View Full Version : First Plane trip...have questions

08-03-2010, 12:57 PM
disney in Summer 2011 will be our first vacation, plane trip, reservations, etc

Im just wondering is there a 'best' or 'worst' day to fly (from Grand Rapids MIchigan to Orlando & Home) We are debating weather to do a mid week to mid week trip or a sunday to saturday.

Also, is there typically a 'best time' to book flights? I know it is a crap shoot and you take the chance prices may go up or down, but is there typically window that is good before the flight (eg 3 motnhs out, 6 months out 3 weeks out etc)

We are a group of 7 (4 adults 3 kids)

Any insight would be helpful.

08-03-2010, 01:17 PM
Well, it depends.

The airfare pricing dynamics can vary based on where you are flying from. If you have very limited options and the flights frequently fill up, then you are less likely to get fare sales and discounts. I suspect Grand Rapids proper has a limited schedule of flights and you likely will be connecting through someplace--Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, Atlanta, etc.--depending on what carriers serve your airport. If you can get to one of those busier airports to start your trip, you may have more options and better pricing.

Flights in the middle of the week to and from resort destinations can be less expensive than weekend flights; although if any part of your trip (i.e. Grand Rapids to wherever) is primarily filled by business travelers that might not be the case.

I would suggest that you start looking now at what your options might be and get a sense for pricing, routing options, etc. A site like Expedia or Travelocity is a fine place to start this research, but I would book directly with the airline in most cases. Then, when flights for your dates are available--generally 330 days out for the legacy carriers, closer to the travel dates for SWA and some others--you can see what prices look like and start to see if they fit what you have seen.

Any fare sales, which do happen for summer travel dates, likely will come out next spring. You always can wait for that, but if prices are low and fit your budget before that it may not pay to wait. Every once in a while there are last-minute deals, but unless your plans are very flexible and you can make changes less than a week out, they aren't of much use. Whatever you do, don't wait until inside of 14 days to book airfare because prices will skyrocket at that point barring any last-minute specials.

Sign up for the email alerts that the airlines serving your airport will send out. That can give you a sense of what their sales look like, when they come out, etc.

With a group of seven another thing to be aware of is that most airlines have a limited number of seats in their lowest prices. As a result, if there are say four seats left and you check on pricing for seven it will price all seven at the higher fare. Some airlines will price four at the lower fare and the rest at the higher fare, but most often you may need to play around to see how many seats are left at bargain rates. Needing that many tickets also may indicate that you should think about booking earlier rather than later.

08-03-2010, 07:53 PM
Also if you book a flight and the price goes down, you can get the difference back. I know for Southwest you can do it online. Depending on how far away your flight is you can get the money back on your card that you used to pay or as you get closer you can get a Southwest credit. Last summer we went to Orlando and the price changed by $20, and I was able to get the difference back. I believe Airtran does to.

08-03-2010, 09:25 PM
I'll tell you I think a typical good fare will be about $250 on Delta. It will have a connection in either Detroit or Minneaplois.

If you see something sub $200 you may want to jump on it. You may find a better fair in Detroit or Chicago but that will require a drive and maybe a night in a hotel.

Southwest to my knowlege doesn't serve Grand Rapids Allegiant is quite likely but I doubt they will give a lot of flight option from there.

The price will fluctuate mosty based on the price of oil. Also keep in mind that if you have to check bags it will cost extra and there is a large possibility that by net summer you may need to pay to carry bags on, so add that in for budgets but know it is fairly standard throughout airlines.

08-03-2010, 09:49 PM
Aside from the general flying and booking advice you're getting, let me just say that I LOVE Sunday-Saturday trips! Since we're a 2-career couple with a child, our weeks are very busy and Fridays are always busy wrapping up for the week - throw in getting ready to go on vacation and it can be dreadful! Leaving on Saturday usually means a very busy day on Friday wrapping up work things, then running any last-minute errands and finishing up the packing. If we're leaving early on Saturday, sometimes I'd get no sleep at all.

A Sunday start means we have a day to finalize home stuff and packing without doing it after being tired from the last day of work. Returning on Saturday instead of Sunday means we have a day to unpack and adjust before going back to work or school.

08-03-2010, 11:28 PM
Hi OP! I live in Wyoming, MI and fly out of GR all of the time.:) Hopefully I can help you out a little.

First off, the poster who stated at anything under $250 was a good price is right. The good thing is, with both Allegiant and Air Tran now flying out of GRR, you can usually find flights for under $250. I just snapped up tickets for the first week of December that were $140 round trip on Delta. Those had been hovering at $208 for a while, but they had a one day sale, so I pounced!

Second thing is, if you choose to book either Allegiant or Air Tran, be careful. Many of the Air Tran flights have more than 1 connection. And Allegiant has already made the local news a couple of times for stranding customers in the airport because of issues. Allegiant only has a very few flights each day, so if they have a mechanical problem, you may not get out that day, or even the next.:headache:

I actually think flying out on a weekday is a better choice, as you will have a lot more business travelers with you. They are much more used to all the ins and outs of flying, and know how to get thru security faster. So that line is usually quicker to move than it is on the weekends. The security lines can be long, but the business people have getting thru it down to a science. Boarding the plane and getting settled too.:thumbsup2

Hope this helps!

08-03-2010, 11:48 PM
I was thinking about your weekend to weekend or weekday to weekday question.

A lot of special airfares require a Saturday stay. This is because business travelers don't stay over a weekend and pushes the special fares to days that are unbusinesslike.

I'm guessing you will find a better fare flying on midweek days.

08-04-2010, 12:07 AM
Use Bing.com. It predicts whether airfare for your route will go up or down in coming days.

Another option is to check with southwest. If you book and airfare drops you can change your flight to the lower fare and end up with a credit for use on another trip in the next 12 months. I dont believe any other airline will do that on their lowest fare tickets. Also southwest does not charge for luggage so factor in about $50 per person ($25 each way) most other airlines would charge.

Tuesdays and Wensdays are typically the lowest airfare but not always depending on route and season. I find about 60-75 days out is the cheapest. However, if a route is not filling up then you'll see sale prices show up 30-45 days out. Under 30 days its a crapshot with 21 days and then 14 days being typical rate increase days.

08-04-2010, 12:38 AM
I was thinking about your weekend to weekend or weekday to weekday question.

A lot of special airfares require a Saturday stay. This is because business travelers don't stay over a weekend and pushes the special fares to days that are unbusinesslike.

I'm guessing you will find a better fare flying on midweek days.

IME, required Saturday stay fares are fewer and farther between than they used to be. Just to test, I checked 5 routes using a Tue-Thurs and then Tue-next Thurs: ALB-MCO, ALB-ORD, ORD-SFO, ATL-MCO, and IAD-DEN. Only IAD-DEN had any significant price differences, and that was only on one airline ($80 more on USAir). All other prices were similar with and without the Saturday stay.

OP may find better rates on a Saturday stay trip, but that is less likely to be the case than in the past.

08-04-2010, 09:07 AM
Also if you book a flight and the price goes down, you can get the difference back.

This is usually not worth it if you are flying anything other than Southwest or another airline which allows changes without a fee (and you get a credit, not your money back). Legacy airlines usually charge $150+ to make changes, which would almost always negate any ticket price drop changes.

08-04-2010, 09:22 AM
We live in Kalamazoo ... I booked tickets on Delta for this September some time ago when I saw them out of Kzo for $206+tax/fees (2 tickets for $521). Keep in mind the extra fees that airlines charge. This will help determine your total cost.

As it happens, with a Delta AMEX card, you can get free baggage for the cardholder and each person on their reservation up to 9 people. This will be saving us $$ because my DH will have golf clubs. Delta does not charge for seat assignments either. Flying out of Kzo will also allow us to be dropped off at the airport and, thus, avoid paying for parking.

So you really need to keep all of the extra costs/fees in mind as you evaluate your ticket options. Agree that anything under $250 is pretty good. Will you see lower? Sure, but at some point you need to make a decision.

Personally, with both my DH and I working, I like to fly down on Friday and come back on Saturday ... allowing for an 8 night stay. This gets us on our trip at the earliest we can and then allows for an extra day to sort through laundry, put things away and get ready for the return to work. (Also allows for an extra day should there be a snafu with the return flight. LOL.)

Good luck!