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Monday, February 20, 2017

How to Fit Airfare into Your Budget

No matter where you go, airfare can be a big chunk of your vacation budget. If you know what you’re doing, it can be a smaller one than expected, even during the more expensive times of the year. Of course, planning your trip in the off-season can save you big time. Here are my best tips on how to get cheaper airfare:

airfare tips

Book/Look on Tuesday or Wednesday

Airlines set their prices for the week on Tuesdays, this means that if you're going to find a sale on your chosen destination, this is the likely day to find it. Know that once an airline posts a sale rate, other airlines may jump on the bandwagon to lower their prices on those same routes as well, in order to gain your business. Now, that doesn't mean they will, but it's probable. Sale wars last until Thursday and then prices begin to rise again, as airlines want to take advantage of travelers who don't check prices until the weekend.

Know that sale seats are often limited so if you wait, you may not get a seat at the rock bottom prices offered. Generally, I don't find deals on the weekend, but that's not entirely a hard rule either. Sunday seems to be the new Tuesday, as I've discovered and booked a few cheap flights on that day. My tip: keep checking all week until you find a flight that fits your budget.


Fly on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday

The majority of people are trying to fly so they get the full weekend into their schedule. This means Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday are the most popular days to fly. It enables people to get a full three days out of their vacation and the airlines do their best to make the most money on these days. 

Aim to fly on less desirable days. We often fly Saturday to Saturday or Wednesday to Wednesday, because we get a price break and the added benefit of a less crowded airport. Security lines are shorter, there's always a seat at the gate and sometimes the planes aren't entirely full either.

Like everything else, there's an exception to this rule, which may depend on the popularity of the route/destination on any given day, so you'll have to do a bit of research to see if your destination fits into this criteria. I've gotten a great deal on a flight to Vegas arriving on a Monday and leaving on a Friday, but then again, it was in February, and that's a downtime for tourists.


Fly in the morning

Ugh, nobody wants to get up before the sun rises, especially to lug a bag with them and endure the airport nonsense. I love the airport, but I'm not a morning person, so I am not the most fun person to deal with early, unless you just ignore me and play on your phone or read a book or something. My husband knows this. Fortunately, I'm a bit more people-y when I'm headed on vacation. I'm willing to get up while it's still dark to head to the airport, because I know I've saved money and I'll probably get to my destination at a reasonable time and not miss a whole day of stuff.

You might hate it, and your family might hate having to take you, but if you could save a significant chunk of money, wouldn't you do it? You can call an Uber. You can sleep on the plane (bring ear plugs and an eye mask). You can indulge in the biggest coffee Starbucks can legally sell you. However you deal with it, think of what you can spend that extra money on. A bonus is that when you get there, you have a lot less chance of your flight being delayed, because you're on one of the first flights of the day.


Make a flight with several bookings

Don't limit yourself to those round-trip options given when you search. Instead, book your legs separately, possibly on different airlines, to save as much as possible. Make sure if you have any connections, that you have enough time in between flights. It might be annoying to do this extra work, but once it's booked, all you have to do is print your boarding passes and figure out how to get from gate to gate.

I just booked a flight this way, because I had enough miles for one way (see below) and I also had an airline credit to spend. I got the flights that fit my trip, on airlines I actually wanted to fly, and I paid less than $20 for the entire round-trip flight. If you can save hundreds of dollars by booking flights separately, why not do it?

Search for a single seat

As I said above, sale seats (and often rewards seats) are limited, so you might be screwing yourself by searching for multiple seats at once. If you look for everyone at once and don't find anything cheaper, then search for seats one at a time. Here's why: If there are two sale seats available for $97, but you are searching for three, you aren't even going to see this option. Instead, you'll see the next price tier that has enough seats to satisfy your search. If there are only two, you can snag those at the sale price and then pay the higher price for the third seat, not the higher price for all three. You can choose your seats after booking, so you can all sit together, so don't worry about this at the time.


Set up airfare alerts

Know when your desired trip goes on sale! Set up airfare alerts on our preferred airlines and get notified right away when those route's rates drop! 


Let an aggregate site do the searching for you

Set up airfare alerts on aggregate sites, too. But when you search, make sure to check your favorite aggregates, because you can see a bunch of airlines all on one page and make a more informed decisions. Sites like Webjet can help you find cheap flights every day, by finding the best deals across the board and putting them in front of you. Not only that, but you can book a package deal too, weather that includes a car rental and a hotel or just one or the other. You don't even have to purchase airfare through them to book the other services. Score! 

Use your air miles

Anytime you book a flight, a hotel, or a car rental, make sure you put your frequent flyer number in that box they provide for you. I don't always fly the same airlines, but I will always put in my American Airlines' number if they let me. With them being partners with Alaska, they flight just about anywhere I want. We use Eric's Alaska card to book most of our flights, which gives us more miles and a cheap companion fare each year, so when I fly again during the year, I check my mileage total to see if I have a free flight coming. 

On my next trip to Vegas, I found I didn't have enough miles to book a full free flight, but I did have enough for a one-way trip, so I booked that trip on the American site for an Alaskan flight. Then I went to Alaska and booked my return flight using the credit I received on my last flight when I got stuck on the tarmac for almost an hour coming home from LAX. 

You only pay taxes and fees when you book using these methods. The new rate is $6, so both flights cost me a total of $12 + the slight extra I paid for the rate over my credit, which still came under $20 in the end.

Is there a magic formula?

The answer isn't simple, because there is, but there also isn't. The window to find the best rate on a certain flight is 5-7 weeks out for domestic and 3 months for international, but that doesn't mean those are the only times to find deals. I've found awesome rates 3 weeks before a flight, but also several months out for a domestic flight. Set your budget and keep looking until you find something that works for you. Worried that you're going to miss out on a better deal, use a service like Yapta to monitor rates on airfares you've already booked. If you're eligible for a refund of any sort, they will let you know and tell you how to go about getting an even better deal.

What are some of your best tips on getting cheaper airfare?

Disclaimer: This post was brought to you by Webjet.com.au, where you can book your airfare, hotel, car rental and cruise for less. Find them on your favorite social media outlet: Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | YouTube

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Eating For Cheap In Las Vegas

It used to be really easy to find cheap eats in Vegas, but over the years the prices have risen as more and more haute cuisine options have moved in. While this makes it one of the ultimate destinations for foodies, it's not so fabulous for those on a budget. People I talk to often ask me how I can afford to visit Vegas several times a year. Well, for one, when I go alone, I probably eat one meal in a restaurant the whole time I'm there (which is usually only three days). Two, I avoid the Strip if possible, but I also have a vacation rental and make breakfast in my room each morning.

Vegas cheap eats

When we visit as a couple or a group, we also have a vacation rental and we stretch our meals. Our first stop after getting our rental car is the grocery store to pick up staples, because having breakfast and snacks on-hand are rule number one. Now, I love to eat, so I'm not willing to just skip eating out altogether, but I look for cheaper options that are just as delicious as the more expensive venues in the resorts.

Gordon Ramsay's Fish & Chips 

I've been waiting for this quick-serve joint to open for two years. I love a Gordon Ramsay restaurant and have tried several of them. His traditional sit downs can be expensive and, though they are worth it, not always conducive to budget traveling. Well, if you love a good fish and chips plate, you're going to adore his new location on the Linq Promenade. The outside is gorgeous and bright and the inside is inviting. There are some tables inside and out, but you're looking at a dining venue that is more takeaway than anything else. 

My mom and I popped into Fish & Chips after reading the menu and seeing that not only do they have fish and chips, but also chicken, shrimp and sausage. They even have a fishwich. The prices are reasonable, with a combo (meat, "chips", a drink and two different sauces) costing just $13.99-15.99. We were able to split a chicken combo, as we weren't starving, but I'm looking forward to trying the fish on my next visit. The chips were amazing, and we only just ordered the natural sea salt. Your other choices are "dirty": 1- chipotle, jalapeno & chorizo, 2- truffle, parmesan & chives, 3- cacciatore spices & basil. The menu includes some fancy sauces, shakes, beer and homemade lemonades. Because this is a quick service restaurant, no tipping is required.

Crown & Anchor Pub

I found this pub by luck, I believe by searching on TripAdvisor, and have since visited multiple times. It's difficult to find a good English pub in America, but this one does it and has delicious menu choices that will satisfy everyone in your party, and also satisfy your wallet.


Crown & Anchor is in a cute little white building off The Strip on Tropicana Blvd. It's really easy to get to and the service is wonderful as well. I've been glad I've made the effort to eat there.

Bad Owl Coffee

I love coffee and I love Harry Potter, so when I heard that there was a Harry Potter coffee shop in Henderson, NV, I knew I was going to make every effort to visit at least once. I was worried it would be hokey and/or the food would be a let down, but quite the opposite happened. The decor is pretty perfect and not overly done, the menu has Potter-esque options, British themed options and your favorites alongside. 

The first time we went, I ordered the Butter Brew latte and yum! We also tried the English trifle latte, lavender latte and, on this last trip, the Nutella latte. All were delicious. But it doesn't stop there. We grab an early lunch here, because the food is out of this world. The above is the Siriusly Prosciutto sandwich. I also made my mom share the Tonks Italian Turkey with me on this last trip and I was in love. It came with a side salad that was mostly lettuce and carrot shreds, but OMG was it good. And filling. It's worth the trip out and takes about 20 minutes to drive from the center of the Strip. The prices aren't super cheap, but they are way better than much of what you will find near the casinos.

Bruxie

This is one of my must-eat destinations in Vegas. Located at The Park Las Vegas between New York New York and the Monte Carlo (soon to be The Park MGM), it's easy to get to, the food is amazing, even if you don't love fried chicken or waffles, and the prices are reasonable as long as you don't order a bottled water. The portions are quite large and we've been known to be able to split a waffle sandwich and an order of fries or Irish Nachos (shown above). My mom has been very vocal about not liking fried chicken (whaaaaaat?!) and waffles, but I ordered the original chicken and waffle and after she tasted it, she ate half of it. Bruxie has other locations as well, and we hit up the one in Brea, California on our Christmas trip with the same delicious results. Head over in the middle of the week for their $5 Wednesday deal on sandwiches.

In-N- Out Burger

I know I'm in the minority of people who doesn't think In-N-Out is phenomenal. I mean, it's fine, so I'm good with going with friends when they want to go. Now, you don't have to drive off the Strip to get your fix though. The new location on the Linq Promenade is open and doesn't require you to have a car to get to it. Their burgers are fresh and never frozen and you can get plain fries, animal style (like you see above) or no fries at all. Sure, it's fast food, but since many people go out of their way to eat there anyway, it's an easy way to stretch a buck.

Hash House A-Go-Go

Now, I don't particularly think you need to visit this particular establishment, though I found their food really delicious and beautifully presented, but the portions are so large, you can easily share between two or three, making it perfect for budget travelers. You even get a free southern biscuit per person before your meal and it's as big as your head. For real.

Ninja Teriyaki & Sushi 2 Go

If you love sushi and have a rental car, then it's worth the drive into Vegas proper to visit this little hole in the wall location in a strip mall. It doesn't look like much, but the sushi is made to order, it's affordable and the rolls are monstrous. I was hungry when I ordered mine and got the above roll (that's 8 pieces!) and salmon nigiri, plus an order of egg rolls on the side. It was less than $15 and I couldn't finish it all...though I tried hard to get through it. It was some of the freshest sushi I've ever had, and I go out for sushi at least twice a month. We've ordered their family meal as well that comes with a ton of sushi and teriyaki and eight of us didn't finish it all in one sitting. Look for Groupons, as they are pretty regular for this location.

Buffets

I love a good buffet, but I can't justify spending $30+ per person to indulge. I mean, I don't think I eat $30 worth of food, even for dinner. That said, we splurged on a few buffets on our last trip, because we used our points from MyVEGAS to get a 2-for-1 certificate. $30 is a lot better than $60 and easily more justifiable. The only thing is that you'll have to eat Monday through Thursday and shell out a few bucks for tip. 

If you don't know how MyVEGAS works, you play on Facebook or download the app to your phone or tablet and play slots to gain points that you can turn in for things like free food, attractions and more. Your MyVEGAS account connects to your MLife card (used at MGM and their resorts) and you just head to the MLife counter, show your code, along with your ID and MLife card (they can give you one if you don't have one) and you have that day to use your reward. We often use it to get a 2-for-1 crepe at New York New York, because yum!

Split a large platter

And even a small one, depending on how hungry you are. Here's a huge thing we ordered at Chili's that we barely finished. It was less than $20 for two of us and it satisfied our craving for BBQ. Plus, if you've indulged in a buffet that day, you probably don't have room for a full meal later anyway. If it's just you, then take half of it with you to eat for another meal. I've done this myself when I had a full order at Serendipity 3 to myself. Later, when I didn't feel like finding food for myself, I heated up the oven, put it all on a baking sheet and made it all crispy and warm again to eat for dinner.

Though these are by no means the only way to eat cheaper in Vegas, they are some of my favorite ways. I'd rather indulge in one really good meal and save on the others on my trip. I never feel like I'm missing out and it makes that one expensive meal very special.

What are you favorite ways to save on food in Vegas? Or where do you have to eat when you visit?
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