On the road (Travel Hacks)

Part Two:

This is "Part Two" of my "Travel Hacks" series - if you haven't read Part One, scroll down and read it before reading this post! 


So you've followed the right Twitter accounts, signed up to get cash-back through eBates, created your frequent flyer accounts, downloaded Hopper and are ready for your next trip! You've found an incredible deal, now what? 

First of all, you should buy it immediately! Why? Because under Federal Law, airlines are REQUIRED to give you 24 hours to change or cancel your ticket at no cost. Here's the fine print: 

  1. 24 Hour Cancellation Policy:
    1. Your flight must be originating in the United States of America. In example, a one-way flight purchased from Atlanta to Paris would qualify but a one-way flight in the opposite direction would not. 
    2. This is a requirement for ALL airlines selling tickets departing the United States and is not limited to American carriers. For instance, Air Canada, British Airways, and other foreign-flagged carriers must follow the same DOT regulations. 
    3. "Nonrefundable" fares ARE eligible, although obviously once the 24 hour window has closed you will be hit with hefty cancellation or change fees. 
    4. Your flight must be at least 7 days away. 
    5. If you decide to change your flight within 24 hours, you will be responsible for any change in fare, but not a change fee. 
    6. The only airline that's a little different is American Airlines. When you purchase with American, you're given the option at check-out to put your flight "on hold" for 24 hours, locking in the fare. If you decide to go ahead and book it instead of putting it "on hold" you will be responsible for any change or cancellation fees. 

I know that's a lot of information, but 99% of the time, you won't have to worry about the fine print. The two big things to remember are: your flight is originating in the US and it's at least 7 days away. 

Second, it's important to understand the difference between fares and how the 24 hour cancellation policy is helpful. 

  1. Fare Types: When you find an airfare deal, they won't last long. This is where the 24 hour cancellation policy comes in handy. If you see a great price to a destination you're interested in, you should purchase the ticket IMMEDIATELY, even if you're not sure you will be able to get the time off work, etc. Once you've purchased the ticket, you've locked in the fare and now have 24 hours to talk to your boss, significant other, or run the numbers to see if you can afford the trip. There are three different types of sale fares you'll see online: 
    1. Mistake Fares: These are "too-good-to-be-true" fares, like the $203 RT fare to Tel Aviv I purchased last week. These can happen for myriad reasons: human or computer error, currency conversion mishaps, or omitting surcharges and fees. This happens more often than you'd think too! Recently Air New Zealand forgot a zero and priced RT first-class tickets from the United States to Auckland for $1,500 instead of $15,000! Unfortunately I missed the boat on that one! Again, with mistake fares you have to act FAST! It's also worth noting the airline is not obligated to honor the fare, but most of the time they will - if they chose not to honor it, they are required to notify you within 24 hours.
      1. My favorite site for mistake fares specifically is: http://www.secretflying.com/ 
    2. Flash Sales: These are typical 12-24 hour sales for a particular set of city pairs, i.e. New York to London or Atlanta to Paris. The airline typically sets aside a specific number of tickets at a particular price point and when they're gone they're gone. These occur with regularity, often at the beginning of the week. You can sign up for "Flash Sale" alerts from most airlines, but Southwest and Delta are known for having them most often. 
      1. Every week Delta has "Weekend Getaways" - they announce them on Monday morning. You're required to depart on Friday or Saturday and return on Monday or Tuesday. You can sign up for their weekly alerts or simply bookmark the page here: https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/shop/deals-and-offers/north-america/last-minute-flights.html?icid=FS_US_Weekly
      2. Southwest does flash sales at least once a month, often more than once. You can sign up for their "Click N' Save" emails here: https://www.southwest.com/html/email/click_n_save_signup.html?clk=GSUBNAV-OFFERS-AD1-CNS160329
    3. Attack Fares: Unlike "mistake fares" which are accidental, "attack fares" are intentional. They occur when one airline "attacks" another airline's hub. For instance, American Airlines recently had tickets from Atlanta (a Delta hub) to Barcelona for $495. To protect their turf, Delta responded by matching American's price as well as retaliating with the same deal out of Dallas, an American hub. Attack fares are great because there's no fear of your ticket being cancelled and you often have the freedom to choose your carrier. In this example, if I were a loyal Delta flyer, since Delta matched the American price, I now have the ability to travel on my carrier of choice. Attack fares are most often unadvertised, so follow the Twitter accounts I listed in the previous post. 

I realize this is a ton of information. If you don't remember anything else:

  1. When you find a deal buy it immediately! 
  2. Remember you have 24 hours to cancel or change your mind. 
  3. Bookmark "Secret Flying", sign up for Delta & Southwest's flash sale emails, and follow the Twitter accounts from the last post to keep up with the various types of special fares.

In the next post, I'll cover airline loopholes and how to leverage other regulations to your advantage! 

My goal in sharing these secrets is to empower YOU to go see the world. But not just for yourselves. My hope is in a world more divisive than ever, you would see the humanity in those you meet throughout your adventures. And that, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic level, orientation, or gender... everyone's story weighs the same. 

Go and wander!  - JM