Spirit Airlines is known as the low-budget flight option for U.S. travelers (equivalent to Europe's RyanAir) with some of the best flight deals around, but it also has a reputation for being one of the most frustrating airlines for added fees and poor service. It seems like whenever I bring up Spirit Airlines, someone gives me some crazy look like I just said the name of their crazy Aunt Hilary with twelve cats and lipstick on her teeth - you know who I'm talking about. However, with the right expectations and a little bit of planning, I'm convinced that the savings are worth the hassle (or in Aunt Hilary's case, the love is worth the pungeant smell of cat pee). My goal is to give you all of the info you need to fly stress free with some extra cash in your pockets if you decide to grab a killer deal with Spirit Airlines.
Let me start with a couple examples of fares I just booked so you can see the actual savings going on. I based the comparison on Southwest sale fares since they are usually the best deals and most comparable costs, especially since checked baggage is free. I am a huge fan of Southwest and an A-List member; however, for short distance, weekend flights I'm simply looking to save as much as possible so that I can use that money on nice dinners, shopping or an upgraded hotel room. It's also important to disclose that the Spirit Airlines fares are based on their $9 Fare Club member deals, which I'll explain more in detail later.
Single Roundtrip ticket from San Diego to Portland in December
- Friday night to Monday Morning
- Direct Flight
- Spirit Airlines cost = $41 round trip (does not include any baggage fees)
- Southwest cost = $205 (includes 2 checked bags for free)
- Total Savings = $164 or $122 if you were to pay an additional $21 each way for a checked bag on Spirit
Single Roundtrip ticket from San Diego to Denver in February 2015
- Friday night to Monday Morning
- Direct Flight
- Spirit Airlines flight cost = $57 (does not include any baggage fees)
- Southwest cost = $198 (includes 2 checked bags for free)
- Total Savings = $141 or $99 if you were to pay an additional $21 each way for a checked bag on Spirit
In general, I'm saving almost $150 per ticket and still saving $100 or more if I were to pay for a checked bag. These are quick and easy trips where I can enjoy a weekend away without taking time off of work and it without breaking the bank - so why spend extra bucks on a 2 hour flight??? But before you take the plunge, you need to know what you're getting into...
I truly believe that the reason most people have a problem with Spirit Airlines is because they book flights with false expectations. Years of offending customers through hidden fees and high penalties definitely hurt their reputation, which is why Spirit recently did a major image renovation. Now they make it clear that their Base Fares are just that - the base cost of the flight with nothing else included. If you take my advice below to plan accordingly and understand the costs to come, you can fly away with a smile and some extra cash in your pocket.
The $9 Fare Club is Worth the Money
In order to get the best discounts flying with Spirit, you need to be a member of the $9 Fare Club, which costs $59.95 for a one year membership. When I initially booked my flight to Denver, I did not pay for the membership; however, once I decided to book another flight to Portland I realized just how much I'd be saving and that it would pay for itself and more so it was well worth the cost. Here's what you get with it:
- Exclusive fares, significantly cheaper than non-member fares - including coveted $9 one way ticket prices
- Major discounts on carry on and checked baggage
- You get the same discounts for everyone on your itinerary when you book your flight
Book Direct Online or at the Airport
Book your flights directly with Spirit.com or you will end up paying additional booking fees with sites like Travelocity and Expedia or by calling Spirit directly. I've heard (but haven't tried myself) that the absolute cheapest way to go is to actually buy your tickets at the Spirit ticket counter at the airport ahead of time and you'll save money on the online booking fees that cost anywhere from $8-17 per person, each way.
Money Saving Tip: Be sure to check their website and on Twitter for extra savings codes and promotions. I've seen offers for up to $24 on roundtrip flights that are not booked on a Friday or Sunday.
Baggage Costs Extra So Pack Light
Bare Fares do not include any bags, not even a carry on. You are only allowed one free personal item like a small purse or a backpack, that must not exceed 16” x 14” x 12”. Don't even try to sneak on another bag or large carry on because it will cost you big time to check it at the gate. Your best bet is to travel light or pay for the cost of baggage at time of booking, which costs about the same as all the other airlines who charge for baggage these days. Note: Paid checked bags cannot exceed 40lbs or you will be charged extra at check in. I repeat, this is not the airline you want to be spontaneous with and show up at the airport with extra bags or oversized luggage unless you plan on selling your innards on the black market to pay for it ($100 each way, per bag to be exact). Be sure to read all about the baggage fees by clicking here before booking so you know the price of your packing decisions.
My suggestion - layer up, wear your coat on the flight, your camera around your neck and stuff your pockets with underwear and a toothbrush and a change of clothes in a backpack and you've got all you need for a weekend getaway!
Change Fees Are Crazy High
It's just easiest to say that there really are no changes or cancellations allowed... well there are, but it will cost you $120, which is probably more than the entire cost of the flight in the first place. The only exception is if you call to cancel within 24 hours of initial booking, you will get credit to your account that is good towards your next flight, just in case you get buyers remorse. Otherwise, don't book it unless you are absolutely positive you're going to go on the trip or you're cool with losing money if you decide not to go.
Pack Your Own Food & Drinks
If you think you'll be getting a free glass of lukewarm, nasty plane water, think again. Onboard food and drinks cost anywhere from $1-10, so buy a bottle of water and a snickers before you board and save your cash.
Print Your Boarding Pass
This is important - PRINT YOUR BOARDING PASS AT HOME AND DON'T SHOW UP AT THE AIRPORT WITHOUT IT or it will cost you $10 to print it at the counter.
Don't Pay for Reserved Seats
Seats are snug, so don't expect a whole lot of leg room on your journey or a pre-reserved spot along the way. You have the option of pre-paying for a reserved seat or paying for a spot with extra space, ranging anywhere from $1-50 each way. If you don't want to pay the extra money, which I personally don't, just be ok with the possibility of not sitting next to your travel buddy during the flight or ending up in a middle seat when it is assigned at check-in; but, they do try to keep pairs together as much as possible.
Spirit Airline Tip Summary
- Join the $9 Fare Club
- Look for deals and coupon codes first
- Book online or in person at the airport ahead of time
- Don't pay for a reserved seat or any extras
- If you plan on packing a carry-on or check-in bag, pre-pay and don't wait until you get to the airport
- PRINT YOUR BOARDING PASS AT HOME
- Pack as light as possible and layer up; if you pack a personal item or bag know the exact dimensions and weight of your bag so you don't end up with extra fees
- Bring a water bottle or buy a drink and snacks at the airport before you take off
- Sit back and try to relax in your tiny chair and enjoy the freedom of stretching out in a new city when you arrive!
So that's the scoop on saving money traveling with Spirit. Just in case you're thinking it, no I do not get paid by Spirit or get a kick-back if you book with them. I'm just a money saving enthusiast and like sharing my secrets with you. Happy travels!
I had the absolute pleasure of staying at the brand new Crawford Hotel in Denver for the weekend with my husband. The Crawford Hotel is the perfect combination of 1950s luxury, modern elegance and rock star status - creating the perfect ambiance for this boutique hotel. Set inside the iconic Union Station, this hotel is the gem of LoDo (lower downtown), just blocks from Coors Field. Of the hundreds (yes hundreds) of hotels I've stayed in throughout my life, I can honestly say that The Crawford is my hands down favorite for design, vibe and creativity. Here's my Type A review of this magnificent travel destination.
The hotel is set inside an active train station terminal, creating a lobby where guests and drifters collide. Gigantic chandlers glow high above the open seating lobby filled with mid-century modern benches, couches, desks and coffee tables as well as as two retro shuffle board tables. Every feature of the decor was carefully thought out to celebrate the history of the station, even using Solari boards to display the details of the many restaurants and shops set inside the hotel - ultimately creating an environment where people can eat, play, meet and mingle. I expected that since the lobby is such public space that there would be a large amount of "undesirables" hanging around, but that was never the case - the place was always clean, safe and lively without feeling crowded.
Each guest room is tastefully decorated to match the vibe of the hotel, with towering ceilings, local artwork and retro furniture. We were on the highest floor in room 426, one of the Premium Classic rooms which is larger than most of the lofts and regular guest rooms and in my opinion is worth the additional cost. It includes a king sized bed, sofa, armoire, and large bathroom with a claw footed bathtub and separate rain shower. The towering windows look out to both the front of the hotel and one side, giving you a perfect vantage point to check out what's going on. This is one of the few rooms that is set on the perimeter of the lobby, providing guests with a perfect view for people watching just steps from their front door. The room also includes an iPad mini for easy access to all of the information you might need for your stay, high speed wifi and nightly turndown service. The mini fridge is stocked with complimentary Voss waters and you are left with delectable chocolate bon bons as an evening treat. The guest rooms also include bathrobes, slippers and the regular hotel amenities such as shampoo and conditioner along with bath salts for a nice long soak (what girl doesn't want to take advantage of a claw footed tub???).
**It's important to note that we did have one issue with our room - it smelled strongly of cigarette smoke, even though it is considered a non-smoking room. We called down to the front desk and had a bit of trouble/confusion trying to get a candle. They did provide us with an ionizer to help filter the air, which unfortunately did not help much either, probably due to the large size of the room and very high ceilings. With that said, they did try to do what they could to make it right, including offering to have us switch rooms, which we chose to decline. It's unfortunate to me that someone would choose to smoke in such a brand new and beautiful room, ruining it for future guests. When issues like this happen, I'm more concerned with the service and attention at which the hotel provides, rather than the issue itself and I would say that the hotel did a decent job of trying to rectify the situation.
THE COOPER LOUNGE
Set on the second floor of Union Station, overlooking the lobby is the exclusive Cooper Lounge. Only available for guests and outsiders who make a reservation with the front desk, you feel like a celebrity as you sip a classic martini in an oversized wing chair or classy retro sofa. Service is excellent and the drinks are strong, without being overly priced (at least compared to Southern California standards). My husband and I rarely go out for after dinner drinks, but this was an experience not to be missed in this iconic hotel setting.
SURROUNDING AREA/GETTING AROUND
The Crawford is in LoDo (lower downtown) and set away from the hustle and bustle of 16th street, but within a short walk to the areas best restaurants and shops. This is an ideal location because you get to skip the masses of people while still being close to everything you might want to do - let's just say it's a classier part of town. From the hotel, you are within a half mile walk of the hottest restaurants in town on Larimer and an easy walk over the bridge to the trendy Highlands area (check back for a recap of our food tour in this part of town). The Free Mall Ride stops just a half block up the street and takes you into the center of town in about 20 minutes and Uber rides only cost about $5 to get within a few miles. Saying that, the best way to cruise around town is in the hotel's complimentary Tesla car service, which will take you anywhere within a 2 mile radius and pick you up whenever you're ready to head back. It's available on a first come, first serve basis, but we never once had a problem. Just call or text a few minutes ahead of time and it'll be there waiting - an epic way to see Denver!