Wanna Get Away?

“Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo.” — Al Gore

Isn’t that the truth? Purchasing airline tickets is a complicated digital-aged process. Adding the hours I search for the best routes and the lowest prices for airline tickets online, it totals 200 hours a year. That is over 8 days of searching for airline tickets!

Yes, we travel a lot! So, I thought I would give you some helpful ideas of where and how I buy our round-trip tickets from Nicaragua. I love Google Flights because it gives me more information than other travel search sites.

1. Find the cheapest months to fly. 

In Google Flights, it is a breeze. Choose your location and destination and then select “flexible dates.”

Below is a flight from Managua to Los Angeles using a random date.
Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 8.15.29 PMAnd flexible dates from Liberia, Costa Rica to Los Angeles.
Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 8.16.16 PMSo far, it looks like Managua has the cheaper flights to Los Angeles than from Liberia, Costa Rica. But, wait!

2. Choose an outbound flight to check the best flights according to the time of departure and the length of the flight. 

Below, the cheapest flight is Spirit Airlines. But, the time is inconvenient for us and the length of the flight is too long. Plus, we’ve flown Spirit before and we know that this price is the bare bones cost without any luggage or personal carry-ons.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 8.51.11 PMBelow is the best flight for flying out of Liberia. TACA is $377 and a shorter flight. We’ve flown TACA many times and we really like TACA because they give you two check-in bags for free and they give you sandwiches and drinks, unlike most of the other airlines.
Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 8.54.17 PM

Do you see the sentence that says prices are not available for Southwest?  This leads me to the third tip.

3. Always book directly with the airline.
I went to Southwest and this is what I found for the outbound flight.
Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 8.48.41 PMReturning flight from Los Angeles to Liberia
Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 8.49.03 PMTotal cost is $368.75 per person. The times are perfect for our connecting flight to Fiji and New Zealand. It is a 5 hour flight. Actually, I just booked this flight, different dates, but the same times.

4. Do a search comparing two airports. 

When we lived in Nicaragua in 2004, it was cheaper and more convenient to fly out of Liberia, Costa Rica than Managua, Nicaragua. Then, Costa Rica built a new airport and the prices rose making Managua cheaper. Lately, Liberia has been cheaper.

Since we live on Ometepe Island, it is a shorter and cheaper trip to Costa Rica. Once we get to the mainland, it is a 20 minute ride to the border. Then, we pay our exit fee to leave Nicaragua. Since we are residents of Nicaragua, we pay 200c each to leave the country. At the Costa Rica side, we show them our airline tickets to leave Costa Rica. Then we catch a bus to Liberia, which takes a little over an hour. Total cost of flying out of Liberia is usually $46 for two if we don’t have to spend the night in Liberia.

Returning, we pay our $8 to enter Costa Rica, walk across the border to Nicaragua, show them our residency cards so we don’t have to pay anything to enter Nicaragua, and catch a bus or a taxi to San Jorge to the ferry to take us back to Ometepe.

To fly out of Managua, we have to catch the first ferry at 6 am. Then get a taxi to take us to the airport, usually $60+ tip, and because we can never get connecting flights, we always spend the night in a hotel. Total cost of flying out of Managua is usually $175 for two.

5. A few general tips about booking flights

a. Use a private browser.
Since I check the flights daily, the websites save my information, so I always use a private browser that doesn’t know I have checked like a thousand times. The cost rises on many travel search sites if they know you are checking prices daily.

b. If possible compare prices using a PC and an Apple device.

I don’t think this applies to airlines, but it definitely applies to rental cars and hotels. Once we rented a car from Enterprise and checked at the same time on my Macbook and a Dell computer. The price on the Dell was considerably lower than on my Macbook for the same days of rental. Those tricky devils!!

Also, some sites, like Travelocity, “dim” the lower cost hotels. It is better to go directly to the hotel website to book your stay directly.

c. When to book

It used to be that Tuesday or Wednesday were the best days to book a flight. But, the airlines have caught on and they changed the best day to book. Now, Sunday seems to be the best day to book with the lowest prices. Your best bet is to check everyday, though.

d. Google Flights gives you option to check prices for one airline.

For example, when we were in Atlanta in June, we volunteered to be bumped from our Delta flight to Liberia, Costa Rica. It was my birthday and oh what a birthday present I received! We were given food vouchers, a nice hotel room, and the best of all…$1,000 in Delta vouchers each for our next flight.

That’s where Google Flights come in handy. I can do a search specifically for Delta Airlines. from Liberia and it will give me the prices and suggestions all over the world. Where should we fly with Delta next year?
Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 10.12.56 PMWanna Get Away? Google Flights will show you the way. Happy trails to you!

What suggestions do you have for finding cheap flights in your area of the world? 


15 thoughts on “Wanna Get Away?

  1. Great info, I’ve used your suggestions numerous times. We’re limited to Guayaquil flying out, high altitude in Quito does not like me 🙂 So we generally fly AA since its a straight shot to Miami. I’ve booked all my hotel rooms through booking.com and since I’ve been doing that for years, we get quite a big discount because of our “level”. Then I check back frequently because our hotel may go on the “special” list. Totally agree, takes patience to book a trip, but we love saving money.

  2. I’ve never heard of Google flights either. I usually always fly Southwest because it seems to be the cheapest most of the time. I do agree that they raise the rates if you check flights often. How do you use a private server for that? What or who do you recommend? I need to go and visit my mother soon so am flying from Vegas to Houston.

    • Sunni, depending on what browser you use, like Safari, Firefox, or another browser for the internet, look at the menu at the top of the page where it says File…Edit…View, etc. I use Safari as my internet browser, so I click on File and it says “Open Private Window”. I just did a search from Vegas to Houston and saw that Frontier Airlines was $97 rt. Google flights doesn’t list the prices for Southwest, so you have to go to their website to see the prices. I hope this helps.

    Really appreciate it , you’re a doll!!! Im going to look into this for sure as Imm putting my plans together for Portugal….waiting for some papers to get back from Washington..
    In the meantime ..I have another year ,,and I’m ..OFFF THE GRID …THIS MEANS ….OFF THE GRID ..
    Thinking of living on an island in the ACORES OR ,, MADEIRA … IM DONE!!!!

    • Heidi, one thing I forgot to mention is that two US Airlines offer senior discounts on tickets, United and Southwest. I flew with my mother on United a lot and her ticket price was much lower than mine. If you book the Wanna Get Away tickets on Southwest, the senior discounts don’t apply because this option is even cheaper than the senior discount.
      I’ll have to do a search for senior discounts on international airlines. I don’t know if they are offered or not.
      Anyway, I am so excited for you. Happy downsizing!

  4. In August 2015, I flew Delta from Philadelphia to San Jose, CR. Ticket was $575. Been looking at a return trip since early June on Delta. Cheapest flight on Delta for any day in 2016, from July thru Sep has been $911. I’m wondering what Delta has done to justify almost doubling the price. Perhaps they are serving lobster tail, and have sleeper seats!
    I’ll save my money until flights come down. Don’t mind getting screwed a little; just don’t like getting royally screwed!

    • Delta has always been our airline of choice when we fly into our little hometown airport in the states. When we booked our flights with Delta for our trip to the states in May, Delta had the lowest price. We saved $400 each by flying out of Liberia instead of Managua. Now, we knew that we were going to bring at least 4 extra suitcases back with us. We packed light going to the states because Delta changed their luggage policy AGAIN for Central America. We only get one checked bag for free.
      When we were in our small hometown airport checking in for our flight, the new agent got really confused when we showed her our residency cards for Nicaragua. We put our checked bags on the weighing pad, and she never charged us for them. I think she forgot, but we weren’t going to say anything. Lol
      We are already planning for our trip next year with our free vouchers from Delta, but I want to get the most bang for our free bucks, so we are waiting to book, too.
      Oh, and about the food? All we had to eat all day on Delta were either cookies or pretzels. I was starving, but I broke into my stash of goodies I was bringing back to Nicaragua, like peanut butter cups, chocolate covered blueberries, and Dove chocolate bars…talk about a sugar rush. Haha!

    • Michael, I’ve used ITA Matrix before, too, but it isn’t as user friendly as Google Flights. I’ve been exploring flights to Mexico for next March. Since we have Delta vouchers to use, when I plug in only Delta Airlines, the price is so much more to fly Delta. I think we may just purchase our tickets to Mexico separately, then use the vouchers to fly from Mexico to the states.
      Glad this information was helpful.

  5. Remember the “good ole days” when flying used to be a fun adventure, Debbie? I too, spend a lot of hours hunched over the computer checking out flights and prices. Many times I end up working backwards figuring out what airlines fly into whatever my destination airport is and then going directly to the airline for their quote, And, like you, we have the choice of several airports to fly out of since getting to any of them involves a train or bus and a couple more hours here and there is not important. The only comment I can add to your excellent tips is to bring a lot of patience to the table before you begin your quest! Anita

    • Anita, that is a great idea. Sometimes, I go to the destination airport webpage to see what airlines fly in and out of that airport. And then I work backward checking each airline’s webpage for flight information. But, that is really time consuming.
      It is all such a mysterious game trying to fit the puzzle pieces together. I usually start 6 mo. ahead of our projected date to start looking. Patience is right!

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