Airtravel is not cheap

by Rocket Finance

My family recently took a trip to visit family. We have three children, ages 5, 3, and 9 months. The trip required 4.5 hours of actual time in the air and a lay over of approximately 2 hours both ways. I originally intended to keep careful track of our expenses and then blog (I mean “brag”, or should I say “blag”) about how much money we saved.

It didn’t work.

Flying is an inexact science and a large component of frugal living is to stay on a schedule. Flying, especially when changing time zones, alters even the the most rigit habits. Flying with children complicates things even further. Before our children were born, my wife and I could fly all day and spend very little in airport restaurants. Dont get me wrong, my children are good flyers – the five year old has flown five times, and the three year old has flown four times – but there are always moments when the only way to keep them calm or quiet or occupied is to purchase food or a beverage. The first day that we flew, we ate at least four meals and two of those meals took place in the air terminal – since our flight did not arrive until 1 am at our destination.

When we fly under these circumstances, food is not the only expense. My wife and I always end up purchasing something from Starbucks or Caribou Coffee or some other joint that sells legal stimulants and charges prices that make the Queen of Sheba do a double-take. Sleep is not an option when flying with our crew.

Nowdays, airlines do not allow beverages to be carried through security – even water. So unless you are comfortable using the public drinking fountain in a place infested with some of the most wonderful germs in the world, you will have to spend a bunch of cash ($4 a bottle) for something that would normally be cheap.

It is difficult to fly “frugally”, but you can do a few things to reduce costs:

  1. The best way to reduce costs is by getting the cheapest tickets in the first place. We scoured the internet and found tickets for $176 apiece. Check several discount sites and compare the prices – also check to make sure that the price includes taxes, fees and other items. We found a price of $136 per ticket, but with fees the price was over $200.
  2. Book your flight early – if possible.
  3. Use a 5% cash back like Blue Cash from American Express or flight rewards credit card like Miles by Discover to book your flight.
  4. Fly on “off” days – Wednesdays are a cheap day to fly. We are considering actually flying on Christmas Day next year because the airports are deserted.
  5. Pack a few dry snacks in your carry-on. $2 worth of crackers and cheese could keep you from having to buy a $6 hamburger or sub sandwich.
  6. Put a few handwipes in your carry-on. I’m not obsessive compulsive, but airports are notoriously unsanitary.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is just relax and plan to spend a little extra dough. Flying is stressful on its own and you can reduce stress by allowing yourself a “personal finance relaxation day”. Chill out, get some good food, and enjoy the flight.

Hopefully you don’t get stuck in a seat next to my family.


  1. 2 Responses to “Airtravel is not cheap”

  2. By plonkee on Dec 17, 2007 | Reply

    I tend to just budget extra for travelling by air. I will want to have a coffee, probably something to eat, maybe a beer if the flight is delayed, whatever. I may as well allow for that and then not feel guilty about it.

  3. By rocketc on Dec 17, 2007 | Reply

    Yeah, that sounds about right. There are some costs that are almost impossible to avoid.

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