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10 tips for saving on plane tickets, even when prices are bonkers

A little creativity and flexibility can save you buckets of money on airfares.

airfare, plane tickets, travel
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Airfares have skyrocketed, but there are deals to be had if you know how to search for them.

If you've looked into booking flights the past few months, you've probably experienced some serious sticker shock. As a travel junkie, I peruse plane tickets regularly for fun, and I've seen some absolutely nutso prices, especially during peak summer dates. You can always expect to pay more during popular travel times, but it's not usually this bad.

According to CNBC, bonkers prices are not just a figment of our imagination. Plane ticket prices have risen 25% in the past year, far outpacing the rising inflation we're feeling elsewhere. Part of the reason is fuel costs are up—by a whopping 150%. Another reason is that airlines are trying to recover some of their losses that occurred during the pandemic. Finally, people are desperate to travel, so demand is high and people are apparently willing to shell out gobs of dough to get out of Dodge.

However, just because ticket prices have climbed doesn't mean there aren't deals to be had. You just have to know where, when and how to find them.


Finding deals does take a little work. To really get the best prices, you have to be willing to play around with your travel variables (dates/times/airlines/airports/destinations), so it's not like there's some magical, one-size-fits-all money-saving solution. But these guidelines and tips will help give you a place to start to save money on airfare, even when prices go up.

1. When you travel matters far more than when you book your plane tickets.

People often ask, "When's the best time to buy plane tickets?" I've heard everything from certain days of the week to certain time frames before your planned departure being the best time to buy. There is a general guideline for when to book that's frequently shared by travel experts:

Domestic flights: 1 to 3 months in advance

International flights: 2 to 8 months in advance

However, plane ticket prices change constantly, every airline prices their flights differently and the volatility of fuel prices makes a lot of this unpredictable.

What matters more than when you book is when you actually travel. Demand is fairly predictable and peak times will almost always be more expensive. Summer, three-day weekends, the spring break period (mid-March through mid-April), Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks are bound to set you back unless you are really flexible in the dates you can travel.

(One caveat on holidays: Because Thanksgiving is a solely American holiday and most people spend it with their families here, it can be a great time to travel internationally, as demand to leave the country is low that week.)

Off-peak is where it's at. Not everyone can swing it with work and school schedules, but if you can, late September through October, late January through early March, and most of May tend to be the cheapest times to fly.

2. Check airfares frequently, as prices change constantly—and sometimes drastically.

Airfares are always changing. In fact, prices can change several times a day. One reason I like to peruse plane tickets frequently, even if I'm not actively making travel plans, is so that I can actually recognize when a ticket is a good deal.

Google Flights is your best friend for this. If you have someplace you think you might want to go someday, start doing some daily or weekly searches on the Google Flights calendar (which I'll explain below). If you have a specific destination and dates already locked down, the same rule stands. Check frequently so that 1) You know the range of prices and 2) Can tell when a good price comes along.

3. Get to know Google Flights and its various filters.

Google Flights is easily the most versatile and user-friendly flight search tool, and the great news is, it's free! The only real bummer is there's no app, so you have to work from a browser. That's a small price to pay for being able to search almost every airline at once and see entire months' calendars of the lowest-priced tickets, though.

airfare, plane tickets, google flights

7-day, round-trip airfares from Seattle to Chicago range from $140 to $472 in August and September.

Screenshot via Google Flights

Google Flights shows you the same prices you'll see on the airlines' websites, and it can be much easier to use than any individual airline website. (I don't know why so many airline website fare calendars are so cumbersome to navigate, but they are.) You can use Google Flights to find the best price, then go to the airline website to find that flight to book. (Thrifty Traveler has a nice, detailed tutorial for utilizing the various Google Flights filters.)

5. But don't book a flight until you check Southwest Airlines first.

Southwest Airlines is not in Google Flights, so you have to search its website separately. A bit of a pain, but worth it. Southwest is frequently (though not always) cheaper than other airlines—and it lets you check two bags per person for free. Often that checked bag fee savings alone is worth booking on Southwest. Some of its planes don't have the bells and whistles of other airlines—the last two Southwest flights I took didn't even have electrical outlets to plug in my phone or computer—but I've always found the crew to be friendly and service to be quite good.

(One note: You don't get to choose your seat ahead of time on Southwest, so if you're traveling with a group and want to sit together it can get dicey. Checking in right at the 24-hour mark puts you closer to the front of the queue to board, but there's still no guarantee to get the seat you want. For some, that's a dealbreaker, but for others, it's worth the savings.)

6. Search for one-way tickets in addition to round-trip fares.

This piece of advice may come as a surprise, as many of us were taught that booking one-way tickets was way more expensive than booking round-trip. That's no longer the case. I always search for both round-trip and one-way tickets, and I frequently find two one-ways—often on two different airlines—to be cheaper than a round-trip ticket. Who knew?

7. Watch out for hidden fees and exclusions on discount carriers.

That Frontier or Spirit or Allegiant Airlines flight might look dirt cheap, but when you find out it doesn't even include a carry-on bag in that price, you may find that it's not worth it. Southwest is unique in that it is a lower-cost airline that doesn't charge extra fees and actually includes more free baggage than most standard airlines. Most discount airlines tack on fees for everything from bags to snacks, so it's good to know what's included and what's not in your airfare. Discount carriers will get you where you're going, but if you want to take anything with you, you might end up actually paying more in the end.

8. Search alternative airports near your departure and destination locations.

If you're flying to or from a large city, there are usually multiple airports you can choose from. And if you're flying to or from a small town, there are often airports within an hour's drive that may (or may not) be significantly cheaper to fly in and out of. You may be surprised by how much you can save using alternative airports that you didn't even know existed, so do a quick Google Maps search for airports nearby and search those in Google Flights as well. (Depending on where you're going, some smaller airports in large metro areas might actually get you closer to where you need to be on your vacation anyway. I know this can be the case in Southern California, at the very least.)

9. The more flexible you can be with travel dates and times, the better.

This is probably the biggest key factor in saving money on flights. I mentioned the off-peak times savings earlier, but even changing travel plans by just a day can save you a ton. People often don't realize how much prices can vary for the same route within the same week or month. For instance, looking right now at Seattle to Chicago one-way tickets, prices in November range from $70 to $249. You can see it in the Google Flights screenshot above as well. Even just a one-day difference can mean paying double the price, so the more flexible your dates, the better your chances of snagging a reasonably priced ticket.

10. Learn about the credit card/airline/hotel points and miles travel game.

Most of this airfare savings advice is applicable to the short term, but by far the best way to save on plane tickets is to basically get them for free. That's a long game. Sometimes called "travel hacking," the points/miles game is a fairly complicated but incredibly valuable hobby to take up if you want to save loads of money on travel.

I started playing the game far later than I should have and wish someone had impressed upon me how mind-blowing the savings were going to be when you know what you're doing. If you use a credit card that gives you points for cash back or to use for other things, you will get much more out of it if you learn how to maximize those points to make travel much, much more affordable. (I promise I'm not selling anything here. It's genuinely something I recommend to everyone, simply because it's amazing what people can do when they learn how the points/miles game works. You can learn more about it here.)

Even when plane ticket prices skyrocket, there are always some deals to be had with a little creativity and flexibility. Hopefully, these tips can help you save on airfare as you make travel plans during this weird, wonky, unpredictable time.

Photos from Tay Nakamoto

Facebook is no longer just your mom’s favorite place to share embarassing photos.

The social media platform has grown in popularity for young users and creators who enjoy forming connections with like-minded individuals through groups and events.

Many of these users even take things offline, meeting up in person for activities like book clubs, brunch squads, and Facebook IRL events, like the recent one held in New York City, and sharing how they use Facebook for more than just social networking.

“Got to connect with so many people IRL at an incredible Facebook pop up event this past weekend!” creator @Sistersnacking said of the event. So many cool activities like airbrushing, poster making + vision boarding, a Marketplace photo studio, and more.”

Tay Nakamoto, a designer known for her whimsical, colorful creations, attended the event and brought her stunning designs to the public. On Facebook, she typically shares renter-friendly hacks, backyard DIY projects, and more with her audience of 556K. For the IRL event, she created many of the designs on display, including a photobooth area, using only finds from Facebook Marketplace.

“Decorating out of 100% Facebook Marketplace finds was a new challenge but I had so much fun and got it doneeee. This was all for the Facebook IRL event in NYC and I got to meet such amazing people!!” Nakamoto shared on her page.


Also at the event was Katie Burke, the creator of Facebook Group “Not Wasting My Twenties.” Like many other recent grads at the start of the pandemic, she found herself unemployed and feeling lost. So she started the group as a way to connect with her peers, provide support for one anopther, and document the small, everyday joys of life.

The group hosts career panels, created a sister group for book club, and has meetups in cities around the US.

Another young creator making the most of Facebook is Josh Rincon, whose mission is to teach financial literacy to help break generational poverty. He grew his audience from 0 to over 1 million followers in six months, proving a growing desire for educational content from a younger generation on the platform.

He’s passionate about making finance accessible and engaging for everyone, and uses social media to teach concepts that are entertaining yet educational.

No matter your interests, age, or location, Facebook can be a great place to find your people, share your ideas, and even make new friends IRL.

Science

Researchers dumped tons of coffee waste into a forest. This is what it looks like now.

30 dump truck loads and two years later, the forest looks totally different.

One of the biggest problems with coffee production is that it generates an incredible amount of waste. Once coffee beans are separated from cherries, about 45% of the entire biomass is discarded.

So for every pound of roasted coffee we enjoy, an equivalent amount of coffee pulp is discarded into massive landfills across the globe. That means that approximately 10 million tons of coffee pulp is discarded into the environment every year.



When disposed of improperly, the waste can cause serious damage soil and water sources.

However, a new study published in the British Ecological Society journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence has found that coffee pulp isn't just a nuisance to be discarded. It can have an incredibly positive impact on regrowing deforested areas of the planet.

via British Ecological Society

In 2018, researchers from ETH-Zurich and the University of Hawaii spread 30 dump trucks worth of coffee pulp over a roughly 100' x 130' area of degraded land in Costa Rica. The experiment took place on a former coffee farm that underwent rapid deforestation in the 1950s.

The coffee pulp was spread three-feet thick over the entire area.

Another plot of land near the coffee pulp dump was left alone to act as a control for the experiment.

"The results were dramatic." Dr. Rebecca Cole, lead author of the study, said. "The area treated with a thick layer of coffee pulp turned into a small forest in only two years while the control plot remained dominated by non-native pasture grasses."

In just two years, the area treated with coffee pulp had an 80% canopy cover, compared to just 20% of the control area. So, the coffee-pulp-treated area grew four times more rapidly. Like a jolt of caffeine, it reinvigorated biological activity in the area.

The canopy was also four times taller than that of the control.

Before and after images of the forest

The forest experienced a radical, positive change

via British Ecological Society

The coffee-treated area also eliminated an invasive species of grass that took over the land and prevented forest succession. Its elimination allowed for other native species to take over and recolonize the area.

"This case study suggests that agricultural by-products can be used to speed up forest recovery on degraded tropical lands. In situations where processing these by-products incurs a cost to agricultural industries, using them for restoration to meet global reforestation objectives can represent a 'win-win' scenario," Dr. Cole said.

If the results are repeatable it's a win-win for coffee drinkers and the environment.

Researchers believe that coffee treatments can be a cost-effective way to reforest degraded land. They may also work to reverse the effects of climate change by supporting the growth of forests across the globe.

The 2016 Paris Agreement made reforestation an important part of the fight against climate change. The agreement incentivizes developing countries to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, promote forest conservation and sustainable management, and enhance forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

"We hope our study is a jumping off point for other researchers and industries to take a look at how they might make their production more efficient by creating links to the global restoration movement," Dr. Cole said.


This article originally appeared on 03.29.21

Family

Naming twins is an art. Here are some twin names people say are the best they've ever heard.

With twins, all the regular pressures of having a baby are doubled, including choosing a name.

Are you in favor of rhyming twin names? Or is it too cutesy?

Having twins means double the fun, and double the pressure. It’s a fairly known rule to name twins in a way that honors their unique bond, but that can lead to overly cutesy pairings that feel more appropriate for nursery rhyme characters than actual people. Plus, it’s equally important for the names to acknowledge each twin’s individuality. Again, these are people—not a matching set of dolls. Finding the twin baby name balance is easier said than done, for sure.

Luckily, there are several ways to do this. Names can be linked by style, sound or meaning, according to the baby name website Nameberry. For example, two names that share a classic style would be Elizabeth and Edward, whereas Ione and Lionel share a similar rhythm. And Frederica and Milo seem to share nothing in common, but both mean “peaceful.”

Over on the /NameNerds subreddit, one person asked folks to share their favorite twin name pairings, and the answers did not disappoint.


One person wrote “Honestly, for me it’s hard to beat the Rugrats combo of Phillip and Lillian (Phil and Lil) 💕”

A few parents who gave their twin’s names that didn’t inherently rhyme until nicknames got involved:

"It's the perfect way! Christmas cards can be signed cutely with matching names, but when they act out you can still use their full name without getting tripped up.😂"

"The parents of a good friend of mine did this: her name is Allison and her sister is Callie. Their names don’t match on the surface, but they were Alli and Callie at home."

“Alice and Celia, because they’re anagrams! Sound super different but have a not-so-obvious implicit connection.”

This incited an avalanche of other anagram ideas: Aidan and Nadia, Lucas and Claus, Liam and Mila, Noel and Leon, Ira and Ria, Amy and May, Ira and Ari, Cole and Cleo…even Alice, Celia, and Lacie for triplets.

Others remembered name pairs that managed to sound lovely together without going into cutesy territory.

twin names, twins, babies, baby namesThese matching bunny ears though. Photo credit: Canva

“I know twin toddler boys named Charlie and Archie and they go so well together,” one person commented.

Another wrote, “Tamia and Aziza. I love how they follow the same sound pattern with the syllable endings (-uh, -ee, -uh) without being obnoxiously matchy matchy.”

Still another said, “Lucy and Logan, fraternal girl/boy twins. I think the names sound so nice together, and definitely have the same 'vibe' and even though they have the same first letter they aren't too matchy-matchy.”

Other honorable mentions included: Colton and Calista, Caitlin and Carson, Amaya and Ameera, Alora and Luella, River and Rosie, and Eleanor and Elias.

One person cast a vote for shared style names, saying, “If I had twins, I would honestly just pick two different names that I like separately. I tend to like classic names, so I’d probably pick Daniel and Benjamin for boys. For girls my two favorites right now are Valerie and Tessa. I think Val and Tess would be cute together!”

Overall though, it seems that most folks were fans of names that focused on shared meaning over shared sound. Even better if there’s a literary or movie reference thrown in there.

twin names, twins, babies, baby namesMany adult twins regret that their names are so closely linked together. Photo credit: Canva

“My mom works in insurance, so I asked her. She’s seen a lot of unique ones, but the only twins she remembers are Gwenivere [sic] and Lancelot... bonus points... little brother was Merlin,” one person recalled.

Another shared, “If I had twin girls, I would name them Ada and Hedy for Ada Lovelace and Hedy Lamarr, both very early computer/tech pioneers. Not that I’m that into tech, I just thought it was a brilliant combination.”

Other great ones: Susan and Sharon (think the original “Parent Trap”), Clementine and Cara (types of oranges), Esme and Etienne (French descent), Luna and Stella (moon and stars), Dawn and Eve, plus various plant pairings like Lily and Fern, Heather and Holly, and Juniper and Laurel.

Perhaps the cleverest name pairing goes to “Aubrey and Zoe,” since…wait for it… “they’re A to Z.”

It’s easy to see how naming twins really is a cool opportunity for parents to get creative and intentional with their baby naming. It might be a challenge, sure, but the potential reward is having the most iconic set of twins ever. Totally worth it!

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

And she inspired the Gardiner Brothers to add yet another element to the mix—Irish stepdance.


In a TikTok that's been viewed over 17 million times, the Gardiner Brothers don cowboy hats while they step in time to "Texas Hold 'Em," much to the delight of viewers everywhere.

Watch:

@gardinerbrothers

Beyoncé 🤝 Irish dancing #beyonce #countrymusic

Michael and Matthew Gardiner are professional Irish-American stepdancers and choreographers who have gained international fame with their award-winning performances. They've also built a following of millions on social media with videos like this one, where they dance to popular songs, usually in an outdoor environment.

The melding of Irish dance with country music sung by a Black American female artist may seem unlikely, but it could be viewed merely as country music coming back to its roots. After all, country music has its roots in the ballad tradition of the Irish, English and Scottish settlers in the Appalachian region of the U.S. And despite modern country music's struggle to break free from "music for white people" stereotypes, it has roots in African-American traditions as well. For instance, the banjo, which has long been used in bluegrass and country music, was created by enslaved Africans and their descendents during the colonial era, according to The Smithsonian.

People are loving the blending of genres and culture that the TikTok exemplifies.

"Never thought I’d see Irish step dancing while Beyoncé sings country," wrote on commenter. "My life is complete. ♥️"

"So happy Beyoncé dropped this song and exposed my timeline to diversified talent 👏🏽👏🏽," wrote another.

"Beyoncé brought the world together with this song 😭," offered another person.

"Ayeeee Irish Dancing has entered the BeyHive chatroom… WELCOME!! 🔥🔥🔥" exclaimed another.

"I don’t think I can explain how many of my interests are intersecting here," wrote one commenter, reflecting what several others shared as well.

The Beyoncé/Gardiner Brothers combo and the reactions to it are a good reminder that none of us fit into one box of interest or identity. We're all an eclectic mix of tastes and styles, so we can almost always find a way to connect with others over something we enjoy. What better way to be reminded of that fact than through an unexpected mashup that blends the magic of music with the delight of dance? Truly, the arts are a powerful uniting force we should utilize more often.

And for an extra bit of fun, the Gardiner Brothers also shared their bloopers from filming the video. Turns out stepping in the rain isn't as easy as they make it look.

Beyoncé Bloopers #texasholdem #gardinerbrothers

@gardinerbrothers

Beyoncé Bloopers #texasholdem #gardinerbrothers

This article originally appeared on 2.26.24

Family

Mom reveals 4-year-old's grievances for the week, showing just how nonsensical kids can be

"I wouldn't pull over on the side of the road to let her pet a coyote."

Mom shares 4-year-old's accidentally hilarious grievances.

Preschoolers can be absolutely hilarious when they aren't even trying. They're old enough to be able to have very strong opinions about things but young enough for most of their strong opinions to be about things that make little sense to adults. Like when a 3-year-old asks for a peanut butter sandwich only to get mad because you put the two pieces of bread together and they didn't want a sandwich like that. They wanted the kind that wasn't a sandwich at all.

While these things can be frustrating in the moment, once you've had a little space from it you can laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Kristen Cook took to social media to list all of her daughter's complaints for the week and they're pretty hysterical. One of the very first things the girl was upset about is the fact that Cook refused to pull over so the girl could pet a coyote. The list got increasingly more interesting.


"I also have two chins. She said it's not really fair that I have two chins and she has one. Her ice cream was too cold. I wore sunglasses the other day—and I don't often wear them but I did—and she said that she felt like that was me lying about being her mom," Cook rattles off before detailing more random grievances.

The mom's confessional style video made for a great starting point for other parents to list their children's nonsensical complaints and they're just as amusing.

"Mine demands I turn off the Sun while we drive," someone says.

"Mine flipped out because I couldn't give her a cloud.....FROM THE SKY!!!!!" another commenter reveals.

"When my daughter was four she got so mad when I showed her a picture of me when I was about six years old …… she can't believe I was a child and I didn’t wait for her so we could grow together as best friends," one person shares.

"My husband is an amputee and our 3 year old daughter randomly gets pissed that I’m mean and took daddy’s leg, he hasn’t had a leg since he was 12 and I met him when he was 17 I had nothing to do with the missing leg," someone else laughs.

"My 4 year old is mad at me because my husband told him he can’t marry me. He’s also mad that I’m pregnant and I won’t let him be pregnant," another person says.

If nothing else, these kids are consistently upset about things outside of their parents' control and it will never get old. But while everyone else was sharing their similar stories to help the mom feel less alone, one person had a message for the mom. Think of it as a small nugget of encouragement: "Well, maybe this week you can do better."

Yes, maybe this week this mom and all the ones facing similar dilemmas can simply do better so their children don't continue to have these very logical (insert sarcasm) complaints.

What does English sound like with German syntax?

Native English speakers often find German grammar rules pretty baffling. So, imagine if English speakers used German grammar and syntax while speaking their native tongue. Overlearner, a YouTuber who speaks multiple languages, created a video to show what a typical conversation would sound like.

Overlearner’s page discusses the optimal ways to learn languages, music, martial arts, and many other skills.

What’s interesting about the video is German’s unique syntax.


For example:

Person 1:Must you today also to work?

Person 2:No, I must today not to work I have today a day free but I work morning and over morning.


When people speak English but with German grammaryoutu.be

Or there was a crazy situation that went down at Person 2’s job. He’s a tooth doctor, or was we would call him, a dental assistant.

Person 2: Yesterday is a female patient in the clinic come that such fear before tooth doctors had that she during the examination to scream begun has then upstood and out the building run is.

Person 1:Wow, what for a crazy situation, yes.

The video's mixed-up syntax reminded many people in the comments of a “Star Wars” character. "This sounds like AI Shakespearean Yoda having a stroke," one commenter wrote. "So… to Germans, Yoda was the only normal one?" another added.

The video is a great way for English speakers to better understand what German sounds like to native speakers. It’s also a wonderful reminder that we should give any English speakers learning German or German speakers learning English a lot of credit because figuring out how to switch syntax like that must be maddening.