“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Just a few hours ago, I posted an epic rundown of how I plan and budget for trips. In it, I mentioned that I keep a running budget and rough itinerary of all the trips I want to take so I have an idea of how much money I need to save up and so I can keep an eye on airfare without spreading myself too thin.

At the time, I saw some fares to Dublin for $620 round trip which I thought was pretty solid, so I focused on budgeting a trip around Ireland and the UK. It looked something like this:

UK and Ireland Travel Planning Spreadsheet

Not long after I pressed the “Publish” button, I started to go about my daily Twitter routine to see if there were any interesting deals to be had. The Twitters were on fire. For some reason, all the airlines got into a pricing war and the fares from the US to Europe were tanking. AMAZING.

Unfortunately, none of the cities on the list really matched up with what I had on my map/wish list for 2015, so I let it go and moved on.

Then. THEN. A little blip came across my screen citing fares to Dublin in the $400s round trip. Four hundred four dollars. THAT’S IT.

The details of the deal said it was available for flights through May, but I knew I wanted to go a bit earlier so I didn’t hit peak season. I loaded up the trusty ITA Matrix and plugged in my info. I knew my trip would be ~18 days based on my spreadsheet, so all the work was done for me already.

Matrix Search for Dublin

The wonderful thing about the ITA matrix is that you can see the fare prices for an entire month. You can pick the exact date where it bottoms out (assuming you have a flexible schedule!).

Matrix calendar of results

I’m told it warms up in Ireland toward the end of February, so Feb 18 was the winner for me. I narrowed down to find the flight times I liked best and ended up with this:

Matrix Itinerary

The annoying part about the ITA Matrix is that you can’t actually book your flight there! I went to my first choice, Expedia, but the fares were coming out higher than ITA was quoting me. Then I went to the next logical place: US Airways’ website. Since the Matrix told me the flights were operated by US Airways, I figured that made sense, but the site ended up quoting me $555. Nonsense.

This is where it got helpful to have a little idea about what’s going on in the airline industry. Since US Airways and American Airlines are in the midst of a merger, they codeshare flights and can be booked with either system. You can see in the itinerary that some of the flights are actually on American planes even though they’re operated by US Airways. I took a stab at booking on aa.com

AA.com Flight Search

Lo and behold: I FOUND IT!

AA.com flight search results

I matched the flight numbers to the ones I picked in the ITA Matrix and booked my fare. I knew I had 24 hours to cancel it in case I forgot a piece of the logistical puzzle, but as far as I can tell, I’m off to Ireland and the UK in February!

The thing about being able to make quick travel decisions is always being prepared. I keep itineraries and budgets for my most-wanted trips in my back pocket at all times just in case the airfare fairies want to drop a crazy awesome fare in my lap. I already knew what the trip would cost. I already knew that this was a killer deal because I’d priced out flights before. I already knew how long I wanted to stay and a rough idea of what I would do there. The prep work was done. I just had to be patient for the right fare to come along so I could pull the trigger.

The question now is what to do with that $215 I saved on airfare! I think I’ll allocate a bit of it to my “experience” expenses so I can make the Giant’s Causeway and a few other excursions happen. The rest will be funneled back into my travel account for a future trip. Hooray!