For many families, summer is prime time for multigenerational gatherings and vacations. However, with the warmer months being “high season” in most parts of the country and the world, there is the inevitable uptick in airfare prices responding to supply and demand. Whether you are getting the family together for a summer retreat, a one-time milestone birthday or anniversary or a regular family reunion, the process of coordinating flights can be as enervating as it is expensive.
There are a few strategies the person planning the family gathering can integrate in their efforts to keep air travel costs down when car and train travel to the desired destination is not feasible for some family members. Andrew Schrage, financial expert and editor-in-chief, Money Crashers Personal Finance, offers suggestions for those ambitious souls making the plans to bring a large clan together.
- Determine ahead of time which members of your family can commit to attending the family gathering and are prepared to pay for a reasonable airfare.
- Contact preferred airlines to research special family or group travel packages. Companies like JetBlue, Delta and Southwest offer special family packages and discounts. When researching, keep in mind there are caveats that may require the family trip coordinator to jump through some hoops. These include a minimum number of travelers (usually 10), making a deposit to reserve the flights and paying for the flights in full one month before departing.
- Read the fine print of a package or purchase agreement closely before making the final ticket buy and re-confirm various family members are on board and able to pay for their transportation.
- Run the numbers as far as booking the flights individually and see if you can get a better rate.
- Use an aggregator website like KAYAK, input your travel plans as soon as you know them and you’ll get updates on sales and special pricing as well. This should probably be done well before you go the group discount route in order to make the best choice. “This is really a key point, mostly because taking up that amount of seats usually isn’t too viable for an airline from a profitability standpoint, unless you’re traveling to a less popular destination,” says Schrage.
- One can also experiment with the Priceline website’s Name Your Own Price feature. “A diligent user may be able to score a major discount, even though group travel might not work within Priceline’s rules,” he says. “But it’s worth a shot to input your travel plans and submit a bid. You never know … you might save a bundle.”