A friend was in Venice this summer and stopped by the legendary Harry's Bar. "My martini was excellent," he said. I hope so, seeing as how it came with a legendary price tag of $25.
Long story short, our old friend Andrew Jackson doesn't buy what he used to. But, to me, 20 bucks is still 20 bucks and worth hanging on to.
I've got seven easy ways to do just that: Save $20 per flight and in some cases, a whole lot more.
Quick note: Flight prices can and do change all the time but the prices mentioned below were good as of late last week for travel in October.
1. Save $20 or more on bag fees
You know you can save at least $20 by ditching a checked-bag in favor of a carry-on. If you must check a bag and there are two of you traveling together, double up: Using a single 50 pound bag instead of two 25 pounders saves $50 round-trip. Or fly JetBlue or Southwest and get those bags for free. Where it gets more complicated is when you travel with a carry-on and fly one of the ultra-discount carriers that charge for cabin luggage.
Let's use Spirit as the example:
• Charge for carry-on if paid during online booking: $30 • Charge if paid at airport desk or kiosk: $50 • Charge if paid at the airport gate: $100
In this case, sooner you pay, the more you'll save.
2. Save $20 or more by comparing prices and shopping earlier
Your favorite airline may have a well-deserved reputation for cheapness but no airline always has the best prices so you must compare, even if it means a little extra research because your favorite only sells tickets on its own site. Here's a perfect example of two airlines, two round-trip flights for fall from Burbank to Salt Lake City and two different prices.
• Delta: from $247 • Southwest: from $267
No, not all flights are equal. I always enjoy the fun-loving crews of Southwest and the airline would argue (rather persuasively) that they give you two checked-bags for free while Delta gives you none. But what if you're going on a short trip where a carry-on is all you need and price is your only consideration? On any given route and travel period, legacy airlines can be much cheaper than their so called low-cost peers but if you don't compare, you won't know all your options.
3. Save many $20's by adding a stop
Sometimes adding a stop (or two) saves you tons over more convenient direct routes, and a good example is Houston to Minneapolis. Fly direct for $493 or add a stop and the price drops to $293. Sometimes this trick saves you $20 per flight, sometimes it saves as much as 60 percent.
4. Save $20 by not making a call
Go online! If you don't have a computer, use a friend's or go to the public library but don't even think about picking up the phone because the humans who answer your questions cost money and the airlines make you pay. Typical phone fees are $20 per call (and $25 on Delta, United and US Airways).
5. Save many $20's by moving travel days
This one's simple: The cheapest cross-country flight for a weekend trip (New York-Los Angeles, Fri.-Sun.) goes for $380. Change it to a Wednesday to Wednesday and the price drops to $250. If you can't spare that much time, a Friday to Wednesday trip still saves you $60. Remember, the cheapest days to fly are Tuesday and Wednesday, and Saturday is next cheapest.
6. Save many $20's by changing airports
Say you live in Toledo and want to go to Washington, D.C. You'll pay $490 for the trip. But, if you don't mind the 60 mile drive to Detroit's airport, the price drops to $240. Is it worth the drive to save more than half? Maybe if you leave the driving to someone else, which brings us to the last tip.
7. Save $20 or more on the drive to the airport
Couple of things you can do:
• Get friends or family to take you (and offer to chauffeur them in return) • Look into airport shuttles
The second one is easy if you live near a major hub. For example, a taxi to Los Angeles International from the San Fernando Valley is about $65 (before tip) but the SuperShuttle which serves major airports around the country costs just $37 and really savvy LA travelers take the Flyaway bus for just $8 (parking is extra).
What will you do with all the money you save? A nice, dry martini might hit the spot for starters.