FW Way to Fly Last-Minute?

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Since the travel forum has disappeared and this is more of a general strategy question, I've posted this in Finance. My apologies if that irks anyone.

My wife is about 37 weeks pregnant and she and her sister have decided that her sister is going to hop on a plane as soon as my wife goes into labor in order to be there for the birth. We will be paying for some or possibly all of her sister's ticket (sister is financially irresponsible, so instead of giving her money for some baby stuff she gave to us, we decided to pay for or subsidize the plane ticket).


I'm trying to get some ideas to find the most economical way for my sister-in-law to book a flight last-minute. So far, the best strategy is:

1.) Wait to book until my wife goes into labor.
Pros: Very flexible
Cons: Ticket prices (at least online) seem significantly higher than if we book out a couple of weeks in advance.

Strategies that have been pretty much ruled out:
2.) Book a ticket and pay a change fee later on:
Pros: Should be able to hop on a plane pretty quick, provided there's room.
Cons: Change fee + difference between the fares makes this a worse option than #1


3.) Fly Standby:
Pros:?
Cons: Not really applicable....already need to have a ticket for travel within 24 hours and then pay a change fee

4.) Buy a refundable ticket
Pros: Most flexible
Cons: Most likely the most expensive option. I've been looking at same-day reservations off and on for the last few weeks and they average about $400-$500 round-trip through Delta. For comparison, a refundable ticket is approx. $1,500.

I'm definitely considering booking last-minute through Southwest as even though they don't have direct flights from TPA to DTW, they have a lot of options for connecting flights and they're about 1/2 the price of a direct flight for the same times through Delta.

Relevant Information:
Her sister doesn't have much vacation time, so planning a long trip centered around due date is not an option.
Sister will be flying out of TPA (Florida) to DTW (Michigan)




I'm pretty sure buying a ticket as soon as my wife goes into labor will be the best option, but I'd love to hear any advise from someone who has more knowledge or an experience with a similar situation.

Member Summary
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If you haven't figured this out already:

Flying "standby" is not really an option in America anymore.
Change fees is at le... (more)

stevie123 (Aug. 10, 2013 @ 10:41p) |

I recently made a trip ATL-STL via a last minute United booking. Used 12.5k miles + ~$80 outgoing for being within 24 ho... (more)

TheMeliorist (Aug. 12, 2013 @ 11:08a) |

Congratulations, Shelbycobra!

I was on the other side of this equation recently (my sister had her first/only baby) and w... (more)

shakabuku (Aug. 12, 2013 @ 11:38p) |


Whatever you decide, do not sit there with your nose in your computer booking a dang flight, while your wife is screaming in the car despirately waiting for a ride to the hospital...

Travel forum is still here

http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/travel-discussion/

If you have enough points you might be able to use those to book a flight. Depending on the airline, you might have to pay a fee for booking so close to the date of travel, but this would still be cheaper than your other options.

SUCKISSTAPLES said:   Travel forum is still here

http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/travel-discussion/


Not sure how I missed that....oops.

I'm going to chalk it up to the sleep deprivation due to my wife's pregnancy-induced insomnia....nature's way of getting us ready, I suppose.

Have labor induced on the day you want!

Glitch99 said:   Whatever you decide, do not sit there with your nose in your computer booking a dang flight, while your wife is screaming in the car despirately waiting for a ride to the hospital...

Rest assured, this will not be the case. I'm trying to understand the best options up front and letting her sister know. Her sister will be responsible for making the travel arrangements with a promise from us to pay for a ticket up to $xxx or subsidize a pricier ticket by the same amount.


anks329 said:   If you have enough points you might be able to use those to book a flight. Depending on the airline, you might have to pay a fee for booking so close to the date of travel, but this would still be cheaper than your other options.

This is an option I hadn't considered. I'll look into it. Thanks!

Priceline last-minute air is surprisingly affordable. Not as cheap as sale fares, but usually no more than $500 for domestic. You don't pick the carrier or the routing though.

If you have Southwest on that routing, you can try to guess on a discount ticket, or even multiple ones on different dates, then change/reuse them later when you know when you want to fly. Keep in mind that any tickets bought are forever tied to the same passenger though, so don't go overboard. And also keep in mind that the implied rebate on their full fare tickets is 20%, so you're not getting hosed too bad.

You didn't lay out what miles and points balances you have. I'm assuming none. Those are frequently viable for last-minute travel.

well, based on my international only experience (I rare fly domestically), i better off buy the cheapest ticket available and change the date and even route last minute.
Last time in Argentina, the best price I got just buying a ticket at the airport upon leaving! I could not believe it!

basically, buying at airport is usually the best value, i pay less for sure than flex date ticket.

That is going to vary widely by city pair and country. Argentina is a *very* special case due to currency fluctuations.

Use BA Avios. No charge for last minute expedite/close-in fees plus you can book one-way.

Edit: Just used BA Avios Calculator, seems 12k Avios one way TPA-ORD-DTW.

Do you realize how incredibly difficult it's going to be to time something like this? Essentially, the plan is for SIL to get the first available flight as soon as your wife goes into labor. Removing cost from the equation, just look at the logistics of this.

Even if she can get a direct flight, flight time is 2h 35m. You've said you are mainly looking at connecting flight options, so there is a minimum of 3h 25m travel time. Add in transit time to/from the airports, plus whatever the delay is until the first available flight, and there is a very high likelihood that your SIL could miss the birth. And then what if it turned out to be false labor?

Honestly, the best bet would be to have your SIL arrange for a visit shortly after the baby is born. You have far more important things to be concerned with once her labor starts.

Lastly, you said the SIL will be booking her own travel, based on your promise to pay for/subsidize the cost. Don't think for a second that she will behave responsibly during such an emotional time. It's almost a given she will buy whatever ticket is available, not matter how high the cost, and then expect you to reimburse her. And she will have your even more emotional wife of her side of that argument. Who do you think is going to win?

Oh yeah...CONGRATS!

BA AVios or SW miles. All you need.
congrats.

If you have southwest miles - you could book a bunch 2 weeks out every couple days they are fully refundable to you... but much less expensive to buy 2 weeks + away from the date

pics of your wife?

BPANZER1 said:   If you have southwest miles - you could book a bunch 2 weeks out every couple days they are fully refundable to you... but much less expensive to buy 2 weeks + away from the date

That, or use United or AA miles.
Both give you a decent shot at getting a ticket up to the last minute.

Congrats and try to get more sleep, you will need it.

kvs25 said:   pics of your wife?
Will settle for pic of the "financially irresponsible" sister.

BocephusSTL said:   Do you realize how incredibly difficult it's going to be to time something like this? Essentially, the plan is for SIL to get the first available flight as soon as your wife goes into labor. Removing cost from the equation, just look at the logistics of this.

Even if she can get a direct flight, flight time is 2h 35m. You've said you are mainly looking at connecting flight options, so there is a minimum of 3h 25m travel time. Add in transit time to/from the airports, plus whatever the delay is until the first available flight, and there is a very high likelihood that your SIL could miss the birth. And then what if it turned out to be false labor?

Honestly, the best bet would be to have your SIL arrange for a visit shortly after the baby is born. You have far more important things to be concerned with once her labor starts.

Lastly, you said the SIL will be booking her own travel, based on your promise to pay for/subsidize the cost. Don't think for a second that she will behave responsibly during such an emotional time. It's almost a given she will buy whatever ticket is available, not matter how high the cost, and then expect you to reimburse her. And she will have your even more emotional wife of her side of that argument. Who do you think is going to win?

Oh yeah...CONGRATS!


Yes, I fully realize how incredibly difficult it's going to be to time something like this. Forget 3 1/2 hours....best case scenario will probably be 6+ hours from phone call to wheels down. I think my wife and SIL are nuts, but I love my wife and she knows it may not work out perfectly, so we're going to try our best to have her sister here as close to the delivery as possible. Labor times vary dramatically so there's obviously no guarantee her sister will be there. I think my wife's desire to have her sister there will increase with a very long labor, though.

The point about false labor is a good one....my wife and her sister will need to work out when to pull the trigger. Honestly, I'm not that concerned about making a phone call when labor starts...that could be done on the way to the hospital if absolutely necessary. Her sister will be responsible for travel arrangements and cost. I don't mind helping out, especially if we're just waiting around at home (her OB practice wants regular updates when labor starts, but doesn't want her coming to the hospital until she's in active labor....something that could be hours to days after water breaks/contractions start, etc.). SIL has had no promises about any amount of reimbursement...she was planning to do this quite a while ago (I have no idea how she thought she would pay for it, but that hasn't stopped her from many other purchases). While I consider her fiscally irresponsible, she's never asked us for money and I don't anticipate that changing. My wife would like her there if she can make it, but it's on SIL to make that call. We're not paying for an exorbinant flight...we'll cough up a certain amount towards her travel expenses, but not more. My wife and I are on the same page, there.

Thanks.

kvs25 said:   pics of your wife?

Preggo fetish? I'm sure google would yield a high quantity of viewing material for you.

fwuser12 said:   kvs25 said:   pics of your wife?
Will settle for pic of the "financially irresponsible" sister.


You think you want a pic....but take my word that you really don't.


Green to both of you for keeping the FW culture alive, though.

You really need a private jet for what you're trying to do. On a good day you could do it for about $10,000 one-way.

Now, the FW advice you didn't ask for- Honestly, I'd agree to pay some reasonable amount, say no more than $500, and put the burden of the additional expense for getting there quick on her sister. The importance of taking the next flight out might suddenly fade if she's gotta put up $300 out of her own pocket.

GET A FEATHER BED TOPPER! You will never get better advice in your life.

Shelbycobra said:   SUCKISSTAPLES said:   Travel forum is still here

http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/travel-discussion/


Not sure how I missed that....oops.

I'm going to chalk it up to the sleep deprivation due to my wife's pregnancy-induced insomnia....nature's way of getting us ready, I suppose.

Also, OLD advise used to be to contact a courier company to act as a courier for them. No idea if that option still even exists.

Voice of Experience: Don't book anything until you're at the hospital and they have stated that she is in labor and will not be sending her home to play the waiting game.

Just Skype the delivery.

how about you grow a pair and say no?
then tell your wife you'll be applying whatever the cost of this trip would be into your kid's future college funds.
if she can't accept that, you have bigger issues to deal with.

pack your wife's sister into a giant UPS box with food and ship it overnight, it's cheapest.

TheDealMaker said:   pack your wife's sister into a giant UPS box with food and ship it overnight, it's cheapest.

Airholes.

Mallard454 said:   TheDealMaker said:   pack your wife's sister into a giant UPS box with food and ship it overnight, it's cheapest.

Airholes.


No, they're paying, they can be a bit tough. Without being airholes.

Thanks for the amusing and helpful comments. I'll have my wife talk to her sister about possibly traveling with miles....this looks like an option if she has any. I looked into buying miles, but it would be cheaper just to pay for the equivalent ticket.

I don't really need to be responsible for getting the best deal, but wanted to do some investigation as my SIL had some crazy ideas on how she was going to do this and she will spend whatever to do it, regardless of whether or not she'll be able to pay that CC bill off at the end of the month. Some of her ideas included just going to the airport and "flying standby" (she had no idea what this involved, just had heard the term). Her latest idea was to just buy a ticket for a flight well before the due date, don't check in/fly and then have a credit to her account and just pay a change fee to get on a flight the day of the main event. I was pretty sure this was a crap plan, so I investigated. For anyone who is interested, the change fee through Delta (DTW & TPA are major hubs so they're almost always the best price for us)is $200 for a flight that isn't on the same day + the difference in fare. So, she'd be paying a $200 penalty over just buying the day of with this idea.

I knew these were terrible ideas and I appreciate the feedback from this community. Now off to look into that UPS box.........

I've personally had GREAT luck with Hotwire Hot Rate for flights. I've been in situations where I need to be in NY tomorrow and I am in Orlando. Cheapest ticket was 375$, got a hotrate for 230$. Got a Delta flight that was going for 500$. Non-stop with the PERFECT times. Plane was VERY empty both ways.

tsaosf said:   BPANZER1 said:   If you have southwest miles - you could book a bunch 2 weeks out every couple days they are fully refundable to you... but much less expensive to buy 2 weeks + away from the date

That, or use United or AA miles.
Both give you a decent shot at getting a ticket up to the last minute.

Congrats and try to get more sleep, you will need it.

That's not what he meant. He didn't mean to get them at the last minute, but to reserve several tickets >2weeks before the date, when they all cost less. (Southwest reward point costs are tied directly to the current available ticket prices. And at <2 weeks the cheapest fares go way up in price for most routes, so they're "cheaper" and cost less points if you reserve them earlier or during a "sale" and just cancel the extra flights that you don't end up needing.) You can do this without using rewards points as well -- But if you buy the tickets with $$$ then the refund will only be valid for travel in next 12 months for the same passenger. When you use points to reserve and then cancel, there's no expiration attached to the refunded points or restrictions on who you can book the new tickets for.

Currently I have about 8 one-ways booked for a trip 2 weeks from now, as I hadn't decided for sure which day to leave/come back. I'll just cancel the other 6 and the points will all be refunded...

I didn't have points back then, but using $$$ to book/cancel extra flights was very useful a couple years ago when I went to see some of the last shuttle launches and the launch date kept shifting around last minute for 2 of the 4 I went to. The flights averaged costing me about $80-150 each whereas if purchased only a few days before the flight they would have cost me about triple the amount.

The ticket change idea might work if she's personable and gets the right agent. I've had agents waive the change fees and get me on a plane when I showed up on the wrong day before, ie. ticket was for yesterday. But I wouldn't suggest this as a good strategy.

Also, I'm seeing Skymiles awards on Delta at the 32.5k level for same day travel returning a few days later. If you have any of those, that's your best bet for getting on the nonstop last-minute cheap.

Schedule an induction.

Why not drive? It is about a 16-hour drive. Consider that if she buys an airline ticket she may have to book one 3-4 hours away. then she has to fly from Tampa to a hub somewhere unless she can get a non-stop. Say she hits Atlanta for that. She will take a 1.5 hour flight, change plans (about an hour), then fly for 2.5 more hours. Then she will need a rental car/luggage pickup. This adds up to 8 hours, plus who knows if she can get a flight booked w/i 3-4 hours. Labor often begins 11pm at night when many airports are closing for the night. When my son was born it took the hospital about 2 hours to get the baby ready for his first feeding and the really first long hold from mom.

I'd say she just drive it...... if her car isn't a good one, she can rent one.

Go Greyhound and save $$$$'s plus SIL will be too tired to stir things up for several days til off days expire plus she may have fun with male cock tail servers in back row plus she'll probably pay for her own flight back. Sounds like win win win plus to me. The wife and I stand ready to subsidise all in-laws trips to visit us via greyhound bus. Surpisingly we have had no takers as yet.. Best of luck and congratulations on this blessed event.

Amtrak is a bit more civilized than Greyhound, only $264, will take about 35 hours total. Will save some time if she drives (or gets a ride) to Orlando, rents a car (or is picked up) in Toledo (both bus portions of the Amtrak route).

If you can fly southwest, just book a fully refundable flighty for everyday in your target window, and then just cancel them everyday that you dont need them.

I don't mean to sidetrack, but this seems like a good question similar to this topic? I wonder what people do that have emergency travel due to an emergency, a death in the immediate family, or something that is out of their control. Do the airlines have any kind of provisions for that? Say you need to fly international at the last minute?

Some airlines will offer you a special rate if you are flying due to the death of a family member.

Skipping 7 Messages...
Congratulations, Shelbycobra!

I was on the other side of this equation recently (my sister had her first/only baby) and we had originally planned a visit at birth. That didn't quite work out with my job, so I wound up visiting them later BUT my original plan was to use Priceline or Hotwire last minute flights. Or drive. I'm ~14ish hour drive away from them, so that was an option (as lonestarguy suggested), depending on the circumstances.

My best to you all for a smooth delivery!



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