So it has come down to the point of “no return” for planning your trip. Unless you spend the extra on a refundable ticket, you are about to take a bold step forward and seal the deal on your trip.
If you ask 10 people on a flight what they paid for their ticket, you will get 10 very different answers. How to find a cheap flight has become something of a dark art. Use these tips and secrets to find the best deals.
Finding Cheap Flights
There are an abundance of ticket websites out there to help you find the best deal for a flight. There are also additional things that you can do to leverage these tools more than the average traveler.
Here are some insider secrets:
■ Try to find cheap flights 21 – 45 days in advance. Other than last minute deals, you will pay more as your date to leave approaches. Sometimes buying too soon months in advance also makes for higher prices.
■ Sometimes unsold seats are drastically discounted 2 days before departure.
■ Never, ever fly on weekends! Try to fly on a Monday morning, Tuesday, or Wednesday.
■ Try not to fly within 7 days before or after a holiday. Check your destination’s local holidays and festivals as well.
■ If you are buying a round trip ticket, staying longer than 90 days usually results in a higher fare. Check on just buying two 1-way tickets instead for the extra flexibility. You can also set a fictional return date and pay the change fee later. Caution: deliberately skipping your return flight will get you blacklisted on some airlines.
■ You may find cheap flights after midnight EST in the middle of the week. This is when airline databases are updated and sometimes you can grab a cheap ticket that has been returned back to the system.
■ Search for flights at all times throughout the day, you never know when a cheap ticket has been released to the system.
■ Take a bus (try megabus.com) or hitch a ride to the closest major airport hub.
■ Make sure your luggage is not over sized or overweight. Check individual airline sites for rules, some charge for a carry-on now.
■ Flights with longer layovers usually have lower price tags.
■ Early morning redeye flights are more painful bur are usually cheaper.
■ Fly into the largest city on the continent you are visiting. Take budget airline hops or travel overland
from there to reach your destination. For instance, it may be cheaper to fly into Brussels (a major business hub) and then hitch your way to Amsterdam rather than flying straight there.
■ Always use frequent flier programs. It may take years, but the miles DO add up and may come in handy in the future.
■ Being as flexible as possible can help you find a cheap flight. Do not specify flight times, number of stops, etc.
■ Never buy refundable tickets if they cost more – your backpacking travel insurance may have trip cancellation coverage anyway.
Try these websites first:
■ Kayak.com – Kayak is a site that searches lots of other ticketing sites, one of my personal favorites because it turns up low fares consistently.
■ Priceline.com – bid your own price on airfare for cheap deals or you can do regular flight searches. Flights must originate in the US, but sometimes you can grab tickets on clearance through the auctions.
Other options for booking discount tickets:
■ Expedia.com – Great all around travel booking site
■ Orbitz.com – A good website for basic flight searches
■ CheapoAir.com – Great airfare to Asia and Europe.
■ Travelocity.com – use the “flexible ticket” option to get deals on domestic flights.
■ Hotwire.com – Good deals on flights, hotels, and rental cars.
■ Cheaptickets.com – a long time favorite of budget travelers.
■ Skyscanner.net – very interesting twist.
■ Sidestep.com – much like kayak.com.
■ Cheapoair.com – good deals on international flights here.
TIP: It is still in BETA phase, but once you have your ticket, go sign up at www.yapta.com (free) and you can monitor the fare. If the price of your ticket goes down, many airlines will provide you with a voucher or discount when approached.
Once you find a cheap flight, go to that carrier’s website and search for the same flight to compare prices. Sometimes you can get the exact same flight direct from the airline minus a $10 – $15 markup fee added on by the ticketing site. Also, by going direct to the airline you eliminate some potential slips like not receiving credit for your frequent flier miles. Some airlines such as Southwest don’t release tickets to the databases.
Nothing beats the feeling that you get when you click the “buy” button on that expensive ticket. Regardless of whether this is your first trip or not, you will feel the excitement and adrenaline sweep through your body. You are now on your way!