Many students have planned elaborate spring break trips that require expensive airline tickets. Jaron Smith, a graduate student at the University of Utah, and his friend Paul Peterson, have made it their mission to help Salt Lake City residents make traveling more affordable.
The duo started the project a couple of years ago when a friend sent Smith a text about $360 round trip tickets to Italy. Believing it was a one-time deal, they called up some friends and booked it within the hour. A few hours later, the cheap tickets were unavailable. From then on, Smith and Peterson kept their eyes open and took advantage of other deals. The pair watched for cheap flights and notified friends and family when they popped up.
They began tracking and sharing so many deals that the next logical step, according to Smith, was to start sharing them on social media so other people could seize the same opportunities.
“We want to help people see that they can travel and not spend their life savings in the process,” Smith said. “We don’t make any money doing it, we just love hearing when someone is able to book a great deal.”
As a part of their mission, Smith and Peterson have started sharing their tips in a blog in addition to their Instagram account, SLC Flight Watch.
“To us, it’s like Christmas morning every time we find a steal of a deal and we want to share that joy with all of you,” they wrote on the blog.
Smith’s Tips for Students:
Plan spring break in the fall and plan fall break in the spring. An early planned trip to Europe can cost the same as a late planned trip to California.
Students should get their passports now if they don’t already have one. Sometimes deals pop up just a few weeks before departure, and that’s not enough time to go through the passport application process.
The lowest international fares appear in October and November. Use a tool like Google Flights to track fares to Paris or Rome over spring break. Users will receive an email anytime the price changes. Tickets can get as low as $300 to $400.
Services like Airbnb can make any stay cheap. Splitting the cost of a house is usually a lot less expensive than getting hotel rooms. A lot of renters have lenient cancellation policies that allow guests to rescind a reservation up to seven days before they arrive.
Save hundreds of dollars by flying out of a different airport. “Flights from SLC to Maui can be over $900,” Smith said. “I took a spring break to Maui for $320 by flying out of San Jose. We left the Thursday before break, drove all night and flew out in the morning. The cost of parking the car, divided by the four people who rode in it, was practically nothing.”
All of Smith’s tips come from personal experiences. Smith and Peterson follow a lot of their own advice while running their blog.
“Google Flights keeps us current on trends and sends us alerts when prices change,” Smith said. “We have over 200 destinations being tracked for each travel season and Google shows us graphs of price changes over time. Kayak Explore helps us see the more random deals. Instead of searching specific destinations and dates, we can just see what is cheapest.”
Smith and Peterson are not the only ones tracking the best deals on flights out of Salt Lake City. Other Instagram accounts have also become prominent, including Flights From Home, which provides daily posts with new, affordable trips.