Our Answer. Part 2: Flights.
One of my very favorite college classes was Micro Economics. What does economics have to do with spending money while you are on a trip? I will tell you. I remember the class my teacher introduced the law of diminishing marginal utility (utility is a word that economists use as they try to determine joy or the usefulness that a product or service provides). For instance, if you attempt to eat an entire package of Oreos, the first Oreo is going to be really good. Oreo two, three and four might continue to get even better. Oreo five might get less satisfying. As you continue to eat Oreos until you finish all 39, they will most likely bring you less enjoyment with every Oreo.
If my Oreo example happens to be correct, then it would bring the most amount of joy if you choose to eat four Oreos at a time in several sittings. Likewise, with travel, we can maximize our enjoyment depending on the decisions we make with timing, flights, hotels, transportation and other activities that we want to do. We aim to maximize our utility!
In this post, I’m going to go over flights and how we have found success purchasing them.
I’m convinced that you can go anywhere in the world for the right price if your timeline is flexible. A huge factor we have going for us is that we have an interest in most places in the world. This makes us easy to please and easy to be stoked about a cheap flight to pretty much anywhere. We try to work out blocks of time where we can manipulate our flight schedule to where it is the most cost effective. Our number one advice is to do your research. Play around with it before you buy tickets.
Check this out. Arianne was searching flights from Chicago to Amsterdam the other day (something she does in her spare time). We are thinking about going in October. We put in a random day and it was like $500 (one way). Then we pulled up the month calendar on Google Flights and discovered that there were a few days in October that we could fly to Amsterdam for $250 - half as much.So if we could make it work, we would obviously try to cut our ticket cost in half and leave on one of the cheaper days. This simple tool of being able to see the month view is SO helpful. This tool plays a huge role in how we schedule our trips.
Here is how our flight planning for Around the World: May-June 2017 went down.
While planning a trip to Ghana for Ghana Make A Difference’s Medical Mission, we basically planned on paying $1,400 each for round trip tickets - it’s just kind of the normal price to pay. We liked the idea of trying to find a way to stop a few other places on our way to Ghana for about the same overall price.
We almost always start with Google flights to search for tickets. It is easy to navigate and it is nice to have a visual representation of possible flights, prices and cheapest dates to travel. And planning this trip was no different; we went to Google Flights to see if we could find different routes and itineraries that would keep us inside our budget.
Iceland has been screaming our name for a while. Arianne bought the Lonely Planet book for Iceland 18 months ago when she was 6 months pregnant and in the middle of her semester at Utah State. She’s been anxious to get there since. Looking for a way to somehow incorporate Iceland was our first step. When we saw that there were tickets from San Francisco to Iceland for $100, we were sold. Actually they were $99. NINETY-NINE U.S. DOLLARS. That was for May 12th and we couldn’t leave until the 13th - so we paid a whopping $120 instead. Still pretty awesome! (P.S. I just checked and those tickets are still available for May 1st, 2nd & 3rd. Anyone want to go to Iceland?)
Our next goal was to immediately find cheap tickets to San Francisco from Salt Lake. I think we just used a generic Expedia search and the prices were decent enough. We found $89 tickets to San Fran. Something to be careful about when booking separate tickets like this is to make sure you have plenty of time if something went wrong. We gave ourselves over 12 hours in San Francisco, which has the added bonus of giving us time to run across the Golden Gate Bridge, check out the piers, and maybe even go to Alcatraz!
Then we returned to Google Flights to look for flights from Iceland to Ghana. Like we mentioned when you DO have a certain destination in mind, the nice thing about Google Flights is that you can look at a month calendar and see what the cheapest day to fly is. However, even if we DON’T have a certain destination in mind, we still love Google Flights, because now we can pull up the Google Flight map and it will have a price next to tons of different destinations from our departing location we have entered. So after entering Iceland to Ghana we looked at the map and saw that it was super cheap to get to Paris from Iceland - $160. We knew that it was easy to get from Paris to Ghana, so we liked the idea of stopping in Paris more and more. And neither of us have been to Paris - so why not?! Paris is always a good idea, right? I mean, that’s what they say.
When purchasing our last set of flights to get us from Paris, we noticed that we could get an extended layover in Portugal for no extra charge. Whoot! Most people avoid the layovers - but we were searching for them. 24 hours in Lisbon - sign us up! So just like that we made it TO Ghana below our budget and we got to knock off some big ticket items on our bucket list.
Here’s a quick recap of the costs:
- Salt Lake City to San Francisco - $89
- San Francisco to Iceland - $120
- Iceland to Paris - $160
- Paris to Portugal to Ghana - $230
We got from Salt Lake to Ghana for $599 - and we are stopping in some pretty awesome places. We continued planning the rest of our trip in the same manner. We had a lot of fun experimenting and plugging in different possibilities. You should see a list of the places we tried - it took A LOT of playing around with.
We didn’t really save money by throwing Thailand into the mix, but we wanted to circumnavigate the world and see Thailand - so we decided it was worth it. We planned on coming straight home from Thailand to Salt Lake, but found that by stopping in Malaysia and Beijing before flying to Salt Lake was $20 cheaper. And of course, we had to save that $20. Ha!
So there you have it, a quick play by play of our planning stage and how we ended up with our itinerary. We ended up spending $1800 each instead of the $1400 like we planned for Ghana, but we get to stop in some pretty awesome places!
In case you are interested, here are few of the sites we like to use to search for tickets - they each offer something different.
Google Flights - As you’ve read, it’s obvious that this our favorite tool. We talk about Google Flights a lot, because it is definitely our go to. Like me mentioned, you can plug in where you are departing from and use the map to see all the prices of different destinations. You can also pull up a calendar and see the cheapest date to fly.
Skyscanner - Skyscanner is fun if you want to be inspired. You plug in where you are departing from and then as your destination you can select “anywhere.” Then a list of countries will pop up starting with the cheapest options. You can also narrow your search if you have specific days you can travel. It is kind of fun to mess around with.
Kayak has a tool called Kayak Explore. It is similar to Google Flights and also just fun to play around with. It is a good way to start when you are looking for inspiration for your trip. You can put in your budget and where you are leaving from and it will pull up a bunch of options.
Travel Zoo is a good one too. We’ve only booked flights that we’ve found on Travel Zoo, but they also post package vacation deals and sweet hotel sales. Definitely worth checking out. If anything, sometimes the vacations they have listed help inspire us.
Hopefully the play by play of our planning process in regards to flights helps you understand how we’ve found some great options and put our itinerary for Around the World: May-June 2017 together. Maybe we are weirdos, but it really does get kind of addicting to find the best prices around. We took it as a challenge and had a blast planning our trip together. As flights are typically one of the largest expenses when you travel, making wise decision with flights make a big impact on influencing your “utility.”