3 Tips to Spend Less on Airfare Without Being Miserable

There’s a reason so many people bank credit card points or air miles to upgrade their flights to business class. Flying economy has become less and less pleasant as airlines have yanked amenities away. Throw in the fact that the seats somehow seem to be getting even smaller, and it’s easy to see why flying economy is not a pleasant experience all around.

The benefit of flying economy is clear — the savings. A basic economy ticket on United from Newark Airport to LAX for a long weekend in August costs as little as $325 roundtrip. That same route costs $1,528 for business class, which is a huge difference.

The good news, though, is that you’re not doomed to a miserable flight just because you’re opting to spend less and stick to economy. Here’s how to improve your experience without breaking the bank.

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1. Fly at off-peak times

Flying economy becomes much more pleasant when you don’t have a person in the seat next to you. Flying at off-peak times could result in a less crowded plane — and more room for you to stretch out and relax.

Try to avoid flying during popular times like the winter holidays and long holiday weekends. Also, steer clear of school breaks unless you have kids and that’s the only time you can travel.

What’s more, if your schedule is flexible (maybe you’re self-employed), try flying to your next weekend destination on a Wednesday afternoon instead of a Thursday night or Friday. And then fly home Monday night or Tuesday morning. Chances are, you’ll have fewer people on your flight.

2. Bring supplies to make your flight more comfortable

You may be stuck in a cramped economy seat. But that doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable.

Invest in a good neck pillow and a pair of noise-canceling headphones so you can doze off with ease. You may also want to bring an eye mask to block out light if you’re hoping to get some shut-eye.

Remember, too, that planes can be a dry environment. Bring a small tube of hand lotion for dry skin and chapstick for dry lips.

It’s one thing to suck it up in a tiny seat for a 2.5-hour flight from New York to Florida. It’s another thing to do the same when you’re flying from New York to Seattle.

If you’re taking a longer flight but can’t swing a business-class upgrade, consider paying for extra legroom. Or, at the very least, don’t stick to basic economy, because with that fare, you usually can’t choose your own seat. With regular economy, you generally at least get a seat choice at the time of booking. From there, you can select an aisle seat if you think you’ll need to stretch out.

Sticking with economy could save you a lot on your next flight. And there are ways to make the experience less unpleasant. But if you tend to fly often, you may want to shop around for a new travel rewards credit card — one that makes it easy to rack up points so you can swing a business-class upgrade more often.

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