The good news? With more direct flights available from the southern U.S., getting to Abaco (and other Bahamian out islands) is getting easier. No longer is it necessary to connect through Nassau, unless you specifically want to.
The not-so-good news? That convenience doesn’t always come cheap. Fewer airlines fly into Abaco than Nassau, which means greater demand — and often, higher fares — for the available seats.
Here, with some help from my friends over at the Abaco Forum, are ten ways to stretch your travel dollars when flying to Abaco:
- If you’re traveling in a group, search for flights individually. Why? Let’s say you’re searching for flights for a family of five. If the airline only has three seats available at a lower fare, they’ll show you the higher fare for all five passengers. If you book individually, you’ll be able to book three members of your party at the lower fare, and pay the higher rate for just two of you.
- Be flexible when booking travel. Since not all flights into Abaco are offered daily, flying in a day earlier or later can make a big difference in travel costs. Delta Airlines, for example, flies direct from Atlanta to Marsh Harbour, but only two or three days a week. If you try to book that same route on a day Delta doesn’t fly direct, you’ll have to take a more circuitous (and likely more expensive) route.
- Avoid peak travel seasons like spring break, Thanksgiving or the Christmas holidays. Last year, I booked a flight from L.A. to Abaco arriving over the Thanksgiving weekend and it cost three hundred dollars more than I normally spend for that trip. I’ve also found that mid-week (Tuesday through Thursday) flights tend to be less expensive than those on weekends.
- Those who research these things say you’re likely to find the best fare for a given route about eight weeks before departure.
- Though you no longer have to fly through Nassau to get to Abaco, you may very well save on airfare by doing so. With more flights available into Nassau each day, you’re more likely to find deals on that route. And fares from Nassau to Abaco don’t vary much — you’ll pay about $160 or so roundtrip on Bahamasair. (Another terrific benefit of connecting through Nassau is that, on your way back home, you’ll pre-clear U.S. Immigration there, which I’ve found to be considerably more pleasant than doing so in the U.S.)
- Even if your final destination is Treasure Cay, Green Turtle Cay or elsewhere in Northern Abaco, consider flying into the Leonard Thompson Airport further south in Marsh Harbour. Granted, it will mean a $100 taxi fare (tip included) each way, but you may save enough on your airfare, especially if you’re traveling in a group, to make it worthwhile.
- Not all airlines quote baggage fees and departure taxes as part of the airfare. Be sure to factor this in when comparing ticket prices. What looks like a bargain-priced fare may not be a deal at all once you tack on bag fees and other charges.
- Abaco Forum member “Hope Town Dreamer” recommends getting a good credit card that lets you earn airline miles. “I have one for American through Citibank,” he says, “and it helps me greatly.”
- Don’t forget the scheduled charter airlines as well. Forum member “Amanda the Photographer” says that Island Wings, which flies out of Ft. Lauderdale, is only $395 round trip all the time. That is a pretty good deal. And “Ginny the Bead Lady” suggests buying the “bulk pack” of 10 round-trip tickets from Cherokee Air. “You can use them all yourself,” she says, “or share with friends.”
- Another Abaco Forum member, “Menegaux,” says, “If you pay attention to the Southwest Airlines site, they announce under the flight schedules tab the dates for which they are currently accepting reservations. They also announce the date when they’ll begin accepting reservations for later bookings. If you buy the day they release,” says Menegaux, “You can get some awesome deals.”
(FYI, as I’m writing this post, Southwest’s website says, “We are currently accepting air reservations through April 6, 2018. On August 28, 2017 we will open our schedule for sale through June 1, 2018.” If you’re planning to travel during April and May 2018, might be worth checking their website on August 28.)
A few final tips when planning travel to and from Abaco …
- If your final destination is one of the Abaco Cays (Green Turtle, Hope Town, Guana and Man-O-War,) be sure to book a flight that arrives in time for you to catch the last ferry of the day from the mainland. Otherwise, you’ll have to either charter a ferry or overnight on the Abaco mainland — both of which will add to your travel costs.
- Neither of the Abaco airports offers U.S. Immigration pre-clearance, meaning that when you’re headed home, you’ll have to clear U.S. Immigration at your first U.S. stop. If you’ll need to make a connection in the U.S., be sure to allow enough time (I’d suggest minimum 2 hours) to clear Customs and Immigration and still make your connecting flight.
And now, over to you! Are there any airfare tips you use that we haven’t mentioned here? Let me know in the comments section below.