Student Voice: Finding Affordable Airfares on a College Budget
Attending college across the country can be difficult when it comes to traveling home for school holidays. Especially because Middlebury, VT is such a rural and small community, it isn’t too easy to return home to California at a reasonable price. My closest airport is an hour north, so transportation to and from the airport is an additional cost to the flight itself. During my freshman year, I had trouble finding ways to fly on a budget, but now as a sophomore, I have learned a few tricks to save money while still getting to see my family and friends for the holidays.
The first helpful tip I have found is that it is always financially beneficial to book flights as early as possible. Generally, flight prices rise as the travel date approaches, so booking early is the best way to save money. Along these lines, I have developed a system at the beginning of each semester when I receive my class syllabi.
If I am planning on traveling home for any school holidays that semester, I review my exams and class schedule and book a flight time based on my availability.
This way, I never fear academics conflicting with my flight schedule and I get to solidify a cheaper flight months before traveling.
I additionally like to use travel sites such as Expedia, rather than specific airlines’ websites. In utilizing booking sites, it is easy to compare flight options and prices without the hassle of reviewing countless other sites. It is also beneficial to check sites daily, as prices tend to fluctuate. Some say that booking airfare on weekdays can be cheaper than weekends, but generally if I see an unreasonable price for a desired flight, I check periodically for the next few days and almost always find a price drop. With this method, I have saved over $100 on various bookings.
Another helpful way to save money is utilizing friends, other students, or different modes of transportation to get to major metropolitan airports.
Direct flights, especially out of major airports, are always cheaper than indirect flights, so when possible, I have found this to be my best option for cheap travel. At Middlebury, there are plenty of students who live in the general vicinity of major airports such as JFK, BOS, or even IAD. During school holidays, most are driving home and have been happy to give me a ride. This way, I have been able to chip in a small amount of money for gas and then pay a significant amount less for my direct flight home. Aside from asking friends who live near major airports for a ride, many students also utilize Facebook group postings to offer and receive rides. At Middlebury, each grade has a private group page where students post about events, ride opportunities, and more. This can be a great resource if I’m looking for a specific time to leave campus.
While traveling home on a college budget can at times be difficult, I have discovered that it is certainly a manageable task when utilizing available resources, such as booking sites and friends. I have learned that having patience and noting my various travel options goes a long way when it comes to saving money in college.
Corley Doyle is a current junior at Middlebury College. She is pursuing a major in Psychology and minors in Mathematics and Spanish.