When planning a trip, airfare can easily eat up the biggest part of your travel budget.
Snagging flights on the cheap could help curb some of the cost but you may not have time to sift through dozens of booking and aggregator sites, or prowl the airline websites for deals.
If you need budget-friendly air travel, these tips could help you save big.
Put Your Credit Cards Rewards to Work
If you have unused rewards on your credit card, they could be the key to cheaper travel.
And, you don’t need to have a travel rewards card to take advantage.
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, for example, offers 6% cash back at supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases each year. That’s $360 in cash back that you could apply as a statement credit for air travel booked with your card.
Get the Timing Right
When cheap travel is the order of the day, when you book your flight makes a difference.
If you’re planning to fly during a peak travel period like the week of Thanksgiving, for instance, airfare rates may start to climb in the two weeks leading up to the holiday.
Booking a month or two in advance (or longer if you’re planning an international trip) lets you take advantage of lower prices.
On the other hand, there’s an argument for waiting until the last minute to book.
If the airline can’t fill up a flight, they may offer a significant markdown on ticket prices to get travelers on-board.
Just keep in mind that this tactics works best if you can be flexible with your travel plans.
Check the Airline’s Refund Policy
Many retailers offer price matching programs that pay you back the difference if you find something you purchased at a different store for less.
Some airlines follow suit by refunding the difference when you book a flight that ends up being a better bargain with another carrier.
Before you book, scope out the airline’s policy on refunds to see if you’d be able to get some of your money back if your flight goes on sale elsewhere.
And if you’re using a travel booking site like Expedia or Orbitz, check to see if they offer a best price guarantee.
In some cases, your choice of destination may not be what’s costing you the most. Instead, your luggage is driving up the price of your ticket. According to Kayak.com, baggage fees can range from $25 per bag to over $100 per bag. As you plan your trip, rethink what’s really necessary and consider packing only what you stow in your carry-on.
If you’ll need a little more luggage for your trip, look into a getting a travel rewards credit that offers a free checked bag to travelers if you don’t already have one. Travel rewards cards may require a solid credit rating to get approved so remember to check your free credit score with Credit Sesame before you apply.