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I’ve spent some of this morning pricing out airfare and looking at miles and points options for our planned family trip later this year to Orlando. It may be our first trip we take as a family of four, so I certainly want to keep the travel logistics as streamlined as possible. The logical first choice for us would be flying on a nonstop United flight out of Houston where we have elite status, free checked bags, free extra legroom seats, and other perks. That may be what we end up doing to keep our stress levels as low as possible for our potential first trip with two kids, but I’m being tempted elsewhere.
It is pretty stinking hard to sell the United option as best to my budget minded self when the price is 3x another nonstop option. The hitch is that other nonstop option is Spirit Airlines, but still….
United is selling flights for the dates we want for $331 each round trip and Spirit Airlines is selling flights the same dates (with good flight times) for $134 each. Heck, if we jiggled with our dates we could even fly for 5,000 Spirit miles round trip. To learn all about the different options to use miles and points to get to Orlando, feel free to check out the e-book I wrote on the topic.
But What About the Fees….
Let’s ignore the fact that Spirit Airlines is an even less comfortable airline to fly than the others in United States for a moment, and the fact that my husband would likely disown me for booking our first family trip for four on Spirit, and just talk about fees. We aren’t going to be able to pack in back packs for this trip with two young kids, so we would be looking at bag fees that would start at $35 for a full-sized carry-on and $30 for a checked bag. Believe it or not, Spirit does actually allow a complimentary checked stroller and car seat per child, so there wouldn’t be extra fees there.
However, we would certainly probably have at least one carry-on and one checked bag for our crew in addition to the “personal items” allowed by Spirit. That is a conservative estimate, and we could need more bags, but at a minimum that is $130 in bag fees we would encounter on Spirit.
If we wanted pre-assigned seats together that would cost another maybe $100 or so for the trip. My experience shows that we would probably get assigned seats together for free at check-in anyway, but to ensure it in advance would cost extra.
Spirit is Still Cheaper, But…
Let’s assume we were just going to need to purchase three tickets and fly the baby for free as a lap child. That would be $993 for United, and at least $532 for Spirit with the bag fees, more if we wanted pre-assigned seats. That is a savings of over $400 for flying Spirit instead of United for three tickets to Orlando. I don’t want to fly Spirit for this trip, but at what point is it totally crazy to avoid them?
Since I have status, perks, and miles to use with United, I will probably choose them for this trip, especially to keep things as simple and comfortable. However, when I no longer have high tier airline elite status (and I think that day is coming soon), United’s attractiveness over Spirit will be even more diminished for our family. At some point I think it is crazy to avoid the low cost carriers, especially because the legacy carriers ain’t all that great!
How does your family reconcile spending the dollars or burning miles to fly “traditional carriers” vs. packing lighter and flying the low cost carriers?