Taking a job in a new city is both challenging and exciting, an opportunity to relish. Then a new reality sets in, your spouse’s job search in your new location hits a wall. Sure, they could quit their job (or you could quit your brand-new job) but that’s not really ideal. What’s the old saying? It’s much easier to find a job when you still have one. Hey, if you can make it on one income, that’s great, but if you are relocating to an expensive city, that might not be an option. You may find yourself commuting, and that’s exactly where I am right now.
A Tale of Living in Two Cities
The 4-month tale of relocation gone awry woe about how I found myself commuting to work each week by air is its own blog post, perhaps its own standalone blog, but that’s beyond the scope of this post. The reality is that my wife is still in Atlanta and I’m working in DC and flying back and forth on a near weekly basis…….at my own expense. Promotion and relocation incentive aside, the costs of getting back and forth are adding up. However, I’ve managed to find a few ways to keep airfare costs in check, and it’s not always about using miles and points.
Ability to Work Remotely (Sometimes) is Key to Affordable Airfares
For the record, unless I have a business trip elsewhere, I have to show my face at the office every week. That said, I am fortunate to have some flexibility to work remotely, 1 to 2 days per week to be exact. Now, there are weeks that working remotely just isn’t possible, but in reality, most weeks I am able to work from my home office for at least 1 day. Most often, the day I work remotely is Monday, and sometimes Friday. This has been key to managing airfare costs and my sanity. Why?
- Managing costs: Flying either late Monday or most often, very early Tuesday morning has proven to be a very favorable window for finding the lowest possible fares. More often than not, I’m able to secure one-way fares in the Atlanta – DC market for under $100. In those instances, I usually pay cash and save my points for other things like last-minute needs, or perhaps a J-class trip across the pond. 🙂
- Managing sanity: Ever fly from Atlanta on a Monday morning? Enough said.
I’ve found the return day to be less influencing on total fare so far, but I tend to fly back to Atlanta as late as possible on Thursday or most often, Friday.
A Loose Connection with “Loyalty” will Save You Money
With very few exceptions, I’ve found letting go of the idea of being brand loyal to a particular airline to be helpful in keeping costs in check. I check prices weekly on all carriers in the market, in my case American, Delta, and Southwest. I could include United, and sometimes have just for curiosity, but Dulles is really not viable for me at this point based on my housing location in DC unless the price difference is hundreds and not tens of dollars. So far, that hasn’t happened. Since I started this in December, I’d say I’ve flown the three airlines in the market a roughly equal number of times, with a slight edge to American which has proven to be price competitive vs. Delta and, believe it or not, Southwest. For the very few instances where I’ve been forced to buy a ticket on short notice, it’s been helpful to have some points in the bank, especially Ultimate Rewards that transfer easily to Southwest.
I won’t pretend that living in two places isn’t stressful, both financially and personally. Staying on top of airfare opportunities and having just a tiny bit of flexibility is key to managing the financial challenge of a weekly commute. A few points in the bank for insurance against high last-minute fares helps balance things out. The personal challenges are many, but the ability to spend long weekends at home and to stay in touch electronically (Facetime, phone, emails, texts) when you can’t be there have been helpful. There’s also light at the end of the tunnel that isn’t an oncoming train. I’ve got reasons to be hopeful that my wife and I will be living in the same town again soon. 🙂 In the meantime, following these tips has saved me hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in commuting costs. Hopefully, they will help you too. Feel free to share your commuting tips in the comments.
-MJ, May 1, 2017