The first transportation item you should book is getting from here to there. You might go by ship but I will be dealing with flights…I don’t have any knowledge of other modes of transportation over the big blue sea.
In my scenarios I am assuming you will be leaving and returning to the same point in your home country.
SNAP EASY TIP: Get a frequent flyer number with the airline you like to travel on the most. If it is a Star Alliance member you can accumulate points when you fly with its partners as well. It is important to sign up BEFORE you fly. When you buy your ticket add your points to your flights. If you forget… add them at the ticket counter. If you forget there….hang on to your boarding passes and add later. Note: You cannot add points on a flight if you are not already a member. Only flights taken after you join are eligible. It is not too late if you have purchased your ticket but have not actually taken the flight yet. So join now before your departure!
Step 1 – Decide your destination and return airports
You will need to decide if you are flying into and out of the same city at your destination. For example, scenario one…… are you going to fly into Rome….tour Italy….then return back to Rome to fly back home? Or scenario two…… are you going to fly into Rome….tour Italy…travel to Switzerland by train…tour Switzerland then fly home from Geneva?
In scenario one, you would look into a normal round trip ticket. In scenario two you would look into a multi-city ticket.
SNAP EASY TIP: In many cases, it is just as cheap to fly multi-city. This saves you from the expense and time of traveling back to your arrival city.
Step 2 – Check out the rates with different scenarios
You might decide to change your itinerary if you find a steal of a deal to another destination or if the destination you have chosen is too expensive.
My normal mode of operation is to check out Travelocity as my first go to website. I check the prices and seats available on different itineraries. I will go Kayak and Vayama to check and see if they have any thing cheaper or with a better schedule.
Step 3 – Choose the site you will buy your ticket from
If I like a certain price and itinerary I will go to the airline’s site and see if they have it at the same price. If so, I book it on their site. The number one reason is if I have to change or cancel the flight it is much easier to deal with the airline directly. If you book through a third party you have to go through them for any changes. Sometimes they charge their own change fee in addition to the airline’s change fee.
However, that being said, many times you find a deal on the third party sites when they combine different airlines to give you the best price and schedules. For example, you may fly United to your destination and Lufthansa on your return.
SNAP EASY TIP: Be warned. You do get a better rate going with various airlines on third party sites. However, you must be prepared to pay change fees with each airline involved with change in itinerary and the second party site you booked through. If you are fairly certain there will be no changes then this is a good way to book. If you are not sure, stick with one airline and book through them.
Step 4 – Make sure there is a good seat before booking
Let me choose my seat please……
I, personally, CANNOT stand to be in the middle seat on a short or long flight! I will not book a flight on a plane that does not have an aisle seat for me.
SNAP EASY TIP: Make sure you check for open seats before you click purchase. Is there one that you would choose? If not, keep looking!
Look for an aisle seat for long flights. If you need to get up during a flight to go to the bathroom and the person next to you is either snoozing or has their tray down it is most uncomfortable waiting!
If you are traveling with a partner the aircraft with two side seats are awesome.
Look up the aircraft on Seatguru It will warn you of seats that you do not want to get stuck in. Such as:
- non or limited recline seats in front of exit rows
- non or limited recline back row seats
- seats that are too close to the bathroom where everyone lines up to use
- some bulkhead seats are not desirable. This is an area where everyone comes and stretches or stand and talk during a flight.
- seats in the back of some overseas aircraft where the body narrows down and create tight awkward rows
For me, if the airline offers choice seats for a charge it is worth it if the flight is over 4 hours. The more I travel and the older I get the more worth it I find! Young’uns will endure cramped AirTransit flights stuck in the middle on the back row to save $100.00.
SNAP EASY TIP: Don’t feel pressured by someone on your flight to exchange seats with them. You do NOT have to switch with someone in the middle or by the window just because they want to sit by someone.
If they are wanting to sit by the person next to you…..and they are offering to switch you their aisle seat for yours….. you can evaluate the situation and see if you want theirs. Not being disrespectful but if the person next to them is not someone you want to have as a seat mate for 10 hours (person of considerable size who would need to share your seat and leg area….person you smelled earlier and thanked God they didn’t sit next to you…….squirmy, screaming baby……) you might want to politely decline. You were diligent and chose your seat. You are not being rude to decline switching.
That being said…..if the conditions are acceptable to you…..be kind and change. A middle or window seat is never acceptable to me……I am claustrophobic and hate them….plus I need to get out often.
Step 5 – Book your flight
Use a credit card that will give you frequent flyer points and has travel insurance if you purchase the tickets with their card.
A few of the reasons why:
- If your flight is delayed or canceled because of weather the airline will NOT pay you for a hotel, a ride to a hotel if shuttle not available, meals, toiletries needed, etc. However if you purchased your ticket on a credit card that has insurance they will reimburse you for all your expenses up to a certain amount. Believe me if the airline can claim it is weather related they will so they do not have to pay.
- If your bags are delayed for more than 4 hours and you have a special event to attend….most credit card insurance plans will buy you an outfit suitable for the event.
- There are many more benefits…check with your credit card
Step 6 – Begin to fine tune your itinerary
Once you have your international flight booked you can begin to fine tune your itinerary at your destinations. The ticket must be your number one concrete, secured planning item before you book anything else.