I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years that couples are foregoing the traditional gift registries in lieu of honeymoon funding. Honeymoon funding websites like Honeyfund are booming. Just last week, I had an initial consultation with a Denver couple who were planning their 2016 wedding. Within 15 minutes of chatting, the conversation somehow turned to their honeymoon plans and how they were looking just as forward to their three-week honeymoon in Europe as they were to their wedding day, and how their guests have paid for almost half of their honeymoon. Somehow through Instagram, they found out I was also an avid traveler and we spent the next 30 minutes bouncing travel tips and stories off each other. When we realized what time it was, and they had to get to another meeting, they told me they wanted to hire me even though I hadn’t given them my price yet. I quickly finished my presentation, showed them my all-inclusive pricing, and they happily reserved the day. I have a feeling this is going to be one of my favorite weddings of 2016.
So in honor of soon to be newlyweds Steve & Trish, I am going to do a two-part blog post with travel tips I’ve learned over the years to maybe help couples plan their honeymoon or other future trips. The theme is “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” (hence the ‘PTA’ title above…no, this blog is not about Parent Teacher Associations). It’s named after my favorite Steve Martin movie. This month will deal with air travel and December’s Part 2 will cover trains, automobiles, and everything else. Next month’s blog will feature three of my favorite photographers covering my Labor Day Weekend weddings, and November will feature a report on my trip to the Wedding MBA Conference in Las Vegas, so stay tuned.
Planes! After booking over 100 flights for myself over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the airline industry (with a few exceptions) doesn’t really care about it’s customers. There are some carriers like Southwest and Jet Blue that are doing the right thing, but most don’t really care. Southwest is the only airline that I have joined a frequent flier program with. I’ve heard Jet Blue and Frontier also have good programs, as well. The bottom line is there’s no such thing as the perfect airline but Southwest comes pretty darn close. Speaking of Southwest, why is it that this low-fare carrier is one of the few, if any, that offers it’s customers free non-alcoholic beverages, a light snack, no luggage charges, and service with a smile, yet it comes in almost every time as the lowest price on competitive routes? I wish other airlines would take note of its business model.
If you have a credit card that gives you miles, make sure you are paying it off IN FULL each month. The annual fee and higher interest rates on these cards in many cases negate any airline miles savings or free tickets you think you may be getting. If you carry a balance on these types of cards, the reality is that “free” flight you get every year or two is not free. Just add up the $59 – $99 annual fee and high interest charges incurred between “free” flights. Honestly, if you have good credit, there is no reason to pay more than 10% on any credit card, ever….so pay those airline cards off each time you get the bill, or rip the card up.
I’ve also come to the conclusion that there is not a perfect time to book a flight. The general consensus is 3 to 4 months for international flights and during domestic holiday prime time and between one and two months for domestic flights during non-holiday times. I’ve booked killer deals two weeks out and 6 months out, and it really is about luck and the destination you choose. I have noticed fares are usually lower if you fly midweek, and believe it or not, if you BOOK the ticket midweek. The price also depends on the popularity of the route and competition between carriers. A flight from Denver to any of the New York metro airports is mile for mile less than one from Denver to Fargo. Pick big airports. Try to pick routes where there is competition between airlines. If your destination is Evansville, you will probably save money flying into St. Louis or Indy than you will flying directly into Evansville, especially if you need to rent a car anyway.
For flights to Europe, I highly recommend Icelandair. They fly non-stop from Denver to Iceland with convenient, minimal layover connections to over a dozen of the continent’s major cities like London, Paris, Rome, and Amsterdam. Prices are very competitive and are usually lower than most US-based carriers. Furthermore, you can schedule a multi-day layover in Iceland on the way over (or back) without a penalty. You can even book local tours and hotels through their website that pick you up or drop you off from the Reykjavik airport. By the way, I swear I’m not getting any kickbacks or residuals from either Southwest or Icelandair, in case you were wondering ;)
To find the best flight, I use flight search engines like Kayak, Cheap Tickets, and Expedia. They’re all essentially the same and flights are almost always the same price across the board between the three. I personally like the graphics and easy to navigate Kayak the best. I search for all my flight parameters on these sites by plugging in my cities, dates, preferred times, and non-stop / connecting choices, and they give you the best flights based on time and price points. Once I find a flight, I DON’T book it on the search engine. Instead I go to that airline’s website and book it directly through them to avoid any contractual miscommunications and to assure I’m contacted directly by the airline in case there are any changes. I use Kayak simply to find the best flight over many airlines thereby saving time, instead of going to every airline’s website. Keep in mind that some “low-fare” airlines like Southwest, Spirit, and Frontier don’t always post their flights on these sites so you may need to check them separately. The price all on these search engines is usually the same as the airline’s sites, and on some occasions has even been cheaper on the airline’s.
Until next month…safe travels!