The Airfare Expert: I don’t know if you saw my latest Airfare Expert column for USA Today on saving money with “fly & drive” combination trips; if not, here’s the condensed version.
I focus on Yosemite, but I think it could prove useful for travels to a lot of America’s national parks some of which can be a bit hard to get to (certainly by nonstop air service). Of course, the very isolation of some of these parks is a big part of why we want to get to them!
So here goes – and if you have any ideas or comments, let’s chat on Facebook.
Is it possible to fly & drive to Yosemite and save money?
Yes, and in this case, the more you’re willing to drive, the more you may be able to save. Here are some options:
Fly into Fresno: This is the nearest airport to Yosemite served by multiple airlines (though dominated by United); luckily, the Fresno facility is just about 90 miles away from the park, and out West, that’s no big deal. Bonus for travlers: easy in-and-out of the airport (and security) thanks to few crowds, plus no long haul to pick up the rental car.
Fly into San Francisco or Fly into Oakland: These bigger airports are dominated by United (SFO) and Southwest (OAK), and while flying to San Francisco or Oakland will increase the driving distance of your Yosemite (total drive time, maybe 3-4 hours or so), it could be more cost effective if you’re traveling as a group.
Tell me the best tips for cheap flights no matter where I fly.
Just follow these two favorite maxims of mine:
- Shop on Tuesday at 3pm Eastern; this is cheapest day (and time of day) to shop for airfare.
- Fly on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday; most often, the cheapest days to fly. Avoid Fridays and Sundays unless there’s a special fare – usually those are the most expensive days to fly.
Any tips for the “drive” part of the trip?
Remember that parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone are in the high country, and snow in June and August are not unheard of. Check with the National Park Service for road closure information.