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Cheap Flights!?

How to Strategically Book Flights at the Lowest Fares

 

If you’re anything like me then, you’re constantly in search of the best deals. I used to spend hours, days, weeks stalking airfares and doing price comparisons for trips until I finally learned to utilize tools, points, booking engines, cash back systems, etc to my advantage. How much time do you spend searching for the cheapest airfares? What is your strategy?

Booking Engines Matter

Believe it or not, booking engines matter! I rarely book directly on the airline website anymore, unless there is a need to use airline points. These are the top sites that I use for finding the lowest rates and analyzing various factors when booking airfare.

1. Hopper is a free mobile application that I really like using for a number of reasons. First of all, it is very user-friendly and provides a broad outlook of airfare prices over time. If your travel dates are flexible then you can see which days have the lowest pricing. Also, the site provides predictions on when prices will drop and notifies you of significant price changes when added to the watchlist.

2. Sky Scanner is a great site to use for price comparisons. It scans various sites to provide a list of options then links directly to the site you choose for booking. Additionally, it provides top recommendations and getaways for you to consider. It also provides a low fare calendar so that you can easily spot lower fares by the day.

3. Secret Flying  is a very useful site for unlocking flight deals from all over the world and more. I use this site and others to find the latest flight deals, error or fuel dumping flights that I can book for the low.

I use these great resources for finding great flight deals then book everything via my top site to take advantage of the lowest price guarantee and reward dollars. For example, I booked my roundtrip flight from Houston to Hong Kong for under $500 and also to Paris for $333 roundtrip (see snapshot below for Paris roundtrip flight that I took in March 2017).

Lowest Fare Based on Destinations

Sometimes it is worth the cost to drive or take public transit to an airport that is further away or to arrive in a nearby airport that may not be your final destination. Of course, it is up to you to weigh the cost/benefit of doing this. I always search the rates of nearby airports and weigh these options for my international trips.

You may even come across lower airfares that include your desired destination as a layover instead of a final destination. You can try skipping the last leg of the flight to stay in your desired destination; however, you will need to familiarize yourself with the airline policies. Your bags may continue on (depending on the baggage rules for the layover time) and you will not receive frequent flyer miles. For example, I used this method for my trip to Jamaica. I booked my flight from Montego Bay to Houston (for an overnight layover) then final destination to Austin because it was significantly less to go that route. Because it was an overnight layover in Houston, I was able to grab my checked bags in stay in Houston.

Don’t Fall for the Inflated Prices

Searching the same route multiple times may inflate the rates for you. If you’re the type of person that checks the same flight every hour then you’ll need to disable your cookies so that you’re starting with a clean slate for the flight search. Again, if you use TravelSmart4U, Hopper or Skyscanner then you’re cover and will have easy access to price drops.

Budget Airlines

I must admit that I sometimes fly Spirit or Frontier Airlines to save my coins. Yeah, you literally have to pay for everything including air. Haha! The fees are bananas but if you plan accordingly then you can get away with paying small fees for what you need. It is very important to check the fees before booking a budget airline. Another budget airline is WOW, mainly on the East Coast – They always have great deals for international travel.

Major airlines such as United and American are now following suit by offering basic economy fares that do not allow passengers to select seat assignments or check bags. This is a good economical offer if you travel light and don’t care about where you sit.

Check local airlines via the airport’s website. Oftentimes, the local airlines have lower rates as well. But don’t be surprised if you end up on a small 10 passenger propeller plane, like me when I fly back home to Arkansas.

Frequent Flyer Programs

It doesn’t hurt to sign up for the airline’s frequent flyer programs to earn points and status for flying. I have an account with all of the major airlines and even some of the budget airlines in case I decide to purchase one of their flights. My preferred airline is United as I have Mileage Plus status as well as the most frequent flyer miles with the carrier. This comes in handy for getting various perks, purchasing flights or buying products using mileage points.

Travel Date Schedule

The low fare schedule is your friend! Find the lowest fare dates and duration that best fits your schedule. You can also try booking one-way flights using a combination of airline carriers to drive down the price.  I often do random searches to anywhere in the world to find error fares and flight deals and book vacations based on the dates offered. And don’t forget to use the booking engines I mentioned above to find the best rates and earn rewards.

Happy Flight Shopping!

Tiffany Owens
Guest Contributor / Blogger
Urban Events Global
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My Athens, Greece Bucket List


Dear Diary, Welcome to Athens, Greece! Athens has a mix of breathtaking views, history, shopping and a variety of entertainment that travelers must explore. I am challenging you to check out my favorite things to do while in Athens.1-ACROPOLIS: If you’re visiting Athens, you’re probably visiting Acropolis and a few other major historical sites. There is an Athens City Pass that allows you to visit a few historical sites including Acropolis (Parthenon & Temple of Athena), Hadrian’s Library, Museum of Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Kerameikos, Lykeion, Olympieio.City passes are €30 and good for 5 consecutive days, and cannot be used more than once! Ticket collectors will rip off your ticket as you enter each site.
It is common for most tourists to only visit Acropolis, which is only €20 and Temple of Zeus €6, so unless you plan on visiting any of the other sites, save 4 euros and do not buy a city pass. You will see other smaller historical sites on the way to the top of Acropolis. Wear comfortable shoes, the walk uphill is steep and slippery. Once you make it to the top, Parthenon and the Temple of Athena are directly across from each other; and of course you’ll see everyone gathered around the infamous flag for the perfect selfie. 

OMG it’s crowded

For a smaller crowd, we were told it was better to visit later than early in the morning. Anxious, we went at 1pm and thought that was the worse decision ever, while we were walking up. There were people everywhere and there was a line to walk up the stairs to get in. By the time we left around 3:00, there was no line at all and we regretted not waiting. Choose your timing wisely!

2-TEMPLE OF ZEUS: About a 10-minute walk from Acropolis site is the Temple of Zeus. It is €6 to enter and this site is also included in the city pass. (It’s best to spend 26€ separately for Acropolis and Temple of Zeus instead of a city pass if these are the only two sites of interest). We arrived at 1pm and it was so empty! I am so glad I didn’t have to fight people to get out my photo. (Just kidding, who does that? lol)

3-PANATHENAIC STADIUM: known as the Modern Olympic Stadium is a 3-minute walk from the Temple of Zeus. It was only €3 to enter, and keep in mind, this site is not included in the city pass. There are free audible walking tours available on site that will guide you as you walk around the stadium. I recommend paying the 3 Euros and take a moment to walk around the entire stadium. The stadium was pretty empty as most tourist stayed outside of the gates to take pictures. Keep in mind; they are continuously snapping photos as you are on the Olympic podium trying to get the perfect shot. Yeah it’s literally like a photo shoot with dozens of cameras pointing at you so stay ready you never know who’s Facebook album you’ll end up in. You get to sit in the marble seats and feel like you’re in command & walk down the hall where the greatest athletes entered into the arena. They were so great I just can’t name any of them -oops lol.

 

But anyhow, don’t forget to sign the guest book as you enter or exit!

It was interesting to see all the signatures from people all around the world.

Gates open 8:00am-7:00 pm

4-CLIMB LYCABETTUS HILL: For €5 grab a taxi or Uber and take a ride to Lycabettus hill to watch the sunset. Once you arrive you will have to walk up a steep walkway and a ton of stairs to make it to the top. If you prefer not to walk up the hill, you can take the cable car for €7 round trip. (Save money and take the stairs, it’s not that bad plus you need to work off all the vacation food). Watching sunsets in Greece are intense! There is no entry fee to getting to the top of the hill, which means get there early to get a great view. There’s usually a ton of foreigners running around snapping selfies and aiming their fancy cameras right in your face. Just stand back and enjoy the moment. There is a restaurant, Orizontes, at the top of the hill where you can have a nice meal or drinks with the stunning view of Athens.

5-PLAKA DISTRICT & MONASTIRAKI SQUARE: Both of these districts are known for shopping food and more shopping. Plaka is one of Athens oldest neighborhoods and is located right in front of the Parliament and if you continue to walk you will run into Monastiraki, which is known as one of the top flea markets in Athens. Monastiraki is more popular at night because you get amazing views of Acropolis lit up and nightlife. Beyond shopping, you will find tons of restaurants nearby, local homes and lots of street art (especially graffiti walls which everyone knows is my favorite thing ever). I called this the ultimate tourist area where we all the travelers come to hang out and people watch.

Syntagma square, Plaka and Monastiraki are essentially in the same area if you just continue to walk.

6-CHANGING OF THE GUARDS: (Free activity) if you are near the Syntagma train station, take a moment to follow the crowd at the Parliament. You can watch the changing of the guards 24 hours a day here. We arrived at 8:25 pm and at 8:30 they started their routine. This lasted for a few minutes (you can watch a clip on my Instagram page) but you must go to see for yourself! It is a bigger deal on Sundays, as the guards wear more elaborate uniforms and have an official ceremony. It was interesting to sit back and watch people take pictures and try to tell horrible jokes to men wearing skirts &  pom pom shoes as if they were going to laugh.

7-PARTY: After a long day, go back to take a nap (you’re going to need it) and around 11:30 get ready to hit the town. Most locals say they don’t go out until 12:30 because that’s when every one gets off work. We went to an area called Giza (walking distance from the Parliament and syntagma square) and this was just a strip of different bars/clubs/restaurants etc. Basically it’s like a Las Vegas strip. Being that we were there in mid October (off season) it was pretty dead. Our Uber driver told us 90% of places were closing the weekend we arrived.

8-A FOR ATHENS is a cocktail bar is located on the 6th floor of the A for Athens hotel in the Monastiraki square. It is highly recommended that you make reservations to visit because getting a table as soon as you walk in is not ideal. A bit pricey, but this bar is amongst one of the top bars to visit in Athens, as it looks over Monastiraki square and Acropolis from a distance. Grab a glass of wine and be in awe of the view. It is best to visit at night for the night views or early in the morning for a healthy breakfast.

9-Feed a stray cat: If you are a cat lover, Greece is the place for you! Greece may seem picture perfect but somehow, we all manage to get photos without cats photo bombing. There are stray cats everywhere you turn. I am not a fan of having a staring contest with random cats while I’m eating but let me tell you, it went down in Athens. You can’t help but to drop a piece of food or start naming cats like my friend did.

If you are visiting Athens,

-Don’t forget to pack a universal charger!

-Keep in mind all taxi drivers DOUBLE prices after 11:59P.M.

Do yourself a favor and download the Uber app using my code anisab344ue for $5 off your first 4 rides. As long as you have universal service or wi-fi, Uber was less expensive than all taxi rides!

-If a waiter brings you anything to the table without you asking, ask them if it’s complimentary or on the house! They will charge you just like a hotel will charge you for eating candy they provide in the refrigerator. This includes the bottle of water or bread they provide.

-Always ask your taxi driver how much before you get in the cab. Somehow prices tend to change when you arrive to your destination. Or worse, they will drop you off at a place nowhere near your destination—yeah that happened to us!

-Check the weather! If you are visiting in October, it is freezing early in the morning and late at night but hot throughout the day so pack layers.

You gotta try a gyro from Greece
Sunrise & Sunsets are everything
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