It's not youse, it's me
It’s true: befriend someone in the Armed Forces and you’re bound to do some traveling. Thankfully I didn’t need to look far for my friend in fatigues because my youngest brother joined the Army right before his 20th birthday.
I’m the oldest of four children, and my littlest bro made his debut when I was 5 years old. To make a long story short, he is one of the most confident and hard-working people I know, but still the baby of the family through and through. With his impending graduation from boot camp, I knew I’d take off work and find the means to attend. And I did.
Last Wednesday I was en route to my retail job to pick up a friend who was set to drive my car and me to Philadelphia International Airport. I was shipping out to ATL, traveling by van an hour and a half to Columbus, Ga., and eating at a Phenix City, Ala. Pizza Hut all before the sun set.
I had booked everything just several hours earlier. It was a triumphant end to the trip planning hell that is booking a flight last-minute.
If you’ve read my About Me you might recall I handle travel arrangements for my company trips. And if it’s not mentioned there, I handle travel arrangements for my company trips. I’ve set up many a hotel and flight arrangement, and they all have been days beforehand and on the cheap. So when roundtrip flights to Atlanta began at $350, I was confident I would find less expensive tickets.
After we had an itinerary for my brother’s Family Day and graduation proceedings, roundtrip flights soared from $350 to $660 and beyond in just days. I spent lunch breaks on the phone with different airlines and scoured the web for airfare hacks. After finding little help with online articles (99% are repackaged with the same useless tips like, “Buy six months head of time for the best rates!”) my ability to afford the trip was slipping out of my hands.
The night before I wanted to leave, I visited and revisited the same sites, tweaking travel details in hopes of scoring a late deal. This whole process was especially frustrating because the many pricey flights I searched were half full with plenty of seats available for the taking. I was a sad sack, watching the end of The Bachelor and refreshing the page of Airfarewatchdog when SUDDENLY a prices-slashed Hotwire deal appeared.
Although I checked Hotwire to no avail before, the clock ticking down had finally worked in my favor: the airlines I had searched and called wanted these flights gobbled up for anything rather than take a hit. After staring at a price tag of $395, I remembered an article I read earlier that mentioned cutting a percentage off the Hotwire price on the “Name Your Own Price” tool on Priceline. Per the writer, these bids were sometimes accepted. Pressing my luck, I went to the Priceline website and chose the airports and my travel days. The rest was up to the fates.
To those of you who are unfamiliar, for the Name Your Own Price option on Priceline and similar sites, the airport and travel days are the only two details you have control over aside from what you put down to pay. You agree to leave anywhere between 6am and 10pm on your travel days, have no choice of airlines, submit your credit card information and are financially bound to whatever you get. If your deal is not accepted, you must choose a different airport or otherwise change your itinerary if you want to bid again. So, it was important for me to get it right the first time.
Full of nerves and fueled by adrenaline, I typed in $353 and my payment info and submitted my bid. Accepted!
Since I made a packing list earlier (the power of positive thinking) I got my carry-on bag together and prepared to head out early the next morning. The return flight happened to correspond perfectly with my parents’, and I was one very happy woman.
Priceline bidding on flights is not for the faint of heart. But if you have some wiggle room, need to save whatever money you can and are a bit daring, it can be a good bet. It was for me!
I met up with my parents (who had been vacationing prior in Memphis) and saw my little battle buddy graduate Thursday morning. I’ll let him have his anonymity on my blog, but I will include this photo of him as a toddler, pre-soldier. It’s how I still think of him most of the time anyway.
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