low-ball price as the “rate,” and add the fee back in later somewhere in the buying process. This is a scam that severely distorts the price-comparison process by as much as $50 a day.

Current Status: Nominally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for policing deceptive advertising. The FTC sent out a letter urging hotel chains to disclose the fees, and most complied with token disclosures, but you still see lots of big-type price advertisements that do not include the full cost of a room. And, unfortunately, the practice remains and is spreading to city hotels. TravelersUnited has been urging the FTC to take more positive action, but unfortunately the FTC punted, claiming it could not actually enforce honest hotel advertisement unless given specific authority by Congress. Accordingly, because deceptive hotel pricing violates most states’ truth-in-advertising laws, TravelersUnited refocused its efforts on state attorneys general.

Outlook: Cautiously optimistic. Congress is extremely unlikely to give the FTC the authority it says it needs, so the main hope lies with the states. In the past, states have taken action against similar pricing scams, so the outlook is hopeful.

2. Excessive Ticket-Change Fees

Problem: Fees of up to $750 to exchange a canceled ticket are outrageous, and a severe pain point for air travelers. Often, when consumers have to cancel or postpone a trip, they do it because of some unexpected disruption in their lives. Just changing plans can add cost, and a huge fee to cancel and retain some dollar value of an air ticket amounts to airlines’ piling on travelers already under financial and emotional stress.

Current Status: The Department of Transportation (DOT) does not have statutory authority to regulate change fees on domestic tickets, but it does have authority to assure that international fares and fees are reasonable. Last year, FlyersRights filed a Petition for Rulemaking (Docket DOT-OST-2015-0031) requesting that the DOT enforce its authority to assure that international ticket-change fees are fair and reasonable, and TravelersUnited and the National Consumers League are also pushing the DOT to act. The Docket remains open, however, with no response yet from the DOT.

Outlook: Tough call. The applicable law says the DOT should act, but whether it will is anyone’s guess.

3. Nondisparagement Clauses

Problem: Some vacation-rental agreements and other accommodations contracts include clauses that forbid renters from submitting negative reviews to TripAdvisor, Yelp, or similar sites. These clauses give the property owner/manager the right to demand that a traveler remove a negative review and to assess a fee if travelers do not do so. Contracts containing non-disparagement clauses are clearly “contracts of adhesion,” where one party, in this case a consumer, does not have the opportunity to negotiate terms. If a property owner actually does take legal action, many courts throw out their complaints. Consumer positions, however, are uncertain.

Current Status: This is something of a “sleeper” issue, generating very little publicity, but it’s one consumers might actually win. California has already enacted a bill prohibiting state businesses from forcing consumers into contracts with non-disparagement clauses, and Congress is currently considering the Consumer Review Freedom Act that the Senate has already passed unanimously.

Outlook: Optimistic.

4. Consistent Airfare Displays

Problem: Consumers have a tough time comparing different lines’ fares on an apples-to-apples basis across different search platforms because of complex and inconsistent pricing: differing fees for optional services, bundling some fees into fare “brands,” varying fees for different consumers, and such. Third-party search systems are unable to locate, tabulate, and compare these many variations on a consistent basis.

Current Status: A major muddle. Many consumer advocates, along with the DOT, have been concerned with the problem and a consensus solution seems to have emerged. The DOT is working on a rule requiring that airlines display baggage and seat-reservation fees along with base fare displays. Major consumer groups support the DOT. Of course, the airlines oppose any suggestion that the current airfare search system is broken: “Just book through our own websites,” is their mantra, “Trust us, we have the best fares, and forget about comparing prices.” Yeah, sure.

Outlook: Optimistic. Even though they publicly oppose the idea, airlines are supposedly already working with the travel booking system, Global Distribution Systems, on implementation.

5. Protections for Oversold Hotel, Cruise, and Rental-Car Consumers

Problem: Federal regulations require airlines to compensate air travelers if an airline has to bump them due to overbooking. Although hotels and rental-car companies sometimes cannot honor a traveler’s reservation, however, their customers currently have no comparable protections under either federal/state laws or official industry commitments. And cruise contracts allow cruise lines wide latitude to change itineraries and miss ports without giving passengers the right of immediate full refunds, and the contracts make it extremely difficult for consumers to take legal action. At least so far, the hotel, cruise, and rental-car industries have failed to develop their own effective consumer protection standards:

  • Neither the big hotel and rental-car chains nor their industry associations have even made vague promises.
  • The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) developed a cruise customer “bill of rights,” but it’s vaporware: It makes glowing promises but provides no accountability when a line fails to meet any of the promises, and does not close any of the wide-open loopholes in cruise contracts.

Current Status: As far as I can tell, no major players in the consumer movement are seriously considering this problem, much less pointing to solutions.

Outlook: Bleak.

6. Domestic Airline Competition

Problem: Many consumers are concerned about a cluster of issues centered around the current lack of real competition among the giant domestic airlines. Among them are substantial differences among airlines in treatment of, and lack adequate compensation for, travelers on canceled flights, along with inconsistencies and uncertainties in fees and services among airlines on code-shared flights.

Some consumer groups advocate a return to the regulation-era “Rule 240” requirement for an airline to transfer canceled or delayed passengers to another airline when the second line can get the traveler to his or her destination earlier than the original line. Also, consumers are concerned about possible collusive pricing and capacity behavior among the four giant lines that control 80 percent of domestic air travel, the survival of independent airlines, giant-line hoarding of “slots” at controlled airports, and the anticompetitive effects of domestic and international immunized alliances.

Current Status: At this point, consumer-interest organizations are addressing several of these issues, but so far with little traction. Airlines, of course, counter any new proposals as “excessive” regulation. “Let the marketplace decide,” they say, without acknowledging that the current airline marketplace is stacked against consumers.

Outlook: Doubtful. Consumer-interest organizations will coalescence around one or more of these issues or a combination of issues, with recommendations to come. Expect strong airline opposition.

7. U.S. Airline Protectionism

Problem: U.S. airlines are pressuring the State and Transportation departments to restrict supposedly “open skies” access to U.S. routes for some foreign lines. Specifically, they’re calling for (1) limitations on U.S. flights by the big three Gulf airlines, Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar, claiming these lines receive “unfair” subsidies from their governments, and (2) they’re pressuring the DOT to deny Norwegian’s request to use an Ireland-based subsidiary for flights to/from the U.S.

Current Status: Pending. The DOT is still sitting on Norwegian’s application, with no indications of when it might act. As a non-lawyer, my reading is that the U.S. has longstanding “open skies” agreements with the Gulf nations and Ireland, so that the domestic airline position basically calls for the U.S. to abrogate legal and treaty obligations. Consumer interests generally favor continuation of open skies policies and encourage both the service-based and price-based competition that foreign airlines provide, but the big U.S. lines have a lot more political clout than the four foreign lines, plus they have support from some U.S. airline labor interests.

Outlook: Murky.

8. Air Traffic Control Modernization

Problem: Despite the availability of technology and having spent a potful of money, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) progress in updating the nation’s air traffic control (ATC) system has been glacially slow, resulting in excessive delays, lengthened flight times, and higher fares. Critics blame the culture and management of the FAA, along with its dependence on annual budgets from Congress. They propose splitting the ATC function out of the FAA and into an autonomous publicly-owned operation such as TVA, funded by user fees rather than taxes and managed by a board that would include consumer representation.

Current Status: Proponents cite the need to take ATC funding out of the yearly budget politicking and occasional Congressional micro-managing, instead funding it entirely by user fees. They cite the success of the independent NavCanada. Opponents label the move “privatization,” even though it would not place the ATC in the hands of a private company. The most vocal opposition comes from politically powerful general aviation and business aviation interests, both of which fear that an independent public operator would favor airlines over other airspace users. On balance, consumer interests seem to favor the independent option, although support is far from unanimous. One stumbling block is the worry, far from remote, that if ATC funding does shift fully to user fees, the government will retain current ticket taxes for general revenue.

Outlook: Highly uncertain.

9. Frequent-Flyer Program Abuses

Problem: Airlines hold all the cards—including legal ownership of “your” miles—and are free to devalue programs, limit the number of seats available at the lowest mileage levels, add fees to award travel, and basically do whatever they want without consent of the frequent flyers in their programs and without any governmental oversight. Frequent-flyer membership is the most one-sided contract most people are likely to sign in their lifetimes. And currently, several big lines are actively devaluing programs.

Current Status: This is another issue about which most consumer-interest organizations agree, but the only active consumer effort is focused on peripheral disclosure and traveler-treatment issues rather than the fundamental problems of miles ownership and inadequate seat availability.

Outlook: Improvements unlikely any time soon.

10. Too-Tight Economy Seating

Problem: Typical coach/economy seats provide inadequate front-to-rear legroom and working-/reading-area space for most travelers, and according to anthropometric studies, the seats are at least two inches too narrow to accommodate the average American male traveler.

Current Status: Airlines say (1) that more per-passenger seat room equals higher per-passenger costs equals higher fares, and (2) that American travelers have decisively shown they will put up with the worst sorts of seating to cut a few dollars off the fare. “If they want more room,” the lines say, “we have an extra-legroom, extra-fare cabin for them.” Consumer advocates are focusing on the safety implications of ultra-tight seating. They note that neither the FAA nor any comparable foreign agency has tested whether travelers in those seats would be able to meet the 90-second standard for evacuation from the cabin in a survivable accident.

Outlook: Questionable. Government agencies currently test emergency evacuation with computer models, which they say are sufficient. And, at a practical level, nothing can be done about too-narrow seats in the ubiquitous 737 and A320 families: The cabin width is fixed, and going from the current six-across to five-across would increase costs beyond any reasonable level.

11. Barriers to Legal Recourse

Problem: If you have a case for taking legal action against an airline, current federal law limits you to federal court, a limitation that, in many regards, effectively bars most legal action. Also, many transportation contracts prohibit consumers from participating in class-action lawsuits, require arbitration of disputes rather than court action, and include “forum clauses” that limit court action to venues that might be remote for many consumers.

Current Status: TravelersUnited is urging Congress to mandate that consumers having claims against an airline of less than $80,000 could transfer jurisdiction to local state courts. And some advocates believe any new law should also ban clauses preventing class action participation, mandatory arbitration clauses, and forum clauses.

Outlook: Doubtful. So far, this issue has remained largely under the radar, with very little concerted effort. Any consumer relief is, at best, years in the future.

Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

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Airport Booking Strategy Budget Travel In-Flight Experience Solo Travel Student Travel

The Pros and Cons of Flying on Wow Air

Editor’s Note: WOW Air shut down in March 2019.

Ever wonder what it’s like to fly on a transatlantic airline that charges as little as $99 from the U.S. to Europe? Wonder no more! Here are the pros and cons of flying with Wow Air.

Pro: Incredibly Affordable Fares

Introductory fares from Boston and Baltimore to various European capitals sold at $99 each way, including all taxes and fees, during several sale windows in 2015. And though you won’t always find fares that low, you can still routinely save hundreds of dollars by flying Wow Air.

Con: Excessive Bag Fees

Carry-on bags: You can bring one carry-on bag weighing 11 lbs. or less per passenger for free. You can increase the weight limit to 26 pounds for an additional $38 (prepaid online) or $48 at check in.

Checked bags: Checked bags are expensive on Wow Air: $48 when prepaid online, $67 at check-in, and double that for the second bag. A third bag costs $144 when prepaid online or $201 during check-in. Each bag may weigh as much as 44 lbs., and overage charges are $18 per kilo per bag, up to 12 kilograms (26 lbs.). Note that the checked bag fees are per flight segment, meaning you’ll need to double the prices if your flight includes a single layover.

Tip: I recently flew Wow Air to Europe. The carry-on bag weight limit was strictly enforced (down to the ounce) in the U.S., but entirely disregarded in Europe. Your experience may vary, but keep that in mind when packing your carry on.

RELATED: 5 Small Airlines That Are Rocking Social Media

Con: No Free Snacks, Not Even a Cup of Water

No snacks are distributed on the plane (not even a snack-sized bag of pretzels). Requests for a cup of water will be met with a pitch for a bottle of water at a cost of 300 ISK ($2.33 USD at time of publication). A cup of coffee or tea goes for 350 ISK ($2.71) and a miniature-sized bottle of a mid-grade alcoholic spirit sells at 900 ISK ($6.98).

Con: Limited Routes

At the moment, Wow Air only serves Boston, Baltimore, Montreal, and Toronto on this side of the Atlantic. Across the Pond, Wow Air has a broader foothold, serving Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Bristol, Copenhagen, Dublin, Dusseldorf, London, Gran Canaria, Lyon, Milan, Nice, Paris, Rome, Salzburg, Stockholm, Tenerife, Vilnius, and Warsaw; plus a hub at Reykjavik.

Updated 01/19/2016: Wow Air has just announced expansion into the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets, and will begin flying to Europe come June 2016. Tickets are on sale now.

RELATED: Are Dirt-Cheap Flights the Way of the Future?

Pro: New Fleet

Wow Air’s fleet is much newer than many rival carriers. The planes are outfitted with basic amenities such as reclining seats, food trays, and overhead lights; and bathrooms and overhead bins are comparably proportioned to most other carriers. Superseding similar budget lines, seats are still spiffy clean and come equipped with a built-in device charger.

Con: Missed Opportunity for a Free Stopover

All Wow Air transatlantic flights briefly stop in Iceland. This is great if your final destination is Iceland, especially because Wow Air’s Reykjavik flights are the most cost effective; not so much for those with a final destination to one of the airline’s other 20 European cities. One of Wow Air’s main competitors, Icelandair, allows optional single- or multi-day stopovers in Iceland at no additional charge.

This is a moot point for those uninterested in the Blue Lagoon, the Northern Lights, and the bountiful natural beauty Iceland offers, but a missed opportunity for those desiring a quick or multi-day Reykjavik visit without incurring extra airfare costs.

RELATED: Best Airlines for Free Stopovers

Con: Pay to Select Seat

Seat selection—for any seat, regardless of location, e.g., deeper-pitch seats like those on the exit row—costs $6 to $67 dependent on route and seat pitch.

Tip: If you don’t want to pay this premium but have seat preferences (e.g., window seat, sitting with travel companions), check-in as early as possible to get first dibs of the remaining open seats. Boarding groups are assigned by check-in time.

Pro: Same Seat Dimensions as Competition

Despite its value model, Wow Air doesn’t skimp on seat width and pitch. Comparable to other airlines, Wow Air’s A321 (the Airbus used for its transatlantic flights) seat pitch measures as much as the average American Airlines Boeing 757 at 31 inches, though it falls a smidge short in width.

Pro/Con: Inflight Advertisements

Flight attendants walk the aisle pitching duty-free wares, including perfumes, alcohol, cigarettes, and souvenirs; and seat tops are draped with paid advertisements of Reykjavik airport transfers and day excursions. Depending on your sensibilities, these features are either a tacky turn off or a convenient time-saving resource to pick up a last-minute item, duty free.

Patricia Magaña will gladly fly Wow Air again. Follow her on Instagram @PatiTravels for travel inspiration.

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(Photo: WOW Airplane in Sky via Nieuwland/Shutterstock.com)