Yesterday I suggested the benefits of buying airline tickets far in advance, at great prices, even if you’re not sure you’ll use them. (You might want to click “Yesterday” for more on that.)

Another pointer for you not-so-frequent fliers is that ticket prices go up and down daily — hourly, sometimes — as the flight date approaches. Don’t assume, just because the cheap seats are all sold out two weeks before you want to leave, that some may not materialize a few days later. Keep trying.

But here’s what I wanted to tell you today, and that’s the value of “stand-by.” Today I was supposed to fly from Cincinnati to Miami at 12:55 on a supersaver ticket purchased for peanuts. Unfortunately, the non-stops were full, so I had to buy a ticket that routed me with a stop in Atlanta. Non-stops are nicer, but in this case flying non-stop would have cost several hundred dollars more.

Normally, what someone does in this situation is simply show up for the 12:55 flight to Atlanta, switch planes, and arrive a little worse for wear in Miami. Indeed, all too often I would probably do that too. But it’s often worth it to remember the stand-by option.

When I got to the airport, I saw there was a non-stop leaving at 12:30. I “stood by” and not only got on (it was badly overbooked, they had told me, but I gave it a shot anyway), but got two seats to myself. So I got to Miami almost three hours faster (and enjoyed a longer flight, which makes it easier to open up the laptop and write this comment).

Had I not made it, I would just have walked down the concourse to my scheduled flight.

I realize this is not earthshaking news. But do understand your supersaver options when you buy your ticket. Stand-by can work out nicely.

Tomorrow: Pay Your Taxes


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