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Fly and Drive: Save on Airfare to Yosemite, Other National Parks

Fly and Drive to Save on Airfare

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:

  1. Shop on Tuesday at 3pm Eastern; this is cheapest day (and time of day) to shop for airfare.
  2. 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.

Finding Deals to Hawaii

Finding Deals to Hawaii

Just in case you missed my latest column for USA Today on finding deals to Hawaii, I thought I’d give you the short-but-sweet version here:

When to fly to Hawaii? 

Look for discounted fares in the spring and fall. I’m sorry to say you probably won’t see many deals on summer airfare this year, but sign up for the FareCompare Airfare Alerts so that if there are good deals, you’ll hear about them first.

What are airfares like? 

Think of flights to Hawaii in terms of distance: if you look at it that way, the airfare compares very favorably to Europe. Prices to Hawaii also look good next to many Caribbean destinations.  

When to shop and buy airfare for Hawaii? 

First, start early to get a feel for prices – but be flexible enough to be able to grab a sale when one comes along. It’s highly unlikely we’ll see last minute sales (but in case we do, you’ve already signed up for airfare alerts, right?) but you can sometimes pick up award seats at the last minute even if you tried redeeming those miles 11 months ago with no luck. When you’re ready, the best time to buy is Tuesday at 3pm eastern time.

What else to know about flying to Hawaii? 

The California Connection: There are about 500,000 airline seats flown to Hawaii each month from the mainland, with nearly half of them originating in two cities — Los Angeles and San Francisco. For those keeping score, there are only 20 mainland cities total with nonstop flights to the islands. No nonstops from your neck of the woods? Look for cheap flights to LAX or SFO. And yes, you’d be smart to sign up for airfare alerts to those cities, too.

Cheap Flights to Cancun – Rick Seaney in USA Today

Cheap Flights Cancun USA Today

Rick Seaney – USA Today Airfare Expert

Hey, everyone – I wanted to alert you to my new gig as “Airfare Expert” for USA Today. My very first column is about finding cheap flights to Cancun and I hope you enjoy it – and score some deals.

Here’s an abbreviated version of the column:

Should I buy my tickets for Cancun now? 

This is a good time to get your tickets: Airfare to Cancun averages about $100 less than the two next most popular Mexican beach resorts, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta.

Best day to travel to Cancun?

This is a little different from my usual domestic travel advice which is to fly midweek; when it comes to Cancun, the best time to travel is usually Saturday because that’s when the most seats are available.

How good are Cancun deals? 

While most airfare prices are up (and sometimes way up), the cheapest roundtrip airfares to Cancun on flights from top cities in the U.S. in May average $473, and that compares favorably to last year’s prices..

When should I start to shop for Cancun? 

You can begin shopping for your Mexican beach flight about four months before departure.

When should I buy my plane tickets? 

My advice is to buy between four months and one month before departure. The airlines don’t usually get serious about releasing cheaper seats on these routes until that four-month mark. By the way, if you’re thinking of waiting until the last minute to buy, don’t – not this year.

Anything else? 

We are lucky that there are plenty of low cost airlines flying to Cancun, including AirTran, JetBlue, Spirit, Sun Country and Virgin America. It helps lower prices.

Learn more about FareCompare and the cheapest days to fly and best times to buy airline tickets - and learn how to save big.

More Flights to Cuba from U.S. Airports

More Flights to Cuba from U.S. Airports

Exactly two years ago to this very day  - back on March 11, 2009 – I wrote a column for ABCNews.com called The Next Vacation Hot Spot: Cuba?” Now, it seems, that reality may be just around the corner.

We’ve received word that the United States Customs and Border Protection has now authorized more airports to offer passenger air service to and from Cuba via charter flights.

New York’s John F. Kennedy and Miami International are currently the only ones offering this service, and at the moment, charters are limited to travel for Cuban-Americans visiting relatives, for journalists and for those making authorized religious or educational trips.

But I imagine it won’t be long before we’ll see Cuba opening up to regular tourists like you and me. And why not?

A lot of us are ready for adventure: according to the latest government data, 30% of us have passports (and it would be great if more of us got them) – so why not use them for travel to an international destination in our own backyard that’s both accessible and affordable, especially compared to other popular Caribbean vacation spots? Anyway, it is great to see one of the last remaining icebergs from the Cold War – the ban on travel to Cuba – slowly but surely thawing.

And yes, I can hear all you cigar aficionados out there saying, gracias!

For the record, airports now authorized for charters to Cuba include the following (in no particular order):

  • Pittsburgh International Airport
  • Miami International
  • New York’s John F. Kennedy
  • Los Angeles International
  • Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International
  • Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International
  • Baltimore/Washington International
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International
  • New Orleans Louis Armstrong International
  • Chicago’s O’Hare International
  • Tampa International Airport
  • Puerto Rico’s San Juan Louis Munoz Marin International

To Fly or Not to Fly – Good Deals and Bad Deals

February 24, 2011 | Posted in: Deals,Destinations,Multimedia,Security | 0 comments

To Fly or Not to Fly - Good Deals and Bad Deals

Ever wonder if certain places are safe to fly to?

Maybe a destination you’d normally never consider, but what if you see a super good deal – what then?

That was the topic of my weekly column for ABCNews.com yesterday – called, “To Fly or Not to Fly” and I’ve got lots of advice on the subject.

I also talked about the issue of cheap flights vs. security on Good Morning Texas today, plus I examined some specific airfare deals and pronounced them “good deals” or “bad deals”. It was fun – take a look:

Rick Seaney on Good Morning Texas – Oil, Airline Fees and Super Bowl Airfare

January 27, 2011 | Posted in: Airfare News,Destinations,Multimedia | 0 comments

Rick Seaney GMT Airfare Super Bowl

I appeared on WFAA’s Good Morning Texas today and gave them some analysis of current oil prices, and what it means for airfare (hint: see my previous posts about recent airfare hikes).

I also talked about my predictions for possible new airline fees - like a fee for holding an infant on our lap! Plus, some Super Bowl airfare stories to go along with what I’ve seen happening to prices for hotels and rental cars.

Makes you wonder if the “D” in Big D stands for “dear” and I don’t mean as in “sweetheart”.

See for yourself in the video, below:

Welcome to Dallas. Now Open Your Wallet for Planes, Cars, Hotels

American Airlines U.S. Cities Airfare Sale

Rick Seaney talks about Dallas Super Bowl prices today on WFAA’s Good Morning Texas.

I’m lucky. I live in greater Dallas. So I don’t have to spend a fortune on airfare to see the Super Bowl (and I don’t have to spend a fortune on tickets either, since I’ll be enjoying the game in the comfort of my home).

For those of you who are heading this way, welcome to Big D. And yes, if you’re a careful shopper and flexible on your travel dates, you can still find some relatively cheap flight deals to Dallas, but if not – time to get your wallets out.

I just looked at airfare prices again. And hotels. And cars. Not pretty (but there is some good news, at the very end).

Here’s what I found – and these prices were good as of Wed., Jan. 26 (though prices are bouncing around a bit):

For you Cheeseheads: 

  • Flights from Milwaukee to Dallas: depart Feb. 4, return Feb. 7 – $845 roundtrip

For you Steeler fans:

  • Flights from Pittsburgh to Dallas: same dates – $821 roundtrip

Fans from NY and LA:

Although it’s just about the same flight distance, there is quite a difference between roundtrip airfare from the two biggest cities on the East and West Coasts.

  • New York – Dallas has been running about $750
  • Los Angeles – Dallas, about $369

Well, it figures. LA has no dog in this fight, or any other – not since their last home team, the Raiders departed for Oakland back in ’94.

Now let’s talk about hotels.

Moderately priced hotels, even cheap hotels – aren’t cheap, or moderate – not during The Game anyway (again, I’m seeing price changes so what you see may be different since I last checked).

  • $758 – 2 nights at the La Quinta in Euless, Texas (2/5 – 2/6) – microwave included!
  • $1,209 - 3 nights (required) at a Super 8 in Arlington – room with one king bed.

And now, rental cars.

I checked with Hertz at DFW, and wouldn’t you know all the fun vehicles are sold out for Super Bowl weekend: no Cadillac Escalades, no Sebrings, no Mustang convertibles and most of the SUVs are gone. Okay, but there is a Chevy Aveo (or similar!) available for the weekend with no extras for $340.66.

Well, at least it’ll seem natural sitting in that little car, after your cramped airline seat.

Finally, a little good news on the bargain front: our local Minyard supermarket has a couple of specials: chicken drumsticks for just $.99 a pound and two giant bags of corn chips for $5. I guess you take your silver linings where you can find them.

Now excuse me, I’ve got to get to the store.

DFW to the Land Down Under — Non-Stop

January 19, 2011 | Posted in: Airline News,Destinations,Uncategorized | 0 comments

Good news for Dallas travelers who want to visit the “land down under” — Australia just got a little closer. Well not exactly closer…but it’ll be easier to get there!

Starting in May, DFW will have a 16 1/2 hour non-stop to Sydney aboard a 747 on Qantas Airways — the national airline for Australia.

Australia has something for everyone, like beautiful beaches, the famously rugged Outback,  and the style and sophistication of Sydney — Australia’s largest city.

And for those who REALLY want a great look at all that Sydney has to offer, I encourage you to take part in the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. Warning: it’s not for the faint of heart!

Traveling to Australia is by no means cheap – fares can be in the ballpark of $1500 roundtrip – but I’ll be sure to keep you posted on any deals, so keep coming back to visit my blog and FareCompare.com.

G’day for now — and happy travels!

Btw: For those of you in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, I’ll be on the WFAA TV news - channel 8 – at 5pm tonight to discuss Australia travel. Be sure to tune in!

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