While flying is perceived to be the
most expensive mode of cross-country travel, it
often times can be cheaper or comparable to
other modes of travel but is by far the fastest.
- Don't buy roundtrip tickets.
Sometimes, studies dates change and or studies
may check out earlier or later than originally
scheduled or you may not get into the study at
all. Airlines charge a minimum of
$100 to $200 plus the difference in airfares to change
your ticket. It is often cheaper to just
buy a one-way ticket at the last minute than to
change an existing ticket. Southwest
airlines seems to be pretty lenient on allowing
changes to your tickets but this of course is
not guaranteed. Check your fare class for
The cheapest tickets
always carries the most restrictions. You
can buy tickets with the add on of flight
changes and standby but that can be 50 to 100%
or more. Always read the
restrictions and fine print. Some airlines
do offer refunds within 24 hours as long as the
travel is at least 7 days out, even on
nonrefundable fares but read the fine print.
- Friday, Sunday and Mondays are
the busiest travel days during the week and will
usually have higher fares. Saturdays can
be cheaper but tend to have more of the merry
whether travelers so that can slow down security
and what not. I like to fly during the
week when it's mostly business travelers.
- Late night flights (red-eye)
are often cheaper than daytime flights.
Also the first and the last for routes that have
multiple daily runs.
- Check for dates near your
desired stay like a day before or a day after.
Sometimes fares will be cheaper.
- Buy your ticket at soon as
possible during the summer, spring break, the
week of Thanksgiving and the week of Christmas.
During the rest of the year, good deals can be
had 3 weeks in advance all the way up to the day
of travel. I usually buy my tickets 3 to 7
days before I travel but I buy 3 weeks in
advanced whenever possible. Check airfares
often as fares can change from day to day. Unfortunately,
sometimes you find a good study and you have no
choice but to catch the next flight out to hit
- If your flying into a major
city with more than one airport, check fares to
all airports. Also consider flying into a
nearby city. But of course consider the
cost to transport between airports and the city
that the clinic is in.
- Smaller cities and airports
will usually cost more, especially at the last
minute. Airports with one or two airlines
or flights a day will be really expensive no matter what.
- Use a website like
kayak to find the lowest fare.
You can search for nearby airports as well as
ITA Matrix site allows you to see the lowest
fare in a calendar format which can be helpful.
Once you find a fare you like,
provided that it's not involving multiple
airlines, you should go directly to the
airline's website to book the flight as most
travel websites charge a $5 booking fee.
- Join a frequent flier program.
If you anticipate flying a lot, this can help
you in the long run. However to maximize
the benefits, you'll always need to fly on that
airline or one of its code share partners.
You can earn miles towards free flights.
- This can be tricky. Before you bid on a
flight, know that if your bid is accepted, your
credit card is charged immediately and there are
no refunds or changes. You must enter a
credit card to place a bid so you won't know if
you can get a price until you already paid for
it. The flight can be
anytime during the day but is won't arrive after
a certain time. The good news is that it
won't be some obscure airline you've never heard
of cause there are only a few left. Do a
search for where you are going, it will be one
of those flights, may be not the cheapest one
but depending on which airline accepts your bid
and how they want to route you. Other than
no changes, no refunds, you also do not earn
airline miles should you be a frequent flier
Hotwire - This site operates similar to priceline
except that they will offer you the Hotwire Hot
Rate which may be cheaper than any other rate.
On a random query, I searched for a roundtrip from Austin to
Chicago for this weekend and the cheapest rate
through any of the major booking sites was $600
but the Hotwire Hot Rate was $444. So
pretty good savings if you are flexible. I
would imagine that the Priceline bid rate would be
very similar. Again, same with Priceline,
you won't know your flight until after you pay, no changes, no refunds and no airline miles.
- Try to carry on everything, 1 carry on bag and
a brief case or purse. Most airlines are
now charging $25 to $50 for the 1st checked bag
and $35 or more for the 2nd.
Southwest is the only US airlines with at least
1 free checked bag. Beware that Spirit
Airlines and Frontier charge for both checked
and carryon bags. You get one free bag
which has to fit under the seat in front of you.
If you book your baggage fees when you book your
reservation, you'll save a little. You'll
pay dearly if you show up at the gate with an
- If you have to check a bag, pack most of your crap in your
checked baggage. Carry on rules change
every other day and you don't want to have to
send anything home or worse, have it
confiscated. Visit the
for current list of what you can and can't bring
- Volunteer to get bumped for
airline credit. Sometime airlines oversell
a flight and if everyone who has a ticket shows
up, they will have to deny boarding to the
overage. Airlines will often offer travel
credit for varying amounts in exchange for
taking a later flight. Sometimes they may
just put you in First Class. I've had that
happen before. Sometimes when you check in
online or at the airport, you will get a
notification that the flight may be oversold and
will ask if you wish to volunteer. Delta
will ask you to bid on the lowest travel credit
you'll accept. Like doing studies, volunteering does not
guarantee that you will get bumped. Also,
listen for announcements in the gate area.
If you don't mind getting in later, you might
end up with some credit for your next flight.
- Make sure you arrive the day before a
screening or check in. You never know when
a flight will get delayed or cancelled so you
don't want to risk it if possible. Nothing
screws up your labs more than stress!
- If booking travel to return home, be sure to
leave the day after check out.
Occasionally, additional lab tests may be needed
after you check out and failure to come back can
delay and or reduce your compensation. Don't
plan to leave the country 20 minutes after check
out! Some clinics will allow you to go to
a local lab like Quest but don't count on it.
You would need prior approval from the study
coordinator for extenuating circumstances.
- American Airlines offers a 24 hour hold on
most fares at least 7 days in advance.
This can be a handy tool if you're not quite
sure of your travel plans.
- Upgrade to Premium Economy if you want more
leg room and want to sit near the front.
Airlines Find Travelers Accept Fees Wrapped Up
in Bundles - I was quoted in this NY Times
Also check for last minute First Class upgrades
when you check in.