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First time flying, lots of questions

North Port, Florida
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First time flying, lots of questions

My husband and I will be flying for the first time next October(2014) round trip from Dayton oh to Phoenix az. We are in our early 20s and both nervous about flying. No kids. When should we book our flight, is it better to book in advance? We want to fly the cheapest we can as we will be on a tight budget. What cost should we expect to find? Also what's the best way to book? Through the airlines or on orbitz, ect? We haven't used those yet either. We want a good deal and worried since its our first time to overpay.

We plan to have one bag each(packing lightly) is this the best idea? Will we be able to keep those bags with us? Any tips about luggage, I've heard of extra fees with it.

My husband does not want a flight that makes stops(he is worried we will somehow miss the connection plane) is it better to have a non stop flight or one with stops, is it really a difficult thing switching planes?

Also how early do you recommend to arrive before your flight? I know some of these questions are probably real basic but we feel better getting advice here, plus we are nervous about the whole experience.

Jakarta, Indonesia
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1. Re: First time flying, lots of questions

Non stop is always better. The more stops you make, the likelier your bags will be lost. As for fares i find skyscanner to be a useful website

www.skyscanner.com

NYC/Israel
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for Israel
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2. Re: First time flying, lots of questions

HI! First of all take a deep breath and RELAX! Looking at your profile I see you have done a number of vacations--I assume all by car. You drove to these places, you found them and figured it out. You did that, you can do a flight. As my Dad used to say. you speak English, if necessary you ask. ( and odds are since you read, you won't have to ask as much)

In terms of booking a flight --it is always better to book directly with the airline. Booking through Ortbitz just adds a middle person--and that is potential for more problems.

Price wise--you do NOT want to wait to the last minute to book, but how early to book-that can be tricky. What you can do is use a site like Kayak.com to get an idea of who flies from Dayton to Phoenix. ( but you are NOT booking through them) Looking now I see there are NO non-stop flights on that route. I also see some choices have a stop and others have a stop AND you change planes. Regardless of which you end up with--YOU CAN DO IT!! Neither you nor hubby are idiots. ( and congrats on being newlyweds) You will also make sure that you book a connection with more time. Hundreds and hundreds of people do this daily. I also see prices in the $340 range for NOv. 2013. This is NOT a guideline for Oct. 2014. You basically have to start looking in the summer and book when you are comfortable and don't look back!

In terms of baggage fees--how much depends upon the airline. You find this information on the airlines website. You will also find the maximum size and weight of your carryon luggage. When deciding which airline to actually fly you add the "extra" costs and then see which is the least expensive. Don't forget when measuring luggage--handles and wheels count. BTW then there is Southwest. They will not show on a site like Kayak. They will always have a stop, they do not reserve seats BUT they let you bring TWO pieces of checked luggage included in their fee. So, they may end up being the least expensive.

In terms of what time to arrive, at the airport your airline website will tell you what they recommend, You will also have to look at the TSA ( they are the folks who provide security on American airlines prior to your boarding) and see what you can and can not take in carryon luggage.

I'e given you alot. I know others will add to what i said and take away from what I said. The most important thing you can take away with you--12 months before the fact is YOU CAN DO THIS! No reason to be nervous!

Vancouver, Canada
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for London
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3. Re: First time flying, lots of questions

'When should we book our flight, is it better to book in advance?' The first part of that question is tricky, the second easy. Yes, book in advance. When to book? Difficult to say. Certainly not now, as tickets go on sale from 310 - 330 days before departure. Very early booking leaves one open to schedule changes by airlines. Lowest fares may not be available from earilest booking date either, so start looking at fares from about six months in advance of your travel date.

'We want to fly as cheap as we can as we will be on a tight budget.' One gets what one pays for: cheap base fares may end up 'costing' more than a bog standard ticket with another airline. Make a few dummy bookings (ie book flights up to the payment page) to see what the full price will be for your journey. Doing this will also answer the 'what cost should we expect to find?' question, with a caveat.

Air fares are very fluid. They are calculated using a number of parameters (number of pax on board, number of pax in each cabin / class of service, number of pax travelling from airports X, Y and Z every day and many more) and go down as well as up the nearer one gets to a travel date. I flew to PHX this month and paid less for the return fare than I did in 2011 and 2012, and I booked about seven weeks before my travel date. Had I booked in June I would have paid more than twice what I did on the day of purchase.

Please book directly with the airline. Many guarantee the lowest fares available with direct bookings. If anything goes amiss you will deal with the airline, not a third party agent (whose responsibility begins and ends with booking flights on your behalf). Please also read the fare rules before purchase, so you will know what you are agreeing to buy.

Some airlines charge for checked baggage, some do not; that information is available at the airlines' websites. There are size and weight limits for checked and hand baggage; airlines tend to be strict about both. The sizes for checked and hand bags includes wheels and handles. Space in overhead lockers is very limited on smaller Airbuses, so please adhere to the rules for hand (carry on) baggage.

You may find that some seats will be offered for free at the time of booking, others will require a payment. You need not pay to book seats, and keep in mind that no airline guarantees that seats selected will be those in which one sits on the day of travel.

Plan to check in on line with the PNR (pax name record, aka locator code) you'll be given on ticket purchase. You may use the PNR to keep an eye on your booking at the airline's website as well. You won't need any paperwork to check in or use at the airport, an e-ticket is just that, stored on the airline's computer - all you will need is identification in order to check in at the airport.

If you do book a flight with a connection, please allow more than the minimum time suggested to make that connection. Expect the unexpected; better to have time at the terminal than to run to the gate and find the fight closing as you reach the desk.

How early to arrive at the airport will to some extent depend on the airline with which you book. If check in and bag drop closes an hour before flight departure, you should plan to be at the airport two hours before flight departure.

http://matrix.itasoftware.com/ is a very useful website to check flight times and fares. Check the websites for Southwest (which has a free checked baggage policy) and jetBlue as well to see what you can create for a DAY to PHX journey.

Nashville, TN
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4. Re: First time flying, lots of questions

If you're flying out of Dayton, expect tomake at least one stop. Dayton is a smaller airport and at this time does not show any non-stop flights to PHX. It's not going to be a problem as long as you don't book a tight connection. Since you're both novice flyers, I would suggest a minimum of 90 minutes between flights. Better to give yourself some extra time, than miss a connection. If you do by chance miss your connection, as long as you book this as one ticket, the airline will put you on the next flight with available seating.

One other suggestion, do not book the last flight of the day. If you do so and miss a connection, you will need to overnight at the connecting city. This extra expense may or may not be covered by the airline

Singapore
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5. Re: First time flying, lots of questions

Congratulations! I try to book my flights no later than 3 months prior to flying. Once you get within the 3 month window you will notice the price go up. If October in your destination is high season you might want to book earlier than that. Look at different airport options in your area. If you can drive to a bigger airport, consider flights out of there. Sometimes a bigger airport with more airlines may be more competitive. Downside obviously the added travel time and cost of parking for the duration of your trip. In terms of booking the cheapest, be ware of all the fine print and cost of add-ons, like checked in luggage. If you don't plan to check any luggage make sure you have all your toiletries in the mandated sizes and packing (<100 ml and clear plastic). Food/ beverages in the airport/ plane may be more expensive than outside. I always bring a water bottle. You may need to empty it to clear security then look for a water cooler airside to fill up. Good luck!

Auckland Region...
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6. Re: First time flying, lots of questions

Hi icemodeled,

Book directly with the airline that you chose.

Third party sites might look cheaper but their offers will probably have fish hooks attached.

I would consider booking about 6 months out. Having said that though, check the airline sites regularly in case there is an early special on offer.

Cheers.

Boston...
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7. Re: First time flying, lots of questions

Not sure how far you are from the airport, but if you're that nervous, you can always take a ride over there to poke around to get the general lay of the land before you fly. Of course you cant go airside but Might make you feel better to know exactly what you need to do at the airport.

As you can see, plenty of experts and good advice here.

Happy Travels

Oxford, United...
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for St. Barthelemy
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8. Re: First time flying, lots of questions

If you want to take a direct flight then maybe flying from Columbus instead of Dayton could be an option ? US Air fly direct to Phoenix from there

Pittsburgh...
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9. Re: First time flying, lots of questions

Hello,

You should book your flights at least 2 weeks before your planned departure. I think 3-6 months is more of a rule for international itineraries.

It's a good idea to pack lightly and pack smart. Don't being more than you need- dragging a big suitcase around is no fun. Most major airlines charge for bags. Southwest does not charge for your first bag, so booking with them can save you an additional $25+ a person.

You can use Orbitz and other search engine sites to research prices and routes, but always book directly with the airline.

Getting around the airport is easy if you pay attention. Just be sure to read up on the 3-1-1 rule for carry ons. You can put a full size bottle if shampoo in your checked bag, but cannot take it on the plane with you carry on (of course, if you packed smart, you'd never bring shampoo as the hotel will provide in Phoenix).

I would suggest checking Cinci, Dayton and Columbus airfares to Phoenix. The larger airports are more likely to have a direct flight, but then keep in mind that it isn't uncommon for a direct flight to cost a few hundred dollars more than a connecting flight, so I would pick your battles. A connection should never be less than 90 min for a new flyer- pay a little extra for the security of having extra time to connect.

Edited: 7:01 am, September 30, 2013
London, United...
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10. Re: First time flying, lots of questions

You can also consider Cincinnati to fly from as much as Columbus.

Basic rule is buy ticket early if you want to get a cheaper fare.