'Hacker Fares': An Easy Way to Save Big

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
October 5, 2015
Up in the air
Courtesy kalaloch/myBudgetTravel

The name sounds vaguely naughty: “hacker fare.” But trust me, scoring one of these bargain airfares doesn’t mean you have to be a tech whiz or an aspiring thief: Hacker fares are simply airfares that combine a one-way ticket on one airline with a return ticket on a different airline, potentially saving you a bundle.

But finding those kinds of ticket combos on your own takes a lot of poking around booking sites (seriously, hours of trial and error!), and finding one with meaningful savings can be even more difficult (and two hours' research to save ten bucks can be a little soul-sapping). That’s where a nifty online tool can swoop in to make things easier.

I’ve always been a big fan of Kayak as a tool for researching fares, and Kayak has been offering a filter for hacker fares for a few years now (in fact, Kayak appears to have coined the phrase "hacker fare," or at least brought the phrase into common travel lingo). Flying from JFK to SFO this fall, or instance? At press time, Kayak’s best rate was an automatically filtered hacker fare combining JetBlue to SFO with Sun Country Air back to JFK for $430.

But you can do better than that.

A new name in airline fare research, including hacker fares, is Skypicker, and for that very same trip from JFK to SFO, it delivered a better deal than Kayak: $347 on a combo flight on Alaska and American (and, for the record, the same fare on a round-trip flight on American). To be fair, Skypicker is a start-up with far less reach than Kayak, but one we’ll definitely keep our eye on.

TALK TO US! Have you used the “hacker fare” technique to save yourself on a round-trip flight?

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Travel Tips

Here’s How to Get on Your Flight Attendant’s Good Side

This article was written by Sid Lipsey and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel. There are two things you need to remember about flight attendants. The first is that they’re human beings who have feelings. The second is that they’re watching you: how you’re treating other passengers, how you’re treating the other flight attendants, and how you’re treating them. The dirty secret is both of those things will affect how flight attendants treat you. If you think flight attendants treat all passengers equally, you’re kidding yourself. The passengers who get on a flight attendant’s good side might get a little extra-friendly attention, perhaps more immediate service or maybe even a free drink. As for passengers who get on a flight attendant’s bad side? Well, we’re being positive here so we’ll get into that at another time. But, trust us: it’s better to get on their good side.  Related: The Craziest (and Rudest) Things Ever Said to Flight Attendants “If you are pleasant in return, you will always receive the best hospitality,” says flight attendant Emily Witkop. “[Unfriendly passengers] will receive good service too, but we are less likely to go out of our way for people who are rude to us.” Adds flight attendant Morgan Reed: “You know the saying, ‘Happy wife, happy life?’ Happy flight attendant, happy flight.’” And that’s yet another secret about flight attendants: you don’t need grand gestures to win them over. Keep in mind, they have to deal with drunks, obnoxious flyers, people with impossible requests, squabbling seatmates, creepy dudes hitting on them, and passengers who complain to them about the weather (yes, that actually happens). So simply treating them with the basic manners you learned in kindergarten is enough to make the average flight attendant think you’re the best thing to happen to airplanes since the jet engine. “Manners and etiquette go a long way towards gaining the respect and in turn reciprocal courtesies from your flight attendant,” says ex-stew Tami Gayikian. “It’s simple but lost in today’s world.” After chatting with some of our favorite flight attendants, past and present, we've come up with this handy guide on how to win friends and influence flight attendants on your next flight.  Here are the 10 Ways You Can Get On Your Flight Attendants’ Good Side: Return their greeting This is your first, best chance to make a good impression on your flight attendants: saying “Hi” to them as you board the plane. You’d be surprised how few passengers pass this very important courtesy checkpoint. “When people board the airplane, two-thirds of the passengers don’t even acknowledge you,” says flight attendant and blogger JetSet Betty. “They just walk right past without so much as a glance, forget to something nice to say or even a smile.” Related: Rules of Flying: Ex-Flight Attendant’s Top 10 Airline Etiquette Tips  “We literally can see thousands of people a day and a good percentage have their 'airport faces’ on [when they get on the plane]—the bored, impatient glazed-over stare,” says flight attendant Betty Thesky (no relation to JetSet Betty), host of the podcast “Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase” and author of the book of the same name. “They board the airplane with barely a grunt when we give them a chipper hello.” Well, the flight attendants aren’t just “Hello” robots; they enjoy being greeted, too. “I appreciate the people who come in and say hello and make eye contact,” says JetSet Betty. “Simple.” “Someone who actually acknowledges us when we greet them and speak to them,” is one of flight attendant Hugh Bonafield’s favorite types of passengers. “Just coming on with a positive attitude generally is all it takes to win me and most flight attendants over.” Help your fellow passengers What impresses flight attendant Sarah Steegar? “If I see a passenger being helpful without even being asked, like moving seats for another passenger or helping someone with their bag, they’re golden,” she says.  Even if you’re not usually a nice person, try faking it during the flight. Because if a flight attendant sees you being a mensch, they’re going to think you’re a mensch—and you’ll automatically be in their good graces. Bring treats Flight attendants aren’t immune to the instant gratification offered by treats—especially those of the sweet kind. “I’m not saying you should bribe your crew, but who doesn’t like treats?,” asks Witkop. She and some of the other flight attendants we talked to tell Yahoo Travel that when they fly as passengers, flight attendants traditionally bring chocolate and treats for members of the crew. And they don’t object when a non-flight attendant does the same. “A rare person will give us a bag of M&M’s and say, 'This is for the crew,’” says Betty Thesky, who says you might get a little something in return for your generosity. “If there is something we can do for that passenger we will, such a free drink or free headset or at very least a bunch of thank yous,” she says. “What really tempts me into giving free snacks and drinks is when passengers bring us desserts,” says Sydney Pearl, author of “Diary of a Pissed-Off Flight Attendant.” “It’s always unexpected and really makes our day. I have had passengers bring homemade brownies, bakery style cupcakes, candy bars, bags of candy, you name it.” Related: Be an Airport Ninja—10 Insider Secrets for Airport Survival Look good This is part of the whole “flight-attendants-are-human-too” theme. Our flight attendants consistently tell us that they notice attractive or well-dressed passengers. “A cute passenger always drank for free,” admits ex-flight attendant Keith W. McAndrew.  McAndrew also says people who were especially nice or were celebrating an anniversary, birthday, or other special occasion also received that courtesy. Make `em laugh “I love seeing a passenger flash me a smile, ask me how I am, and then make a joke,” says flight attendant Kara Mulder creator of the blog, “The Flight Attendant Life.” “I’ll remember them and look out for them if I can."  "Personally, I love a sense of humor.” says JetSet Betty. “If someone can make me laugh, they are instantly my new favorite person. Say something witty and fabulous or just make fun of yourself; it all works and we will be best friends before the flight is over.” Give them a card Sometimes all it takes is a gesture as simple as a card to make a flight attendant’s day. On a flight during last week’s 9/11 anniversary, one of Morgan Reed’s fellow crewmembers received a special card from a passenger. "It’s probably the sweetest thing I’ve seen thus far,” says Reed. Says Hugh Bonafield: “I once had a little girl give me a hand-written card thanking us for keeping them safe. That was over a year ago, and I still carry it in my bag!” Serve in the military “The other way to get great service is to wear your military uniform,” says Betty Thesky. "Gate agents will let service members board first. We will try to give them something for free or move them to a better seat if we can. Flight crews have a special affinity to the armed services and we will sometimes make an announcement expressing our thanks or ask all the others passengers to stay seated to let them deplane first.“ Passengers who give props to men and women in uniform also get props from flight attendants. "When I see a passenger give up their expensive first-class seat to a service person, it tugs at my heartstrings,” says Thesky, “and reminds me that there are all sorts of everyday heroes out there."  Make their job easier Being a flight attendant is a tough job, so anything you can do to lighten their load is much appreciated.  "It always helps if passengers go to the aft galley if they want a glass of water or need to throw something away, instead of ringing the call bell,” says Kara Mulder. Ex-flight attendant Tami Gayikian advises you to “keep your common area clean free of trash and try not to leave your seat when the cart is in the aisle, unless you absolutely have to.” Watch: Inside the Four Seasons Private Jet Ask nicely JetSet Betty is a stickler for manners. At work, she actually wears a button on her apron that says, "Manners are Sexy.” One way to be a well-mannered passenger is simply by asking for things nicely. “If you missed the food and/or beverage service, preface your request with 'When you get a chance/If you have time/I’m an idiot, I know,’ and then add the 'may I please have a _______?’” she says. “Works every time.” Follow instructions Flight attendants are not air waiters and waitresses; their primary job is your safety. It’s a part of the job flight attendants take very seriously, and they very much appreciate it when passengers do, too. That means following their instructions.“We don’t walk around barking orders for no reason,” says flight attendant Michelle Lazzaro. “When we ask you do do something there is a reason behind it.” Adds JetSet Betty: “If we ask you to do something—i.e. put your seat belt on, turn off your computer and put it away blah blah blah—it is because we are required to do so. We don’t make this stuff up; the FAA does. The rules are there for safety reasons. So don’t roll your eyes, sigh heavily and put your 'just a second’ finger up. Just do it—unless you want to get an even bigger eye roll, heavier sigh and a much different finger! Related: Secrets of the Skies: Flight Attendants and Pilots Tell All Just be nice You know that saying, you catch more flies with honey? That works with flight attendants. If you forget everything else, the best way to get on the flight attendant’s good side is just to be nice. "Genuine compliments are always welcome,” says Sydney Pearl. Adds Michelle Lazzaro: “When a passenger says 'please’ and 'thank you,’ that alone sets the tone which in return makes us want to go out of our way for someone just for the simple reason of being polite.”“I know it sounds simple, but you wouldn’t believe how many people are just downright rude to flight attendants, for no reason at all,” says flight attendant Tyler Herrick. Regardless of how rough your trip is, how much grief you got at the ticket counter, how much you were groped in the security line, he asks that you not take it out on your friendly neighborhood flight attendant. “A respectful passenger is going to get a lot more out of us as a group than someone who is rude or demanding things,” he says. “It sounds so simple right? That’s because it is!” WATCH: Hospitality or Hazing? Surviving a Vodka Fueled Night in Mongolia

Travel Tips

3 Things You Must Know About Airport Security

“Airport security.” The phrase is a punch line all by itself. But the new rules governing passenger identification on domestic flights in 2016 are no joke. Here, some tips for making sure your ID is up to the new standards, your bag is packed in the most security-friendly way possible, and your next trip through the those airport portals is a (relative) breeze. YOU MAY NEED A NEW ID Whoa. Did you know your driver’s license may not be sufficient identification for domestic flights (that’s right, flights within the U.S.) in 2016? Drivers in Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York (and possibly other states) may need to get U.S. passports (or passport cards) because their states are not yet in compliance with the REAL ID requirements being implemented by the Department of Homeland Security. The REAL ID Act established minimum standards for state driver’s licenses and IDs, including the use of facial recognition technology and proper labeling of the ID. There’s still time for states to get compliant, but if you have any doubt, we heartily recommend that you apply for a U.S. passport right away: It’s the most reliable form of ID here in the U.S. and around the world, and will, of course, allow you to visit all the overseas destinations Budget Travel editors want you to see. YOU CAN PACK SMARTER Uh-oh. The X-ray belt just stopped and a TSA agent is carefully looking at your bag. The line behind you stops moving. Feet begin to tap. Heavy sighs. To avoid that scenario once and for all, the TSA recommends the following packing tips: Pack clothing on the bottom and small electronic items, toiletries, and accessories that could trigger a search on the top. And neatness counts. A cluttered bag screams “Search me!” Remove large electronic items, laptops, and anything else that might look unusual from your bag and let the officers see it before it goes on the X-ray belt. Review the TSA Prohibited Items List or use the Can I Bring My…  tool to avoid getting your stuff taken away from you. Review the 3-1-1 liquid policy and always remove your 3-1-1 baggie from your carry-on before it goes through the X-ray machine. Ok, duh, but remember… Guns, toy and replica guns, and ammo will really mess with your chances of making your flight. YOU CAN GET THROUGH SECURITY FASTER TSA Pre-Check is an expedited airport security screening program allowing passengers who are considered low-risk to pass through security more easily. Currently offered by a dozen airlines (including Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, US Airways, United, and Virgin), Pre-Check requires an application process you can initiate here. When you’re approved, you’ll receive a “known traveler number” that you can use when you make flight reservations; a Pre-Check indicator gets printed on your boarding pass, and you’ll have access to those speedy Pre-Check lanes.

Travel Tips

10 Ways To Actually Stick To Your Travel Budget

This article was written by Jarryd Salem and Alesha Bradford and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel. You’ve worked hard for a few years, diligently saved every cent you could, and now you are ready to start that big travel adventure. The research has been done, flights are booked, and before you know it you’ll be sipping cocktails on a beach with no end date in sight! You’re finally living the dream! But the hard part is far from over. Now you need to learn how to stretch your money as far as possible. Certain parts of the world like Southeast Asia and Latin America are famous for being cheap, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible to spend all your money in only a few weeks. We have been traveling for almost seven years now, and have finally started to figure out the best ways to manage a sustainable budget on the road. But it didn’t come easy. We made a lot of mistakes as we stumbled our way around the world. At one point we even ended up $25,000 in debt—all on credit cards. Yes, we had an incredible time, but most of the debt didn’t come from ticking off bucket-list activities; It came from being careless with our money. After a lot of hard work we managed to get out of debt, save some more money, and get back out into the beautiful world. To help you avoid making the same mistakes, we have put together this collection of our 10 best tips for sticking to a travel budget while you’re out on the road. Keep track of every dollar spent We write down every single dollar we spend in a little pocket diary. Every. Single. Dollar. At the end of the week we add up how much we’ve spent and use it to keep track of where our money goes. Doing this helps to keep us focused on our goals and see where we need to improve on ways to stick to our travel budget. Having the numbers in front of you makes it seem real and gives direction in your spending habits. Make a daily travel budget The biggest tip for sticking to your travel budget is to actually have a budget to start with. Work out how long you plan to be away and make a budget to get you through the journey. Then stick to it. Our travel budget in Southeast Asia is $25 a day each. Some days we go over it, but we always make up for this by having a few quiet days to even it out. If you stop caring, then you may run out of money a lot sooner than you wanted to. Related: 12 Countries You Can Visit for Less Than $50 a Day Cut back on the alcohol Don’t get us wrong, we love a drink or two. But alcohol will cut deep into your travel budget. For example, the average cost of a beer in Southeast Asia or Latin America is about $1.50 (give or take). If we have five beers each every night of the year, that works out to be $5,460 annually. That’s nearly 30 percent of our yearly travel budget! We do love a night out every now and then, but through lots of experience, we have learned that travel is much more fun without a hangover. Travel slowly Slow travel has a lot of benefits, but the one we are focusing on now is that it saves you a lot of money. Staying in one place for an extended period of time allows you to work out where the cheapest places to eat and drink are. Depending on your bartering skills, you might also be able to make a deal with your accommodation and get a better price for a week-long stay. Once settled, you’ll no longer need to take transportation every other day, which can really cut into a traveler’s budget. What’s more, you’ll get the chance to take a few rest days when you don’t go to museums or check out awesome tours. This means you can relax by the beach or go for a walk, enjoying the downtime by doing some free activities. Trust us, the slower you travel, the less you spend. Catch public transportation If the locals do it, why shouldn’t you? Using public transportation can be one of the biggest fears for first-time travelers to developing countries, but 99 percent of the time the local buses or trains are great. Not only are they really cheap compared to taxis or tourist buses, but they can be very entertaining and culturally eye-opening. There’s nothing quite like sharing your seat with a local family of four, their luggage, and a goat to get you up close and personal to a different way of life. Sure it might be a bit less comfortable than taking a private car, but it’ll help with your budget—and your experience. Embrace the public transport, or if you are really adventurous, try hitchhiking. Eat where the locals eat The locals usually know where the best and cheapest food is, whether it is street food, a hole-in-the-wall eatery, or a sit-down restaurant. If a place has a crowd you can almost guarantee it will be good. Western-style meals in third-world countries are usually expensive and very rarely as tasty as what you can get at home. Don’t avoid the local food just because you think you may get sick. Fancy restaurants and street vendors all buy their food from the same markets. So if the locals are eating there, it is probably safe. Related: Designer Hostels That Only Look Expensive Stay In cheap accommodations Accommodations are usually the biggest day-to-day cost of any traveler’s expenses. In many countries dropping a few hundred dollars a night on a nice hotel room is very easy to do. Instead, choose small locally run guesthouses or homestays, or find cheap hotels on the edge of town. In many countries these inexpensive accommodations are pretty clean and comfortable, and they offer the basic necessities—a bed, running water, and a door. Really, what more do you need? To help keep your costs down, you could also try CouchSurfing, but remember CouchSurfing isn’t just about free accommodation. Shop at the markets If you are looking to buy  anything from fresh fruit to souvenirs or new clothes, local markets are the place to go. The stalls usually have far lower overheads than stores do, and as a result their products are cheaper. If your accommodations have a kitchen, or you travel with a portable stove, you can buy all your meat and vegetables from the markets to cook yourself. Two great travel budget tips in one! Don’t buy things you don’t need This should be obvious, but you’ll be surprised how hard it is to not buy that funky trinket or those custom-made shoes as you travel along. If you are only on a short holiday, then go for it. But if you are planning on being on a long-term adventure, seriously consider holding off on any impromptu purchases. If it is something you have always wanted, then that is a different story. But if we had bought every single wood carving and painting we liked, we would be broke. Plus, we would need a truck to carry all the extra gear! For souvenirs we collect small denominations of money from every country—takes up far less room and sometimes only costs five or ten cents. Related: 7 Cheap and Chic Beaches You’ve Never Heard of…Until Now Don’t give up! Sticking to a travel budget is hard work, but don’t lose sight of your goal. After a few months on the road staying in basic accommodations, it can be very tempting to go out and splurge on a fancy hotel room and a five-course meal. To be honest, sometimes you deserve it. Just don’t make it a regular occurrence. The longer we’ve been on the road the more we appreciate how far we can stretch our money. Chances are you will never remember that great night’s sleep you had in a $200-a-night hotel, but you will definitely remember forking out only $10 on a room so you could spend $190 on a once-in-a-lifetime activity. Long-term travel is hard, and so is sticking to a budget. The rewards however, are always worth it. WATCH: The 2 Dives Every Foodie Is Obsessed With in Miami

Travel Tips

Air Travel Trends for 2015

Summer is the high season for air travel, and we've been keeping an eye on new developments that are changing the way people get to the airport, what they do during layovers, and even how they choose to travel with their pets. COOL AIRPORT LOUNGES. Got a layover between flights? Airlines are making that time more enjoyable with exciting new "sky lounges" that include eye-popping design, great service and food and drinks, and even outdoor areas.  JetBlue's outdoor rooftop lounge at JFK is open to all passengers who've passed through security and includes landscaped spaces, seating, great food (hot dogs and ice cream!), a children's play area, and a dog-walk - a first! Other lounges are a little more exclusive - a few hundred dollars a year or a $50 "day pass," like Delta Sky Club in Atlanta, includes showers, work stations with plug-ins, and a separate "quiet" room. FLY WITH FIDO AND FLUFFY. We may joke about how "traumatic" flying can be for humans, but for pets stored in the baggage hold, the experience is no joke. Despite airlines' best efforts, there's lots of loud noise and jostling (though, contrary to urban myth, the hold is heated). Many fliers with cats and small dogs are now opting to carry their pet in the cabin in a container under their seat (as a "carryon"). When flying with a dog or cat, you should check the airlines' policy in advance, leave extra time for check-in, and be sure you have an up-to-date health certificate. SAY BUH-BYE TO FREE BAGGAGE CHECK. Of the major U.S. carriers, only Southwest still offers free checked bags. JetBlue recently did away with the policy for its basic fares when it rolled out a new three-tiered fare system last month. So if you're flying JetBlue, American, United, or Delta, you're allowed two checked bags under 50 pounds and a carry-on, but you've got to pay for the checked bags. TIP: If you're a frequent flier, some reward program credit cards will give you access to free baggage check and other perks. MIDDLE SEAT ANXIETY. The folks at Zodiac Aerospace had the best intentions when they designed their LifeStyle airplane seating. Their goal was to give passengers more room and to fit more seats on the plane. But the Twitterverse reacted harshly to the proposal, which would include middle seats that face "backwards," so you're face-to-face with the folks in the row "behind" you. Some fliers have described that proposal as a dystopian fantasy/torture device. NEW WAYS TO GET TO THE AIRPORT. Can't talk your friends or your significant other into driving you to the airport anymore? You're not alone. But a new generation of car services is stepping up to make the trip easier than ever: Download the Uber app and you can order a car with a touch of a screen and even track your car's location via real-time map. We Drive ("Your Car, Our Driver, You Save") will drive you to the airport in your car, then drive it back to your home, and text you a photo of your car safely parked, for less than most car services.