You asked so many questions about travel this week that we asked Anne Banas from SmarterTravel.com to tackle your questions.
Question from Kate: Our family of four is trying to make a trip to Costa Rica for a family celebration of my brother's return from a year long deployment. The vacation home is already paid for; so, we only have to pay for airline tickets. It seems like too good of an opportunity to miss, but we're struggling with the decision because three airline tickets will be around $1,800.
Answer: If you have specific dates in mind, sign up for fare alerts so you can track airline ticket prices. Sites like Kayak and Yapta, or individual airline websites, offer these; all you do is add your flight information and you will get email notification when the price drops. At SmarterTravel, we've rounded up all the places where you can find fare alerts: http://www.smartertravel.com/blogs/today-in-travel/find-the-cheapest-possible-flight-with-fare-alerts.html?id=13748660.
If your dates are flexible, consider going to Costa Rica in the summer offseason, which is known as the "green season." There will be short bursts of rain but the country is at its most lush and prices will be lower.
Question from Lauren: If one is driving a distance to vacation, how to compare towns for pitstops - hotels, eateries, gas, kid friendly things to do. Financially speaking, how does one know it is a more frugal stop than elsewhere?
Answer: One of the best things to do is to turn to apps. Gasbuddy, for instance, will help you compare gas prices in a given location. RoadNinja can help with food and lodging. To ward off the "are we there yet" question, download the License Plate Game app to help keep kids occupied while on the road.
Question from Lisa: Please, tell me why, if you book airline tickets in advance, the airlines keep changing the itinerary - sometimes by 5 or 10 minutes - no big deal, but sometimes enough to make catching connecting flights impossible?! Ugh!!
I really want to book some flights now, but I'm afraid that by the time the trip rolls around, the flight times will no longer fit my schedule!
Answer: Airline contracts of carriage usually have some sort of language saying that they can change schedules any time, and they often do. Your best bet is to book nonstop flights; but if you can't, chose flights with as much time as possible between connections. As a general rule of thumb, budget at least one hour for domestic connections and at least two hours for international.
Read more advice from Anne Banas on hotel points, lodging, and traveling with pets.