Opportunity Travel: How to Stretch Your Budget Into a Higher Class of Service


The first question to ask yourself before planning every trip — and the cost if you don’t

If I could only pass one piece of advice to travelers looking for more comfort in the air, without having to pay retail, I would say to ask yourself: How flexible can I be?

I’ve written about the opportunities that come with being flexible for four decades now, but I’m not sure many flyers fully realize the importance of this, or how extensive the savings can be to stretch your budget into a higher class of service.

If you’re not flexible, you’re playing right into the airline’s hands, like the person going to a car lot who pays full retail if he wants his car made to order. You might get lucky, if the planets align, that the car lot has a vehicle with the color, moonroof, stereo, engine, interior, and exact bells and whistles you want, but it’s unlikely to happen.

So, here’s the first question you should ask yourself before every flight you book: 

How flexible am I?

This is vitally important because it sets you on the right course to get a great deal. And let’s be clear, flexibility means a lot more than simply shifting dates, although that factor alone can save thousands on a premium flight.

Flex Your Opportunity Mind Muscles

Let’s limber up your mind. All it takes is a few reps and you’ll be on your way, flex-flying like the savviest FCF travelers.

Flexercise One: Consider a Mixed-Class Booking

If you’re cutting it close on your budget, ask yourself if you really need a lie-flat seat on that return day flight from Europe, when you’ll be awake most of the time watching a movie or on your laptop. Forgoing Business Class on that flight (say in favor of a decent Premium Economy) could be just the savings to make the fare comfortable on your wallet too. FCF’s Horses for Courses Strategy is one of my favorites when fares are high or your budget could get more ROI elsewhere.

Flexercise Two: Widen Your Circle

You know that song they sing at Disneyland, “It’s a Small World (After All)”? It’s the one that annoyingly stays in your head for months. Well, apologies for putting it in there again. But it’s true. It’s easy to have blinders on when choosing a destination, when another great city that’s way more affordable is on sale nearby.

Look at Europe, for example. So many great cities are close to each other. Could an alternative city provide a much better price, cabin, or schedule? What if you could fly First Class to Milan for the price of Business to Venice? Or just pay half as much for Business by flying into a city that’s just 167 miles away from your desired destination? It’s a small, small, world.

Flexercise Three: Be Adaptable With Your Dates or Airline

Is there a fare available a day or two before (or a week or month or two for that matter) or after your initial travel date that would save you 39%? Or a better cabin or flight schedule? Maybe it’s a direct flight instead of a connection? Consider shifting times to grab yourself a better buy. In travel, if you’re flexible, you can make amazing things happen.

While this one seems obvious, look closely at this Google Flights screengrab below, and you’ll notice a few almost-hidden dates in the month that save up to $2,456.


FCF Case Study: Sal

A couple years back, a friend of mine, Sal, was flying to Europe. She said the dates were “non-negotiable” and the best fare she could find in Business Class was $4,000. She asked if I could do better. I came back with a $2,500 option, BUT it was the day before she had planned to go. Well there’s nothing like a $1,500 savings to test how flexible you can be! In a heartbeat, Sal moved the booking to a day earlier, spent an extra day in the arrival city, and was very happy with the outcome.

In other words, if I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say that they had no flexibility, but later changed their tune when I came back with a deal that had different parameters, I could buy a First Class ticket to the moon and back. In other words, travelers often don’t want to pay the price of their inflexibility.


Flexercise Four: Buy the Dips

Trade up your flying experience by taking advantage of fare volatility or dips. It’s super dynamic out there with an estimated million fare changes a day on flights around the world. This can even happen on the same flight. You could, for example, “trade up” your cabin by finding a new sale fare in Premium Economy to exchange for your coach ticket; a new Business fare that’s a little more than the Premium Economy ticket you bought; or a First Class fare you can trade up from that no-deal Business Class fare you bought. Buy the Dip, Upgrade Your Trip.

Check out this flash fare to Brazil in Business Class for just $1,151

Flexercise Five: Forget About Being an Elite, It’s Holding You Back

Simply put: It’s better to be a loyalty-free agent and not get locked into flying with just one airline. Believe me, this is big — especially now that elite value is increasingly squeezed right out of the orange. These days, American, Delta, and United, seem to all be devaluing their loyalty programs by the month. It’s best to book trip by trip and go with the best value, best schedule, or both. It opens-up way more opportunities than you’ll find by being locked into one airline. Don’t get hosed!

As you can see in the screenshot below, Atlanta travelers locked into Delta loyalty will have to pay $2,525 (57% more) more than Atlanta free-agents. Don’t get hosed by Delta.

This next screenshot shows how you can get a First Class ticket from Atlanta to London on British Airways for about the same price as the Delta fare (above). Don’t get hosed by Delta.

Flexercise Six: Stop Booking Backwards

Most people dream about a trip, then plan it, then book it. I call that booking backwards. Say what?! If you flip this thinking and instead concentrate on the deals first (even when the trip parameters seem locked in, say, for like a wedding), your travel experience can improve even while you’re saving money too.

It’s about flipping the funnel and not boxing yourself in with the Stop Booking Backwards Mindset.

Don’t hose yourself, and I’ll see you up front.

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