It is no secret that my husband and I like to save money where possible. This holds true even when we are traveling. We avoid toll roads when we can, even if it will tack on a few extra minutes to our trip. We drive a few extra hours to a larger airport to save a couple hundred dollars when we fly. We even pack lunches from home to save on eating out costs.
My most recent trip, however, had me questioning at what point saving time and effort outweighs the cost benefit.
My one-year-old and I flew to Europe last week. We had known for some time that we wanted to spend to visit family overseas this summer, so I started to look at tickets around Christmastime. Every couple days I would do a flight search to track the prices. They were averaging around $1200-$1400 roundtrip with at least one stop. One morning, I did my usual search and found a ticket for $650. The layovers weren’t ideal (2 stops, one of which being 8 hours), but I knew that I couldn’t pass up this deal. I knew I could book the ticket and always cancel it within 24 hours without penalty. I decided to book the ticket and then figure out the logistics of it all later.
** The Department of Travel has mandated that all airlines originating in the US or traveling to the US allow passengers to either hold a reservation for 24 hours or cancel their reservations within 24 hours of booking penalty free as long as the flight is at least 7 days out. While travel search engines are not required to follow this rule, many do to stay competitive.**
So here were my options:
1. A flight with one layover and 15 hours travel time: $1200 + seat for baby: $1200 = $2400
2. A flight with one layover and 15 hours travel time: $1200 + infant-in-arms: $120 = $1350
3. An flight with two layovers and 30 hours travel time: $650 + seat for baby: $650 = $1300
4. An flight with two layovers and 30 hours travel time: $650 + infant-in-arms: $65 = $715
*An overseas infant-in-arms ticket costs 10% of the adult purchase price
Can you guess which ticket I went with? I couldn’t get past the $600 I could be saving by traveling solo with my baby in my arms for 30 hours. Am I crazy? Maybe. Was it worth it? I don’t know. To ease the trip, I reserved a bassinet for both overseas flights for $70 and reserved a hotel room in the airport for our 8 hour layover for $120. So by the end of it, the roundtrip ticket for my son and I cost $905.
As fate would have it, we flew with a major airline on the same day that their systems crashed worldwide. Every flight was delayed until they could get their systems back up and running. This meant that we missed every connecting flight we had, and so did everyone else flying that day. We were rerouted twice and rebooked another 4 times. Each time, I spent at least 2 hours waiting in line at customer service. I never got that bassinet nor did I get to stay in that hotel room I reserved (our layover ended up being in an entirely different country). All of the flight options I was looking at were with the same airline, so it would have been an exhausting day regardless if I had paid $2400 or $905.
Although I may have second guessed myself a few times during our trip, I think I would still make the same decision and purchase the least expensive question.
So tell me what you think: What are you willing to pay for convenience? How much money is your time worth to you? At what price difference would you purchase your child his own ticket or choose the flight with shorter connections?