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It’s our job at TPG to bring you great deals on travel, especially when it comes to airfare. The tough part? Watching these fares to some of our favorite destinations come and go, and having the restraint to pass on a quick trip to Hawaii just because tickets are dipping below $300.
The other tough part is being ready to pull the trigger when those can’t-pass-them-up unicorn fares come along. A recent example of this was SkyTeam partner Kenya Airways’ mistake fare to Nairobi, which advertised nonstop ticket prices at $242 round-trip. Sure, Iceland is buzzy and Thailand always seems like a good idea. But Kenya? That’s just not a place you find on sale everyday.
Although travelers who did jump on this deal were later informed that their tickets had been cancelled and refunded, I still had a strong case of FOMO (fear of missing out) for having not bitten the bullet first time around. The lesson? It pays to be prepared for when these miracle fares actually work out.
Follow these six tips and you’ll be prepared to jump on the next insane deal or mistake fare.
Make a Destination Bucket List
While airfare deals rarely give you a lot of time to make a booking, they should not be a complete impulse purchase, either. Write out a list of destinations that you’re genuinely interested in, and decide what you consider to be a low enough price on airfare in order to pull the trigger. This will help you comfortably say, “No thanks” to certain deals, and give you confidence to complete a reservation without buyer’s remorse. Although most flights come with a 24-hour change policy, the goal is to walk away feeling excited about your upcoming adventure.
Keep an Accessible Calendar on Hand
Flight deals can often disappear in the time it takes to figure out your availability. Avoid missing out by maintaining a digital calendar you can reference from a device you have access to 24/7 (read: not on a Moleskine planner you keep in your desk drawer at the office). It doesn’t matter how cheap the fares are if you book tickets to Patagonia the same week you’re expected to be in Philadelphia for your sister’s wedding. Either way, you’re going to be sorry.
Bank a Few Vacation Days at Work
It can be tempting to fill your travel calendar for the year by Jan. 31, but try and save a handful of vacation days for these spontaneous flight bookings. If you know you’re likely to plan a last-minute or extended trip at some point, it’s also wise to have a conversation with your boss ahead of time to get approval. This will help reduce the stress of walking into work on Monday, after you’ve put a down payment on safari, with the dreaded 10-day vacation request.
Create a Mistake Fare Slush Fund
At TPG we urge you to get out there and explore as much of the world as possible — preferably using your points and miles know-how to maximize your travels. What we don’t urge you to do is go into debt exploring Denmark. Sure, the airfare may be cheap, but it’s important to factor in the cost of accommodations, experiences, meals and other ancillary costs. An easy way to stay out of the red when it comes time to book your dream trip is to have a well-funded travel account. To determine how much you need to save each year, look back at last year’s travels and calculate how much you spent in cash. Take that number and divide it by 12. That’s how much you should be putting away per month for your vacation budget. By doing so, you’ll know immediately whether or not you have enough saved away to cover the cost of your impromptu getaway.
Do Your Research in Advance
Use the downtime between deals to do your research — TPG is a great resource for this. Look into destinations that might interest you, determine when the best time to visit is, how long you’ll need to properly explore the region (factoring in travel and jet lag) and what you want to do while you’re there. It can be overwhelming to book a trip when you don’t have any idea what comes next after getting off the airplane. Having at least a loose concept of whether a flight deal makes sense in terms of seasonality and activities on the ground can help you make a swift and educated decision.
Line Up a Travel Buddy
Another pro-move for travelers prone to reflexively booking flight deals is to find that special someone who shares your wanderlust — and keep them on speed dial. Not only will you have a trusty +1 to take your picture on the Great Wall, but you’ll also have another set of eyes and ears on the lookout for great deals. Compare bucket lists, calendars and budgets ahead of time so the only text you’ll be sending as you feverishly dig around for your Chase Sapphire Reserve (which earns you 3x points on travel) is, “Booked!”
Feature image by Sutirta Budiman via Unsplash.
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