Utah is home to frogtastic skiing. With powdery snow, great family ski resorts and an easy-to-navigate landscape, Utah is a Frog Family favorite destination. Chances are, if you are visiting from out of state, you'll need to fly there. One of the biggest budget busters for a Utah ski trip can be the cost of flights. Luckily, there are several ways to save on flights to Utah ski resorts. Plus we have a few hopful tips for making your travel experience easier when it comes to renting a car and checking in. We always leap for hassle-free travel when we can!
How to Save on Flights to Utah Ski Resorts
Save your money for the fun you will be having on and off the mountain once you arrive rather than spending it on airfare and unnecessary fees! We can help you save some green so you can make your Utah ski trip more affordable. From tips for shopping different airfares, to saving on baggage fees, to earning free flights and maybe even getting a free lift ticket, we toadally have some helpful hints to save money on flights to Utah. With recent changes to airline searches and cabin classes, it can be tricky to find the cheapest flights. Here are all of the ribbeting details you need to know.
Find the Cheapest Airports to Utah Ski Resorts
For the most part, you'll probably be considering flights to Salt Lake City International Airport. Salt Lake City is the largest and most wallet-friendly airport that is closest to many of the best Utah family ski resorts. The airport has over 340 daily flights to 95 nonstop destinations. The airport is just 4 miles from downtown Salt Lake City and less than 40 miles from Park City. Delta has a hub there, so you'll find a number of Delta flights.
There are some smaller airports in Utah. However, many ski resorts near Salt Lake City, Park City and Ogden are within easy driving distance from Salt Lake City International Airport. Some Utah locations, such as Brian Head, are closer to the smaller airport in Saint George, Utah, or even the Las Vegas airport, than to Salt Lake City. Still, most travelers will be flying into Salt Lake City. The road signs from the airport to the ski resorts are well-marked and easy to follow, making Salt Lake City and Park City easy destinations for even first-time visitors.
Here Is How to Shop Fares to Find the Cheapest Flights to Utah
Shopping for flights has gotten more complicated for all types of travel. Seat assignments, checked luggage and carry-on items used to be included in all tickets, but that has changed. Adding those "luxuries" now comes with added fees. When comparing different airlines' fares to the same destination, make sure you know what is included before you book.
You'll find that different airlines have different rules for the same class. For example, Basic Economy may allow a free carry-on plus a personal item with American Airlines or Delta, but United will not allow that carry-on. With all three airlines, you'll receive your seat assignment from the airline after check-in. You'll be among the last to board, which means you'll likely be gate-checking any carry-on bags (provided you're allowed to bring them). If you are traveling with tadpoles and it's important for your family to be together, you may want to upgrade to Main Cabin so that you're able to choose your seats in advance and seat your family together.
Shopping for the best airline fare has become almost a game these days. Sometimes what seems like the least expensive fare may actually end up being the most expensive ticket. Budget airlines such as Spirit and Frontier airlines offer a low-ball price, but additional fees to select a seat, check a bag or bring a carry-on can add up quickly. If you do make a mistake and realize your fare is actually much more than you thought, you usually have 24 hours to cancel and rebook a cheaper flight.
Shopping for Flights to Utah During the Pandemic
COVID-19 has made shopping for flights (along with everything else) a little more complicated this year. Be sure to find out cancellation and change policies before you book flights. You want to stay flexible with travel plans this year and have the ability to make changes without incurring extra costs. Also, keep checking your flight times as your trip approaches. We've found lately that the airlines change a lot of flight times before the travel day. You do not want to arrive at the airport to discover your plane took off three hours earlier than the time on your itinerary! That being said, book early, especially if your airline of choice is keeping the middle seats open. We applaud the safety of spacing out passengers, but that means that available seats may fill up more quickly than usual.
If you're curious about what ski resorts are like right now, hop over to our posts on what to expect during the Vail Resorts' reopening to find out what to expect at Park City and what to expect when the Ikon Pass destinations reopen to find out what you need to know about skiing at Deer Valley, Brighton, Solitude, Snowbird and Alta this season.
Do you need a COVID-19 test? The Salt Lake City airport has rapid COVID-19 testing in the airport for ticketed passengers and employees at XpresCheck. It's in Concourse A and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday.
How to Save on Flights to Utah When Bringing Bags
Skiing and snowboarding come with baggage. With bulky clothes and perhaps sports equipment, expect to travel with luggage. Keep those costs in mind when shopping for flights. You may bring your own skis, boots or snowboards, but even if you rent equipment at the ski resort, you'll still need winter clothes and jackets, so you’ll have at least some luggage.
Checked luggage fees can really add up. Some airlines charge Basic Economy tickets more money to check a bag than they do for Main Cabin tickets. On the other hand, some airlines (such as Southwest) include two pieces of checked luggage. Some airlines offer free checked bags to airline credit cardholders (more on this later).
Be aware of airlines that offer cheaper checked luggage if you pay in advance. You do not want to be surprised with hiked fees when you add bags at the airport check-in counter! You might get the best savings by adding a bag at the time of booking. The bag cost may keep climbing after you book. It can cost more to pay for the bag when checking it at the counter, and that price can raise again if you check it at the gate. If you choose a budget fare, be prepared to play the game so you don't lose money. Stay informed and plan ahead for checked luggage and equipment.
Before you book a ticket, be sure to compare all of the costs. You can make a chart comparing the cost difference between carry-on luggage and checked luggage for your airline, and then compare it with the cost of the actual ticket. Even if you have a round-trip ticket, the fees presented may be for each way, so be sure to calculate the return trip in your costs. Note which airlines offer a seat assignment, as well. You might find that budget price ends up costing more! Once you add a bag to some "budget" flights, you might be paying hundreds of dollars more than the original quoted fare.
You can add some basic bundles to a Frontier Airlines "Basic Fare" (which comes with a standard seat and a personal item) at the time of booking. With "The Works," you'll pay more per flight (although the price offered is one way based on a round-trip purchase, so be sure to double that price when calculating). The Works bundle includes a refundable ticket, no change fees, seat selection, a carry-on, a checked bag and priority boarding. The Perks bundle gives you seat selection, a carry-on, a checked bag and priority boarding. These bundles can save money over paying for bags at the airport, but they do significantly increase the cost of flying overall. Do the math before you buy. Prices vary per flight, making it harder to calculate in advance.
Use Airline Credit Cards That Have Perks
About a year before you visit Salt Lake City, see which airlines fly there. Several months to a year in advance, you may consider applying for credit cards with one of those airlines. You can earn free flights using points and possibly take advantage of free companion fares and other benefits. The free checked baggage benefits can save you a lot of money! This is especially true if you'll be bringing your own ski or snowboard equipment. You can also use miles or credit card perks to make flights more affordable.
For example, Alaska Airlines flies to Salt Lake City from our home airport. The Alaska Airlines Visa card gives cardholders an annual free companion fare. Plus cardholders can earn additional free flights with the points they earn from signing up. The companion fares really help with saving money on plane tickets for our family. The card comes with a free checked bags benefit. That helps to keep baggage costs down since Flora likes to bring her own skis and boots.
Delta has a lot of flights into Salt Lake City. One credit card perk is a free bag for each person in the traveling party. One thing we love about flying Delta into Salt Lake City is that its check-in area is just across from the rental car counters. So when you are tired from skiing and lugging all your bags and equipment to the airport, you simply return your car, head up the escalator and hip, hop, hooray! The counter is right there! The other airlines are a bit further down the hall. The windows capture the mountain views! It toadally makes for a pleasant ending to your ski vacation.
Our last Delta check-in agent was so nice and offered dining advice and other tips. Did you know that there are yummy local restaurants at the airport such as the Market Street Grill or Squatters Pub Brewery? We got to enjoy dinner at one of our favorite restaurants!
When it comes to bringing skis (or snowboards) and boots, it's smart to check the airline policy before booking. With most airlines, the ski bag and boot bag together count as one item (as long as they weigh under 50 pounds combined). Here are some helpful tips for flying with skis if you like to bring your own equipment. Bringing your own equipment instead of renting is another way to save on a Utah ski trip (as long as you are not paying to check them).
See If Your Ski Resort or Airline Offers Free Lift Tickets
If you time your flights right, you may be able to get a free lift ticket. You can turn your Alaska Airlines boarding pass into a free lift ticket at Snowbasin. The offer is available on certain dates, and you must fly in Monday through Wednesday to receive a free Tuesday through Thursday lift ticket for the day following the flight. You'll need to register online first. Bring the boarding pass, Visit Ogden confirmation email and photo ID to Snowbasin within 24 hours of arrival for a free single-day lift ticket!
We checked and Park City is no longer participating in the same-day boarding pass free ski promotion during the 2020-2021 season. Croak! But don't worry, Undercover Tourist can help you get a jump on more affordable Park City skiing with the Epic Pass! Snowbasin is also on the Epic Pass. Hop to it and purchase before the ski season to save even more money. We've also hopped into selling the Ikon Pass, which is good for Deer Valley, Brighton, Solitude, Snowbird and Alta.
Plan Flights to Minimize Hotel Nights
One of the best ways to save on flights to Utah ski resorts is to time your flights to minimize the cost of your hotel stay. With many direct flights to Salt Lake City, you may be able to catch an early morning flight and be on the slopes that afternoon. On your last day of skiing, take an evening flight home. Doing that can save you two nights of a hotel stay. We find the Salt Lake City airport to be easily accessible to the Park City and the Salt Lake City area ski resorts, so dropping hotel nights is one of our favorite ways to save some green! Speaking of hotels, you'll have to stay somewhere, so check out some hoppin' deals at a variety of Park City, Utah hotels.
If you are prone to altitude sickness or want to know how to prevent altitude sickness, you may want to take it easy the first day instead of rushing straight to the mountain. Drop the last day of your hotel stay instead of the first day and give your family some time to adjust when flying in. The base elevation at Park City is 6,900. Altitudes over 8,000 feet are more problematic when it comes to altitude sickness.
Get a Jump on Airfare Sales to Utah
You can sign up for fare alerts with your favorite airlines to stay in the know. When you hear about a fare sale, hop on the computer to look for flights to Utah. If you find a great fare, be sure to shop around before purchasing. Some other competing airlines just might also lower their prices. Maybe those airlines offer a better itinerary that works for you! But do jump on a good fare after a quick comparison if you find one.
Tips for Renting a Car When Flying to Utah
Once you land, you'll need transportation to your ski resort. Luckily, many of the best Utah ski resorts are just a short drive away from Salt Lake City airport. Here's a bit of travel advice if you rent a car. Make sure you book a rental car from a major and reliable rental car company such as Alamo, Enterprise, National, Avis or Budget (to name a few). Also, make sure they have a counter at the airport.
The off-site discount rental locations require a long walk with all your luggage and gear to get to the shuttle pick-up. Then you may have a potentially long wait in winter weather for the shuttle. Once you finally get to the counter, the company may not have the car you reserved and want to charge you more money to get a car that will work for you. And in our experience, the condition of the cars did not meet expectations. You do not need that stress on your vacation.
If you are looking to save money on a car rental, be smart. Go with a major brand that's at the airport to save time and hassle. Did you know you can unlock more savings when you bundle your rental car with your hotel or ticket booking with Undercover Tourist? Just add the rental to your hotel booking for instant savings!
We hope you found our tips to save on flights to Utah hopful. Keep in mind that once you land in Utah, you'll need to get around. You can get a hoppin' deal on a rental car, which gives you the most flexibility in your journey. Keep in mind we also book discount ski hotels at Park City, Utah, you can get a jump on saving when you book through Undercover Tourist. We love saving money!
Related: When to Book (and Visit) To Save on a Utah Ski Trip
Related: Family Insider’s Guide to Park City, Utah