Four Airline Hacks For Travelers On A Budget

?: Jorge Díaz/Flickr

About three weeks ago I traveled on WOW Air for the first time. The price was about as unbelievable as the soul crushing reviews continuously pouring in on  consumer reporting sites. If this wasn’t a quick trip to meet my globe trotting husband in Amsterdam, maybe I would’ve reconsidered or perhaps flown something safe and trusted. But, like I said, the price was unreal and I could already hear the EDM beats pumping at the late-night Dutch disco techs…I had to press on.

WOW Air is similar to many other pay and play airlines that offer stark discounts in their base fares while placing the onus on patrons to pay for the additional luxuries they deem necessary. United Airlines, Norwegian and so many others are introducing these base level seats for passengers looking to save a few dollars.

No, this is not the air travel of yesteryear where you could enjoy exotic dinners, fresh brewed morning coffee and an endless supply of complementary pillows, blankets and peanuts. I know, I miss those days, too.

With these four simple hacks you’re ensured to fly comfortably and affordably even while sitting  in the cheap seats.

 

Get Down and Dirty with Duty Free

?: Tino Rossini/Flickr

Purchasing alcohol on planes has always been pricy, but in the last couple of years the fees on your favorite cocktails have skyrocketed. On WOW Air, wine and spirits ranged from $9.00 – $15.00. The only beer option was an Icelandic brand called Gull that I wasn’t familiar with. Not outrageous, but if you’re planning on starting your vacation party early, those little bottles can quickly add up.

Stop by the duty free shop for a bottle of premium liquor or a chilled bottle of wine with a twist off cap (like the $19 bottle of Napa Valley Chardonnay I opted for). WOW Air says they don’t allow patrons to open duty free items on the plane, but the stewardess happily offered me a plastic cup so that I could discreetly pour my delicious, buttery chard into!

 

Watch your Sizes

?: Nicole Hanusek/Flickr

Most airlines offering these a-la-carte fares have MANY restrictions, but the most consistent across the board are bag sizes. On WOW and United you could only bring a small personal item (i.e. a purse or a briefcase) for free. A tiny bag might cut it for a weekend getaway, but could be harder to pull off for a two week international holiday. From my research I’ve found that it’s always cheaper to buy a carry-on or checked bag at the time of your airline ticket purchase. If you wait, additional fees will be added to your costs, so plan ahead. Also, drag out that dusty bodyweight scale and weigh your bags before your get to the airport. If you go over the dimensions or weight, you will most definitely be looking at a stiff bill at the check-in counter.

Take a Meal To Go

On my last trip to LAX, I had the most disappointing caprese salad I’ve ever experienced in my life. My Italian friends would’ve been livid, especially since the appetizer-sized simple salad cost over $15.00. On my trip to Amsterdam, I refused to make that same mistake again. I ordered a sandwich from one of my favorite shops on the way and asked them to hold the condiments. After a quick trip to the grocery store for individually packaged trail mix and a delectable fine cheese snack pack, I was ready for the eight hour journey to our stop in Reykjavik! Remember: you want something that’s going to travel well and that won’t go bad over the duration of your journey.

(CAUTION FOR WOW AIR FLIERS: The airport in Reykjavik is a hub for WOW so you will most likely stop through there. If you plan on getting food or cocktails, check the prices carefully. Reykjavik is EXTREMELY expensive with a pre-made sandwich costing me $20 USD. )

One new service I am anxious to try on my trip to Paris next month is   Loungebuddy. It’s an app that allows you to pay a nominal fee for entry into airport lounges all over the world. Some lounges offer free meals, while others serve up complementary signature cocktails. If you’re in a foreign country without a chance to stop for a snack, this might be the next best thing!

 

If You Can’t Beat ’em Buy ’em

?: Gary Bembridge/Flickr

As much as you might try, some perks you’re just going to have to pay for. I opted to buy an aisle seat and purchased a carry-on bag for each leg of my flight. Though it cost me an additional $200 on my fare, it was worth it! Anything from extra legroom to entertainment is up for auction these days and the earlier you buy the better…prices go up and options become scarce the closer you are to your travel date.

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