What do you need to know about those cheap flights?

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    First, what’s the deal with all these cheap airfares? After I scored our flights another friend nabbed flights to Paris for $266! Is it just me or are bargains everywhere now? “We are living in the ‘golden age’ of cheap flights,” Keyes confirmed. “It has never been cheaper to travel overseas.” His site shared a round trip to Amsterdam for $203 the day we spoke. But how can they be so inexpensive? Our actual flights cost $68; the rest of the price was taxes and fees. It boils down to a few things, Keyes said. There’s a lot more competition putting downward pressure on international flights; newer, smaller planes can make the ocean crossing; and fuel prices have plummeted. Besides that, those cheap coach tickets aren’t really how the airlines make their money, anyway, he explained. There are all those airline-branded credit cards, there’s cargo, and then of course those spendy seats at the front of the plane. The plane is going anyway, so the airline just tries to recoup what they can, Keyes said, so we can thank those other revenue sources for our subsidized cheap seats.

    The prevalence of ultra-low-cost airfare could well change how we plan to travel, Keyes said. He thinks most people would be happier if rather than deciding where to go and searching for flights there, “they let the availability of cheap flights guide where they take a vacation.” “All of a sudden you can take three flights for the price of one,” he said. “You can see a lot more diverse and under-the-radar places. If you’re [only] going to pick a trip once a year you’re probably not inclined to go to a place that doesn’t get a lot of hype.”

    The clock is ticking when major sales hit. “The better the deal the shorter it’s going to last,” said Keyes. “When you find those really good deals it pays not to dilly-dally. It can disappear at any time.” It’s worth having an understanding with your partner ahead of time, Keyes said. I was able to reach my husband by text, who replied “Book now, figure it out later,” (a key to our longevity!), but Keyes has heard of people missing out on unbelievable sales when they couldn’t reach their travel partner.

    It’s a little disconcerting to go from having no plans for a trip to suddenly having an international escapade on the books, but “what a lot of people don’t realize is they have a hidden tool in their back pocket,” said Keyes. That’s the 24-hour rule — and your lifeline if you book first and think later. As long as the flight is at least a week out, “if you book directly with the airline you automatically have 24 hours from the minute you book that you can cancel or change without any penalty,” Keyes explained. So when he sees an extraordinary deal, “What I’ll do if I’m not sure, is I’ll book it and I’ve bought myself 24 hours.” (You can read up on all the details at transportation.gov.)

    Even if you do only take one trip (there is still the issue of vacation time, after all), cheap flights relieve a lot of pressure. If you’ve dropped more than a thousand bucks just to get somewhere, “there’s such an existential pressure of ‘I’ve spent so much already,’” he said, that travellers may be reluctant to spend on the things that make the trip worthwhile. “If you only spent $250 to get there,” though, “that’s a lot of money left over.” Money I’ve got earmarked for a week full of baguettes, cheese, and wine in Paris.

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