Once upon a time, I planned travel based on two factors:

1) the destination was approximately where I wanted to go, and

2) rock bottom price.

Generally, a cheap price means you are sacrificing something – most likely, efficiency, otherwise known as:

The Layover.

In my 20s, a 10-hour layover in Chicago on the way to Europe seemed like a smart way to save $100.  (Pro tip: it’s not.)

I didn’t fully grasp this lesson until I’d experienced the worst layover of my life on a trip from Athens to London. To save money, I had flown through Budapest with a 12-hour layover.  Turning what should have been a fairly straightforward 3-hour flight, into a f*cking debacle. 

I had plenty of time to question my life choices that day in Budapest.  And I realized, I would have paid 3x the money saved just to get the Hell. Out. Of. There. 

Sufficiently scarred, I questioned my attitude towards cheap flights, and ultimately changed my approach.  Instead, I’d find the best-priced flights, rather than the rock-bottom cheapest.  

The difference is that the best-priced flights are within my acceptable parameters for departure times, arrival times, connections, and preferred airports.   And I’m OK with paying a little more for them, too.  Here’s why:

1) Your time is valuable.

Most of us don’t travel as much as we’d like, so those days off are precious!  Typically the in-transit time is the most stressful part of traveling, so my goal is to minimize that as much as possible in order to maximize the fun.

2) Killing time at airports means spending money.

Well, since I have 2 hours to kill, may as well get some lunch, or a drink, or buy 3 more magazines…right? Airports are expensive, and the less time you spend in them, the better.

3) You’ll experience less travel-related hassles.

Ever been stranded in Chicago due to weather?  More flight connections mean a greater change of weather events, lost baggage, canceled flights, delays, and crying babies to affect your travel plans and tenuous grasp on sanity.

4) Flying direct is better for the environment.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, nonstop flights are preferred because of the pollution created during take-off and landing.  A two-connection flight from New York to Orlando creates 35% more carbon than a direct flight.

5) take advantage of destinations in your region.

When I lived in San Francisco, all kinds of wonderful places over the Pacific could be reached by a direct flight.  Now I live on the East Coast, so most of the Pacific is off the table. Instead, I get to explore the Caribbean, and take advantage of more flights to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

No longer feel guilty for booking a better flight! This is time off from your job, your kids, your responsibilities, whatever, make it count!

Travel is supposed to be fun, and less misery = more fun.  Every time.