Things to Consider When Buying Your Tickets

Price is probably the first thing you think about when buying airline tickets.  No surprise there!  If you have a family of four going to Europe, it’s not a small investment.  There are things you can do to try to get the best experience for your family so we want you to at least think about them as you make the purchase.  Most people these days buy online and manage their reservation themselves so it’s good to become an educated traveler.  And, most people who make the plans are the Moms (that’s good!)  because we know how to shop with a discriminating eye.  Below, you’ll find a list of things to consider when making your reservations.  I used to be motivated by only one airline’s loyalty program. Now I look to the other ways I earn points or miles so I can have more options.

  • Ticket Prices

    When looking for a good deal, first begin your search on a travel consolidator site like Kayak or Expedia.  You’ll get a quick overview of the price landscape of different airlines.  And, you’ll be an anonymous shopper.  You know how when you shop online all of a sudden ads begin popping up with things you may want to purchase?  Your software is telling online vendors of your buying habits and this is supposed to be a nice service for you.  Although not officially admitted, it’s said that airlines will track your flight investigations and prices will rise the more often you go back to check that flight.  So, look anonymously first, they buy from an airline site when you are ready to commit.  (I always did it the other way but not anymore!)  If you are part of an airline loyalty program, that may drive your decision.  Some credit cards let you chose from a number of airlines.  The airlines often offer the best deals about eight weeks prior to a travel date. The can gauge demand by then.  This is generally impractical for family travel as award seats may already be taken, school vacations drive leisure travel windows and the best seats assigned.  So, my advice is book as early as possible … even ten or eleven months out.

  • Loyalty Programs

    Maybe you offset the cost of the family travel by getting one or two tickets using miles. You can  book separate itineraries (Dad+free companion and Mom+free companion) or bite the bullet and pay the fee to the airline to book them for you.  You can coordinate seats among the two itineraries.  Or everyone buys an economy seat and you use miles for upgrading to a “plus” program with more legroom.   See our page on Loyalty Programs for more in depth information.

  • Baggage Fees

    These can add up to a substantial cost for a family.  Be aware of what your airline’s policy is.  For international, you typically get one 50-pound free bag of certain dimensions.  There’s a super penalty is you exceed this weight limit.  Know what qualifies as “carry on” for your flight.  See the Baggage page for more in-depth information.  Also, it may be less expensive to upgrade a credit card to one that offers travel benefits such as zero baggage fee (United Executive) or a cash credit (American Express Platinum).

  • Seat Assignments

    Get these at time of booking!  The best seats go fast and with flights almost always sold out, your options as your departure date approaches get slimmer.  Good seats together can make your flight more fun and parents can assist each other more readily if necessary while in flight.  It’s not the end of the world if you need to sit parent/child and parent/child somewhere else in the cabin but it’s not preferred.  Some seats are always held back for airport check-in so you may be able to get to the airport super early and address any issues.  See our Seating page for more in-depth information.