Most of us love taking vacations and travelling, for whatever reason we choose to travel. But who actually likes the planning aspect – more specifically, finding and booking flights? It can certainly be frustrating, that’s for sure!
We’ve done some research on the matter and have compiled some information and tips that we hope will help make your next trip, a little bit better. Here’s what we found:
Search often and jump when there’s a deal
Fares fluctuate throughout the day and the number of seats offered at low fares also change too. Someone might be holding the only seat at the lowest fare and not end up booking it, so it goes back into the inventory and you can then snatch it up. So if you don’t like the fare at 10 am, check at 2 pm or the next day or the next week and jump when the fare is the lowest. To make it a bit easier, just leave the page open and hit on ‘refresh’ every now and then.
Sign up for email alerts
This is one of the easiest ways to track airfares. Many travel websites offer email airfare alerts, letting you know when fares go down and they all have something to offer. Do a simple web search for ‘airfare alerts’ to see what’s available. They all work a bit different and you can always sign up for more than one.
Sign up for airline’s email feeds and frequent flyer programs
This is pretty cool! Because airlines want to develop a relationship with you, they’ll send you special deals, even 50% off promo codes or two-for-one deals. All you have to do is sign up for the email feeds!
While you can get lots of notifications via email for discounted flights, some of the best airfare deals only last a very short time. By the time you open the email – ta-da – you missed the deal! Twitter on the other hand is instant and if you follow one of the airfare sites, you will get their tweets with unusual fare deals and alerts with promo codes. If you’re on twitter, you just may want to sign up.
Take a closer look at extra fees
You check out fares to your destination and find two options that look good. Airline A’s fare is listed a $198 round-trip and Airline B for $149. You are checking three bags. Airline A charges nothing for the first two checked bags and $100 each way for the third. Airline B charges $165 for all three bags each way. If you add up these fees, travelling with Airline A costs a total of $398 and Airline B $479 – a considerable difference, isn’t it?
Combine flights on your own
Say you’re flying to Spain, well you may be able to save money if you purchase one fare from the U.S. to, say, Dublin, and another from Dublin onward. You can do this for any destination and it allows you to grab flights on some of the low cost carriers that booking multiple flights don’t use. Just be sure to give yourself plenty of time between connecting flights in case one is delayed.
Check out Priceline for last-minute trips
If you don’t have a 7, 14 or 21 day advance purchase window to buy your fare and need something right away, your best bet is the ‘name your own price’ feature on Priceline.com. Although you won’t know the exact flight times or airline you’re flying with until you pay for your trip, it will save you 50% or more. Definitely worth taking a look at.
Use alternate airports
Is the fare from Miami to London Heathrow too high? Maybe flying from Ft. Lauderdale to London Gatwick is cheaper – chances are it will be. Heading to Tokyo? Search to Tokyo Haneda Airport as well as to the better-known Narita. Little Rock might be a better choice than Memphis or vice versa; Toronto City Island Airport might be cheaper than Toronto Pearson and so on and so on. Taking the extra steps to look at your destination’s other airports, just may save you some money. Maybe not something you want to do with a few kids in tow, but for smaller families it’s a great idea. And you may want to consider staying over and taking a night or two to check out that newfound place. Remember, some of the best adventures take place getting to your destination.
Look for airlines that will refund the difference
Imagine you buy a flight and the very next day, the flight goes down in price! Super frustrating! Some airlines will do nothing in these instances. Some charge a fee (usually a big one) to cover you in case this happens. But there are a few out there who will actually refund you the fare difference in the form of a voucher, without any additional fees. All airlines use to do this, but now only JetBlue, Southwest and Alaska do.
Consolidators specializing in premium cabins will have some great deals, and the airlines themselves will often heavily discount their premium cabins in the summer and just before Christmas, so check the specials on their websites. Look at sites like Vayama.com, airfare.com and Asia.com as they often sell consolidator fares. The downside here is the potential restrictions, but still worth checking out.
Are there best days to travel?
In general, flying on a Saturday or Sunday in most regions can send your airfare shooting through the roof. In fact, flights on these days run about 15 percent above average. Instead, try looking for mid week flights when most people aren’t traveling and there is a good chance you will find discounted seats.
What are the best months to travel?
Apparently there are months when flights are lower – January (18 percent below average), February (15 percent below average) and April (10 percent below average). If you’re the type of person who can only get away over the summer months, keep in mind that August can be up to 13 percent cheaper than June and July.
Peter Greenberg’s tips for getting the best airfare
Peter Greenberg is a CBS’ travel editor and he has some tips on how to get the best flight at the lowest price. He thinks it’s possible that you can actually book a flight in as little as a few minutes and that it’s all about when you book. He says that the best time to book is, “Wednesday at 1 am, just one hour after Tuesday midnight,” in the timezone where the airline’s booking center is based, of course.
Why is this you ask? Well, he says that, “Most low airfares seem to appear between Sunday night and Monday night. And then, when people book those fares, they have 24 hours in which to purchase them… and at midnight Tuesday, all the discount fares that weren’t purchased come flooding back into the airline’s computer systems. And that’s when you strike.”
A lot of people disagree with Greenberg’s theory on when to buy tickets and believe that airlines are completely unpredictable and that there is no possible way to know how to predict cheap flights. It does make sense if you think about it. If there was a system then everyone would find out and all the airfare search operations would be quickly put out of business. But that hasn’t happened so…
Greenberg also suggests that booking must be done over the phone and that the perk of this is that it’s easier to get the good coach seats without them costing a little extra.
Greenberg says that he sometimes shops for fares on one computer and then clears his cookies or books from another computer or different location. He has found “growing anecdotal evidence” that airlines are actually tracking various metrics on your computer that could drive up a price. Crazy huh?!
Here are a few more of Greenberg’s tips:
Do NOT buy too early: ”Unless you are planning travel for high-traffic days, like Christmas or July 4, you stand the best chance for the lowest possible fare 45 days out for domestic travel and 60 days out for international,” he wrote. Most of this has to do with the companies comparing travel volume from the previous year and basing prices on that.
DO travel on off days: Business travelers are likely to fly Sunday night or Monday, then again on Fridays. Holidays often dictate peak travels days as well. “Flying midweek is often an effortless way to save money, and that’s when you’ll often find emptier and cheaper seats,” Greenberg wrote.
DO consider time of the month: Greenberg recommends booking flights after the 7th of the month because “booking is busier right after payday on the first and 15th.”
So, there’s our tips for you. Hope you find something helpful here!
Do you have any insider information you would like to share on how to get the best flight deals? If so, we’d love to hear about it!