If you’re like me, you subscribe to any number of websites that send you travel deals. And, if you’re like me, you aren’t able to take advantage of most of the incredible flight deals that come your way because there are too many schedules to juggle. With two working parents and one school age child, our opportunities to “get away” are limited by school schedules, vacation availability and work obligations, and if we’re seeking to sneak off as a couple, grandparent availability.
In the past few weeks, however, I’ve been fortunate to take advantage of two incredible flight opportunities that have come across my desk.
Washington, DC to Liberia, Costa Rica for less than $400 per person roundtrip
In 2014, while expecting our second, we explored traveling to the Andaz Papagayo for a few days just to relax. Unfortunately, flights to and from Liberia (LIR), the nearest airport, were either non-existent or cost prohibitive and the thought of flying to San Jose, Costa Rica and then making the nearly six hour drive to the Andaz Papagayo was less than appealing to a pregnant woman. Over the years, I have come across a number of reviews from other travel bloggers who have traveled to the Andaz Papagayo, heartily recommending it not only as a vacation destination, but as a family vacation destination. Consequently, although not quite the couples getaway we had initially intended it to be, I mentally filed the Andaz Papagayo away as a possible family vacation spot, especially as my youngest has gotten older and more flexible.
To my happy surprise, an email alerting me to a flight deal from DC to LIR for less than $400 per person crossed my desk a few weeks ago and within 1 hour, I was in possession of four roundtrip reservations to the Costa Rica for the Spring of 2018 for under $1,600. Here’s how it happened.
First, I checked online and confirmed that there actually were four tickets available for our desired travel dates. The deal involved two separate airlines – outbound on United Airlines and back home on Copa Airlines. Thus, I had to check on both sites to confirm availability before proceeding to my next step: calling my husband and confirming that he was able and willing to travel to Costa Rica. Upon learning that he desired a suite at the Andaz Papagayo instead of a single room, I decided to go ahead and book the flights and sort out the hotel logistics later (we planned to redeem Hyatt points so availability was not guaranteed). To make this possible, I booked four one-way tickets on United from DC to Liberia (LIR) for $653.16, making sure to note that the fare was subject to United’s 24 hour flexible booking policy. Next, I reserved four one way tickets on Copa from LIR back to DC for $941.22, taking advantage of Copa’s 24 hour “reserve and pay later” option.
At copa.com you can put reservations on hold. Simply select the option “Reserve and pay later” and copa.com will keep your reservation active for 24 hours, and you will have this time to make payment. This reservation may be paid for later using a credit card in the Manage your booking section.
Knowing that I had round trip tickets for four secured to LIR for our desired dates at just under $1,600 (the total was $1,594.38), I was able to relax and comfortably explore options for reserving our stay at the Andaz Papagayo. At some point that evening, I touched base with my husband, confirmed that we had our stay booked at the Andaz in suitable accommodations, and went back to Copa’s website to pay for our reservation.
Washington, DC to San Francisco, CA for $99 per person round trip
If you’re sitting there with your mouth open, you’re in good company. I did not believe this fare could exist and frankly, almost didn’t bother clicking to check because I figured the dates would be so limited that there was no way we could take advantage of the deal. On a whim, I decided to check for availability over Martin Luther King weekend and to my surprise, found four round trip tickets from DC to SFO at the promised rate of $99 per person round trip. I was all set to book when I paused and thought – do I really want to haul my children out to San Francisco over a long weekend? The answer: no.
I quickly revised the search down to two round trips tickets and found even more availability at the promised rate of $99 per person round trip. Knowing that I could cancel the tickets within 24 hours if, for some reason, we were unable to take the trip, I decided to proceed to booking. Imagine my surprise when I learned that American Airlines offers a 24 hour free hold. In lieu of the 24 hour cancellation policy, American allows you to hold the reservation for 24 hours – fee free. I gladly selected this option as it meant I could avoid entering credit card information and the hassle of cancelling the ticket if the grandparents ended up not being available.
Luckily for me, I was able to confirm that evening that my amazing in laws were available and willing to come and babysit while my husband and I jet off to San Francisco for four days. That night, I logged onto the American website, retrieved the reservation, paid for the ticket, and received our confirmation for two round trip tickets from DC to SFO for a grand total of $200.22.
How can you take advantage of these deals?
Here’s what I do to make sure that when an appealing deal comes across my desk, I am able to take advantage of it before it expires or runs out.
- I subscribe to many flight alert websites and I also “Like” many on Facebook. It’s not enough just to “Like” the flight alert pages on Facebook, however, you must, if you want to take advantage of the deals, make sure to prioritize these pages so that they appear on the top of your feed. This way, whenever you log into Facebook, you’ll immediately see the top travel deals before scrolling through to learn what your friend’s kids’ ate for dinner.
- You must be on the same page as your spouse in terms of travel interests. It does nobody any good if you are dying to go to Thailand and ride elephants, but your spouse’s number one nightmare is being stomped to death by elephants.
- You must be organized and have clearly set dates for when you are available for travel. Every year, I anxiously await the release of my son’s academic calendar. Once given those dates, I enter them into my calendar and cross reference them with holidays and three day weekends. Whenever a flight deal pops up, I can just flip to my calendar and find a list of all the dates in which my son is not in school and we are available to travel.
- Be ready to book immediately. Even if you are not able to reach your spouse because s/he is in a meeting, you can book a flight reservation and cancel within 24 hours without fee or penalty, provided your trip is more than seven days out. The U.S. Department of Transportation imposes this requirement on airlines operating within the United States and this gives you an easy way to reserve a ticket, without worrying about being stuck with non-refundable fare and/or a fee if you are unable to actually take the trip. Although airline policies may vary, the general rule is cancel within 24 hours for trips more than seven days out for a full refund. You will see the fine print prior to completing the purchase, so always make a note of it before you hit “CONFIRM PURCHASE.” If you’re lucky, you’ll hit upon an airline like American or Copa that offers you a fee-free 24 hour hold, saving you the hassle of worrying about cancelling the ticket if it turns out you can’t take the trip.