Whether you're headed on a trip for pleasure with a spouse, family, friends or business, there's a good chance you're going to be flying. Despite the rigmarole with checking baggage, parking your car and going through security, it's still faster and more convenient for long distances than any other type of transportation.
Finding airfare that fits into your budget can be a challenge. You might find two seats on the same plane that vary up to hundreds of dollars in price. No one wants to overpay for a flight. I'm sure you'd much rather have the extra money for your business or to go on exciting excursions on your vacation. Deals are out there, you just have to know how and where to find them as making the wrong choices while you shop for your vacation can cost you big time.
Here are our top tips for finding cheap airfares.
1. Research Using the Right Websites
Many travelers head straight to the airline’s site when preparing to book their flight. If you’re looking at prices on an airline’s site, you’re missing the bigger picture. You could save more money flying a different date, and typical airline sites don’t make it easy to compare. You might save more with another airline entirely, too.
Instead of a small window of options, try Google Flights which allows you to search for tickets on multiple departure and arrival days to see what day has the best deal. You can also see a calendar of the lowest fares, search for a general region and see a map of specific flight prices, or go with “I’m feeling lucky” and let Google plan your dream trip. The site also includes a whole host of features that beat out any human travel agent. Other high ranking booking sites include Skyscanner, Airfare Watchdog, and Hipmunk.
2. Buy On the Right Day
There are so many theories as to what day and time of the week you should buy tickets. Of course, no one can seem to agree on the day or time. That’s why sites like Kayak and Yapta can help. Kayak is useful as it allows you to see a price trend box in the left-hand column. It tells you whether to buy or wait on Kayak’s confidence level. If you become curious as to how it made its decision, you can click the box with the lowercase “i.” Remember that just because you got a low ticket price doesn’t mean it won’t go lower. The good news is many airlines will refund you the difference if the price drops a certain amount after you buy.
If you don’t have time to scour ticket prices every day, Yapta can be your best friend. Yapta keeps an eye on your tickets and alerts you when the price drops. With annual savings on Yapta being $334 per user on average, that means you can put your savings toward a better hotel, a few nice dinners, or just keep it in your bank account.
3. Be Flexible
While seats usually get more expensive the later you book, the deals actually get better. If you're self-employed, retired, have a really understanding boss or simply don’t care when you depart, then you can get some amazing rates if you cruise enough deal sites. Last-minute deals are usually advertised through third parties and built entirely to fill the seats that might lose the airline money.
Be aware that it’s getting harder to search airfares based on flexible travel dates now that many sites (Orbitz, Hotwire, Travelocity and Expedia among them) have eliminated their flexible-date calendars. But, again, Kayak ranks high among offering a flexible date search. You must register as a user to see it under "more search options,” though. Another site to keep on your radar is Adioso, a flexible travel site that you should be using but probably aren’t because of its
“under the radar” approach.
4. Sign Up for Airfare Alerts
One of the easiest ways to track airfares is to sign up for airfare alerts. Many travel websites offer e-mailed airfare alerts that let you know when fares go down, and they all have some sort of offer. Try doing a browser search as well, for "airfare alerts" and you'll see what's available. They all work a bit differently, so sign up for more than one.
One thing to note: These sites use essentially the same airfare data provided by the airlines' computer systems or ITA Software [what does ITA stand for?] (which is now owned by Google), so they won't include discounted promo-code fares, and they don't include Southwest Airlines. Airfarewatchdog, however, includes handpicked fares from Southwest in its Fare Alerts. Using social media, like Twitter is also an immediate way to be alerted of great deals. @Airfarewatchdog’s Twitter account posts unusual airfare deals every day of the week and alerts followers to promo codes and other airfare deals.
5. Consider Making a Stop
Sometimes booking a flight that has a connection as opposed to flying nonstop can save you money. But you have to ask yourself if it’s really worth it. If it’s hundreds of dollars then yes, but if it’s just $20 do you really want to increase your chances of getting delayed or stuck? And be sure to avoid making connections in airports that have a terrible on-time track record like San Francisco, Chicago O’Hare or all of New York’s airports.
As you can see, bargain hunting can be a time-consuming process but it can certainly payoff in the long run.
Happy and safe travels!