by Military Diva
We’ve all been there. We dream about our perfect vacation, start saving, request days off of work, book and pay our resort deposit and BAM-the cost of flights throws our budget way off course! Now what?
Ideally, you realize the issue with enough time to make corrections. But I often hear of travelers waiting too long to purchase flights. The airfare throws them off budget and changes to their resort result in change or cancellation charges on their reservation. They’re left scrambling to make up the difference in flight costs, making extra charges on their credit cards or living with the guilt of spending too much. There are so many glitches like this that can impact travel dates and budget.
Let me offer you a few tips to help your family pick your ideal travel dates. A few checks in advance can make all the difference in working with your ideal schedule and travel budget.
Choosing your Season of Travel
We all have work schedules, youth activities and family events that we have to work around when considering vacation dates. Obviously, it’s a good idea to flip your calendar ahead and be sure your potential dates don’t conflict with any pre-existing commitments-before paying any travel deposits. I have a few extra tips to prevent glitches that could impact your travel and needlessly cost you extra money.
- Let your employer know you are considering traveling. Offer a vague period such as November 2019 and ask if there are any possible conflicts that may arise. (This is especially important for Military families-drill dates, training changes and possible deployments have a way of uprooting all of our travel plans!)
- Inquire about your child’s school vacation policies in advance. Our school is very generous when it comes to excusing vacation absences. However, the child needs to have low absences prior to vacation, good school performance and exhibit the ability to complete missed work on their own. Be aware that many schools do not excuse vacation days. This often means that missing school for vacation will result in the inability to make up missed work. Your child’s grades will be impacted. In this situation, you would need to speak with your school’s administrators and decide what is best for your child and your family.
- Take a look at any proposed schedules and events that may occur at your destination during your dates of travel. For example, Disney World travel from August to December is impacted by Halloween and Christmas parties. On select party nights Magic Kingdom closes to regular guests at 6:00 pm. Crowds during these high travel periods may also affect your vacation experience. Be aware of local events and be willing to create a flexible schedule to maximize your park time.
Narrow Down Your Days of Travel
The real work begins once you have chosen your season of travel. Flexibility at this stage can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars!
- Begin by researching the cost of travel for your selected destination on your preferred dates of travel. (Make sure to include any tickets, dining and transfers you would like in your package-or request this information from your Travel Agent!) These numbers will provide you with a base for the following steps.
- Check flights! Head to your preferred airlines website and check airfare for your preferred dates of travel. Ideally, the airfare and resort package costs will fall nicely into your budget. If they do-BOOK IT!! (As a family of 6 we love Southwest Airlines…their free baggage policy saves us hundreds of dollars.)
- If the combined costs are too high, look to see if there are flights on other days with lower costs. Moving your flights forward or back a few days may produce a lower airfare. Southwest and many other airlines offer “Low Fare Calendars”. Use these tools to see which dates offer the lowest airfares.
- Look into one way fares and alternate airlines. It may be more affordable to fly to your destination on one airline and return home on a different airline.
- Now head back to your destination website and try to match the dates of the lower airfares with package rates to create the ideal cost. You may have to play around with a few different days to find the best rates.
What if your Travel Dates are Less Flexible
While planning for a recent family trip airfares unexpectedly jumped much higher than expected. Unfortunately, this was a true family trip. It included our family of six and nine other family members. Additionally, a work commitment kept my husband from leaving any sooner than planned. As we looked around we found the lowest arrival airfares on Southwest. Returning home was a bit of an issue. A Saturday flight alone was going to cost us over $1800 in airfare! After looking around we found Spirit flights for $800 on Sunday night. We booked two rooms at Disney’s All Star Movies for the additional night, researched Disney World split stays, and went ahead with the Spirit flights. We saved over $1000 in airfare and paid an additional $400 for two rooms. Overall we saved $600 in costs but gained two days at Disney World. We count that as a win!
- When comparing airlines be sure to include costs for checked baggage, carry on fees and seat choices. Those add up quickly!
- If the airfare for a Southwest flight drops lower than when you booked you can rebook at the lower rate. The fare difference will be returned as Southwest credit, available for use on a later flight.
- Allegiant flies into Orlando Sanford Airport, not Orlando International Airport. Disney’s Magical Express Airport transportation only runs between Orlando International and Disney World properties. If you choose to fly into Orlando Sanford you will need to make arrangements for your own ground transfers or rental car.
- Don’t be afraid to add extra days to your vacation, even if it means moving resorts. The process is easy and can be a lot of fun. Remember to include the extra costs for airport parking, dog kennels or any other home services that will cost you extra.
When looking for the best deals for travel, flexibility is typically the biggest factor. Time spent researching is often the second biggest factor. Push through, knowing that in the end all the work will pay off, hopefully as money left in the bank!
If you would like help budgeting or planning your next vacation, contact me for a complimentary quote at All for Dreams Travel! We are an independent agency of Gateway Travel/Gateway to Magic Travel, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.