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Tips from Tiff: Things to Look for When Making Your Own Flight Arrangements

When we travel there is no “one way” we always do things. We take cruises, we take land tours. We book excursions, we go on our own. The one thing we almost never pay for is a third party to make our flight arrangements for us. It has always been cheaper for us to reserve our own flights so that’s what we do.

If you’re flying in and out of the same cities, this is usually pretty straightforward. You make sure to get in before a certain time on one day, and you make sure your flight doesn’t leave any earlier than a certain time on the day your cruise or land tour ends (to give you time to get to the airport). If the tour company doesn’t include picking you up at the airport, then you also plan for how you’re going to get from the airport to where you need to be.

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Sometimes our travel plans aren’t that straightforward, and the additional one-way flights and schedules have almost bitten us in the butt.

The first time this happened was when we had planned a 2-week land tour followed by a one-week cruise. This was when our Ryanair flight got canceled and we ended up taking a bus from Frankfurt to Stockholm. What saved us there is I planned on arriving a day earlier than we needed to be there, so we didn’t “miss the boat” with the 24-hour delay.

You would think after that experience I learned my lesson. Last year I nearly made another HUGE mistake in reserving our flights separate from our tour group.

My mom and I were taking a trip together that started in Barcelona and ended in Paris. So I reserved round-trip flights to Paris, a one-way flight from Paris to Barcelona, and a hotel our first night in Barcelona. The plan was to arrive a day before the tour started to give us more of a chance to adjust to the time change. The next day we would go back to the airport to meet the group when everyone else was flying in. So far, so good right?

A few weeks before we left I received all our travel documents, itinerary, etc. in the mail. Then I noticed something, since we were making our own flight arrangements, we would not be flying with the group from Pau to Paris. Uh oh.

One tiny detail I didn’t notice in the itinerary of our land tour was that it included a one-way flight on Day 9. Start panic mode.

Had I realized this from the beginning, I probably could have gotten us on the same flight at a decent price. Now we were only a couple of weeks out from our trip. I start searching frantically online, but I can’t find anything that’s not ridiculously expensive.

I swallow my pride, call the tour company, explain what happened, and see if they can add us to the same flight as the rest of the group. Luckily they still could, and though it was too much for a short one-way flight, it was still much cheaper than anything else I could have come up with. And it came with the peace of mind that we wouldn’t possibly get separated and have to try to catch up with the group later if anything crazy happened (flight delays, weather, etc).

Moral of the story, you can usually save money if you make your own flight arrangements, but the more complicated the plans, the more meticulous you need to be with your travel arrangements. Like making sure your land tour doesn’t include a flight in the middle of the tour. And planning in some room for error doesn’t hurt either.

About Tiff

Tiff's first big vacation was a Caribbean cruise when she was six. She first started getting interested in deals when her husband showed her the tricks to getting bought off your flights back in the late 90s. She started flying nonrev when they got married; the first unusual nonrev she did was in '05 when her family flew through San Juan to get to Dallas from Philly. They have two boys, ages 10 and 6, who she usually drags along on their travels and hopes they will grow up to love traveling as much as she does.

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One comment

  1. I agree. If I’m travelling with a group of friends on a cruise or land tour, I almost always book my own flight arrangements either via points or straight out payment.
    However, if I’m on a cruise, I always take the tours from the cruise ship as a peace of mind in case the tour bus breaks down or something happens during the land tour thus delaying our arrival back to the ship (the ship would wait for us or would pay for us to meet them at the next destination)…. if this happened on my own, the cruise ship wont’ wait at all and it’s up to me to get ourselves to the next port on our own.

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