Booking international flights has been something I’ve always felt like I had a handle on. Google Flights is my go-to for getting started, and I think I’ve gotten some pretty sweet deals in the past. I haven’t really understood the frustration first hand…until this past week.
I decided to extend my Balkans adventure this summer with some solo travel in Ireland before the tour, and another jaunt to Ireland on the tail end with a friend. Flying in and out of Ireland is cheaper than to the tour start location in Hungary, even with connecting flights, and additional travel connections, so this decision was simple.
Over the winter WOWAir ran some killer specials, and Laine and I flew to Ireland for under $500 round trip. I thought WOW was revolutionizing things. I was excited. The super low options are dwindling and though there are still some great deals, even off season dates are significantly higher. I hope and dream that the lower fares return because that was friggin sweet and I want it back!
I realized that this trip is coming up quickly and a lot of flights were warning of dwindling availability. I’m not sure if I believe those, but it still made me nervous to get a jump on booking!
Flight prices often blow my mind, and of course the day I was thinking of leaving (a Thursday) was for whatever reason about $400 more than every surrounding date. But. of .course. This date definitely didn’t make sense, so I settled on the Friday. Laine and I played around with the airlines and times and found a flight for $790. It was a good (not great) price, and with my urgency and panic escalating, I booked it.
This was the first time I booked a flight without having it picked out for days in advanced, and it wasn’t sitting well with me. I had two issues.
The first was that losing a day made it so that my solo travel in Ireland would be cut a day short, almost making all of the extra travel not worth it. I also wouldn’t really have enough days to get a solo experience, which I really want.
The second was that I felt like it was neither an amazing deal, nor was it an amazing itinerary. I’ve paid extra for direct flights at the perfect time. I’ve taken inconvenient flights that they were basically giving away. This flight had 2 layovers and changed airlines, meaning if either of the flights were delayed they would not be holding the plane for me, and I could potentially have some truly inconvenient situations. Sure, flights are less likely to be delayed in the summer without snow as a concern, but the only time I’ve had a massive flight delay was 2 summers ago losing 6 hours before even getting started.
The more I th
ought about these concerns, the more I knew I wanted to keep looking. Laine re-assured me that the 24 hour flight cancellation was indeed the law, so I looked onward. I decided to leave on Wednesday even though it would mean another day off of work. I hit the WOW air website and plugged in a multitude of destinations. By the
time I ran through the options that would work about an hour had passed. AND THE PRICES WERE CHANGING. That’s right … they were changing as I was looking them up. It was unreal and totally frustrating as all of my work to decipher the best prices was useless. Panic ensued. I gave up on the direct airline search as everything was clearly out of control and reverted back to the sanity of google flights.
I found a solid option leaving on Wednesday. The flight this day was more – almost $200 more than my already booked flight, but it felt like it would be completely changing the tone of the trip. The added bonus is the outbound flight is direct. Two layovers vs. direct is a no-brainer. The return flight did have a 6 hour layover in New York, but all in all this was going to be a lot better! I felt some relief.
I talked to my travel mate, and we decided to go for it. I did panic and booked through the booking agency instead of directly through the airline, which is one of my top tips. I was in full blown panic mode and forgot myself.
With the new flight booked, I cancelled the original flight and tried to move on.
But of course I couldn’t resist hitting google the next morning.
I found that AerLingus had a return flight returning with only a 2 hour layover. This would mean we would return to Washington as the same time but leave Dublin in the early afternoon instead of the crack of dawn. I wanted to change the flight again. This would make the journey SO much better. I worried my travel companion would disown me with another change, but I took the chance, and she agreed it was worth a shot. We were lucky that the change would only cost us $40. Worth it! And with that the flight was finalized.
Booking this flight wasn’t fun. Usually I enjoy clicking through my final selections, and feel excited. This time I just felt panicked and frustrated. I’m happy with the flight I finally booked, but watching prices change before my eyes reminded me how trivial the prices are, how you can pay so much more for exactly the same thing, and how those changes don’t actually correlate to anything.
My message so those who are nervous or new to booking international flights is that we are all just at the mercy of the flight gods. Killer deals can be found, but they can also be luck. Terrible flights are the same, and no matter what you do there is just no way to anticipate the ever changing prices and routes.
Do your best… then relax and never look at the prices again!