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The best time to book flights AND The best airline credit cards

Goodbye 2020, and Hello 2021!

One thing my family and I are doing to say goodbye to 2020 is write down the top 10 blessings or good things about 2020. Then, we’ll continue the goodness by anticipating 2021, and write down 10 expected happinesses and blessings coming in 2021.

Today I’m going to focus on two things, both of which have to do with flying. First, the most-often-asked question of all: when is the best time to book flights? And second, which are the best airline and travel-benefiting credit cards?

I know, I’m a wellness-focused travel advisor. What does this airfare stuff have to do with anything wellness-related? There really IS a wellness aspect to this topic! The wellness component is… (drum roll, please!)… Peace of mind that you are able to plan a vacation! Having a vacation planned brings anticipation and increased serotonin, the happiness hormone.

When is the best time to buy airline tickets?

First of all, let me say that IT’S COMPLICATED. That probably comes as no surprise. Airlines use sophisticated systems to study historical evidence on flight routes, which they then use to predict and adjust the fares. Complex algorithms determine how fast seats are selling, and predict how quickly they will continue to sell, and then change prices, sometimes from minute to minute. The result is that there’s no way to predict absolutely when to buy. But I’m happy to share my observations and experience.

Checking flights: Be aware that if you use the same trip-checking website often, you will want to clear the cookies on your computer before searching for multiple days in a row. Some websites start to bury lower fares if you are repeatedly searching for the same thing. Also, don’t use the seat map to judge how full a plane is; some travelers don’t pay for seat assignments, and airlines block many seats and leave them for airport booking.

Low-cost flights: Be aware when you see an amazing deal, that sometimes you’re looking at a basic economy fare, which doesn’t include any carry-ons, seat assignments, or the ability to modify anything once you’ve booked. Read the fine print; sometimes by the time you add on bags & seats, the cost may be higher than fares that include more perks up front.

My advice for the best fares:

· Travel during slower periods, such as January or May.

· Fares usually have the most adjustment 90-120 days prior to traveling. This can be good or bad, either raising or lowering flight costs.

· Some people say that certain days of the week are better for finding low fares. This is a myth. Airfares are constantly adjusting, and you can get low fares any day of the week, and any time of day.

· It IS true that flying on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Saturdays are often the least expensive days to travel.

· Book as early as you possibly can for holiday travel. You’re not the only one who wants to get away at those times!

· Airlines often include price hikes 21, 7, and 3 days prior to travel. Waiting to book till the last minute usually isn’t the best advice.

· For international travel, the sweet spot is often six to nine months prior to travel. If you’re traveling close to a holiday (or in Europe during the summer), nine to eleven months usually has the best rates, before everyone else has thought about it.

Now, on to my next topic:

What credit cards are good for travel points?

I’m not an expert on any of these cards, but these are the ones that time after time have proven their absolute worth for travel benefits.

If you fly a particular airline most often, get their credit card. If you hate paying for checked bags, this is often the best way to avoid that. I find that although I have a yearly fee with my Delta SkyMiles AmEx, if I fly at least once per year on Delta, it more than pays for itself in checked baggage fees.

The best airline credit cards:

· Delta SkyMiles American Express – earn 35,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months – spend $10,000 in one calendar year & receive a $100 Delta flight credit

· Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card - $100 statement credit, 40,000 miles, and companion fare from $121 after spending $2,000 in first three months

· United Explorer Card – earn 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months – receive up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit every four years

· Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card – earn up to 80,000 points when you spend $2,000 in the first three months – earn a $75 Southwest travel credit each year when applicable

· JetBlue Plus Card – earn 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in first three months – earn 5,000 bonus points per year on your card anniversary

· Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard (American Airlines) - $0 for the first year – earn $125 flight discount after spending $20,000 & renewing card

If you don’t usually fly on just one airline, you might consider one of these cards:

Three other BEST credit cards for travel

· Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – best for transferable points – earns 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months

· Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card – best for airline flexibility, covering the cost of any flight, any airline, anytime – earns 60,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months

· Chase Freedom Flex – no annual fee - earn a $200 bonus after spending $500 within first three months

Are you feeling it? Getting ready to fly somewhere? I love it. Me, too! Now I just have to decide where I’m going next!


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