Does booking airline tickets stress you out? Do you find yourself asking questions like… with so many travel websites out there, which one should I use? Or should I buy that ticket now or wait to see if the price will go down in the future?
There are a lot of online travel sites on the web today, but booking airline tickets doesn’t have to be stressful. With a little perseverance and knowledge of how and where to search, you can find low, if not, the cheapest airfare for your flight.
- Start with a travel search engine If you have specific travel dates in mind, use Kayak.com, which finds real-time airfare across multiple websites (including most major airlines with a few exceptions, like southwest.com). Keep in mind that you won’t actually be purchasing from any of these sites searched. Instead, Kayak will send you directly to the travel website selling the ticket, and you’ll book directly with that travel website. For some routes serviced by low cost carriers, like Southwest Airlines, make sure to check directly on the airline’s website because travel search engines do not search those sites.
- Create a price alert If you are not in a rush to book your flight, use Kayak.com to create a price alert and have prices sent daily to your email or phone. Airlines often have sales at the same time, so you can find out when prices go on sale with a price alert rather than checking yourself everyday. To create an alert, click on the “create a price alert” option in the top left hand corner of the search results page when searching on a browser. You can also download the Kayak mobile app and have notifications pushed directly to your phone.
- Book multiple one-way flights When booking a round-trip flight, try searching for two one-way tickets on different airlines to make a round-trip. Unlike the early days of ridiculously high-priced one-way tickets, today many airlines will sell you a one-way ticket at a reasonable price. Furthermore, the low cost carriers, like Southwest and JetBlue, often have one-way fare sales on many of their routes.
- Book a package If you will need a hotel and/or car, consider booking a vacation package with one of the major online travel agencies (Expedia, Travelocity, or Orbitz). The online travel agencies’ airline ticket prices almost always will not be cheaper (and in fact, are usually more expensive because they charge a service fee) when purchased alone, but where you can really save money is on a hotel and/or car. These large online travel agencies negotiate block rates and save you money on your daily hotel and car rates. This can certainly add up if you are taking a weeklong trip somewhere.
- Fly on less popular days or airports If you have some flexibility with your travel dates or airport, try using “flexible date” and “include nearby” airport in your search, which allow you to search for +/- 1, 2 or 3 days. Generally, flying on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday will save you money. Also, your often find lower airfare when you fly out of smaller, regional airports.
- Check with a wholesale travel agency After you have a good idea of the actual flight you want to take, check with a travel agent at a wholesale travel agency. They can often save you 10% or more on international airline tickets because they have special block rates with airlines. Tripmonger.com can help you check for lower airfare if you know your exact dates of travel. Use the cheap flights search form and send us your travel dates and time (include the exact flight numbers if you have them), and we will let you know if we can find you a cheaper airfare.
- Use frequent flyer miles Finally, if the airline ticket prices are more than you want to pay, consider using frequent flyer miles to purchase the ticket. In fact, you should always consider using frequent flyer miles when it makes sense. In order to determine whether or not using your miles makes sense, find out (1) the price of the flight you’d like to take AND (2) how many frequent flyer miles it would take to get that flight. Then, calculate the price per frequent mile for a flight by dividing the price of the flight by the miles required. For example, if a flight you want from New York to Los Angeles costs $500, and alternatively, you could use 25,000 frequent flyer miles to get an equivalent flight, the value of that flight would be $0.02 per mile. In general, you should definitely consider using those frequent flyer miles when the value is greater than a penny per mile ($0.01/mile).