Tips on Finding Cheap Airline Tickets

Airline ticket prices vary wildly, and airlines have perfected the art of bleeding every last nickel from their customers. If your summer travel plans call for travel by air, try the following tips for finding cheap airline tickets for your vacation.

 

Leverage the Internet

By now, most people are familiar with sites like Expedia and Travelocity for comparing airfares. But comparing fares doesn’t help much if all of the prices are still out of reach. In order to pinpoint the cheapest fare, try an airfare monitoring site such as Airfarewatchdog.com or Yapta.com.

These sites will track your desired itinerary and send you an email alert when the fare dips. Always select the “flexible dates” option to find the combination of departure and arrival dates that results in the lowest fare. Yapta presents the information in a grid which makes it easy to see how fares fluctuate from day to day.

Let’s Hear It for Wednesday

According to Farecompare.com, Wednesday is historically the cheapest day to travel domestically. The next best choices are Tuesdays and Saturdays. We all dread those early morning departures, but leaving on the first flight of the day (or on a red-eye, if available) will also keep your costs down.

Be Flexible

Be flexible not only in your travel dates and times, but also in your destination itself. Airfarewatchdog.com has a function that allows you to find all low fares from your starting point to a variety of domestic or international locations. $455 RT from Philly to London anyone? Using this function is a great way to liven up your travel planning—you might start off expecting Orlando and wind up in Barbados.

Book a Package

Many online travel sites offer superb deals when you book your hotel along with your room. On a trip to Thailand, I got three super-cheap nights in a swank Mandarin Oriental plus airport transfers that I used on arrival and departure. It was convenient, inexpensive, and gave me the chance to stay in a hotel that normally would have been out of my price range.

Sacrifice Convenience

If there are multiple airports in your area, check fares from all airports. Sometimes you can save a bundle by driving an hour or two out of your way (for example opting for MDW instead of ORD or BWI instead of DCA). You can also sometimes save by choosing an itinerary with multiple stops instead of a direct flight.

You will lose some convenience with both choices, but the airfare savings may be too good to pass up. These tips and more can be found on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement’s website.

Stay on the Case

Did you know that if you book your tickets and the price of the same itinerary drops after your purchase, that in many cases you can obtain a refund? It’s not a myth! After I purchased tickets for a coast-to-coast trip, I continued to monitor the airline ticket price and found that it dropped by almost $100. I called the airline directly and they honored the lower fare.

Some airlines only grant refunds if the price drop is over a certain threshold ($75, $100, or $150, depending on the airline), but some airlines such as Alaska Airlines and JetBlue offer refunds for any fare reduction. Yapta.com now offers a free automated service that will send you an alert if the price of your airline tickets falls after you book.

Travel Light

My family has no-checked-bags policy. Whether we are traveling for three days or three weeks, we travel with one suitcase and one carry-on bag each. Not only do we avoid the misery of lost bags, pilfered items, and wasted time at the baggage carousel, we also avoid the hefty bag-check fees that some airlines charge.

If you must check a bag, then check the airline’s luggage weight policy online before you pack your bag. Many airlines have brutal surcharges ($50-100) for over-weight bags. Weigh your bag at home before you leave to avoid a nasty surprise at the check-in counter.

Be Prepared

Know ahead of time if a meal will be served on your flight and don’t get caught without snacks, unless you enjoy paying upwards of $3 for a few potato chips or a cookie. On-board adult beverages are also a rip-off—normally costing $6-7.

Insider Tip

When you are searching the Internet for the best fare and filling in your search criteria, you will be asked how many seats you are trying to book. Even if you are booking for the whole family, always start by indicating that you are booking for a single traveler.

Here’s the deal: if there are two seats left at a lower price, and you enter “four passengers” in the search criteria, the system will automatically assign all four travelers the same higher-priced seats, rather than giving you two cheap seats and two at the higher rate. It will take you longer to make the reservation, but if there are cheap seats still available on your flight, this technique will help you snag them.

The Unexpected

Planning a vacation in advance is one thing, but sometimes an emergency arises that makes advance travel planning impossible. If you are traveling due to a death or serious illness, you may qualify for a bereavement fare or an emergency illness fare.

Not all carriers offer these fares, but it is a good idea to inquire, especially since last-minute bookings incur some of the highest fares. Some form of documentation (such as a death certificate or medical records) may be required in order to qualify for the reduced rate.

This article was written by contributing author Laurel Gray.

Comments

  1. I have found that going directly to the airline website itself was even cheaper than using Expedia and other websites. Also, you are right, flexibility is key. Fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday and you will get a much better price!

    By the way, I have gotten a refund when flight prices dropped after I purchased a ticket. It was great.

    • I agree that going directly to the airline website itself is much cheaper and mostly convenient. I think that airline website are more updated of the seats, price etc.

      “We help Americans find jobs, prosperity and explore Asia.”
      For details, visit http://www.pathtoasia.com/jobs

  2. Here is a tip that I use all the time, which works in Canada. I sign up for the airline’s email alerts. Every month or so they’ll have a 24 hour mega seat sale, 50% off or more sometimes. As long as I know that I will want to travel at least a month ahead, I delay the purchase until I see the sale. My friends are always amazed that I can travel for so cheap.

  3. Nice tips there! I agree mostly with booking for a package and travelling light. But still make sure that the package you choose is fairly priced and that all you need for your trip are covered by it (ie. transportation from airport to hotel and vise-versa).

    “We help Americans find jobs, prosperity and explore Asia.”
    For details, visit http://www.pathtoasia.com/jobs

  4. When I worked in the hospitality industry, one of the websites we submitted deals to on a regular basis was Travelzoo. If you sign up for their email list you will get their top 20 travel deals of the week, which often include flights, hotels, cruises and car rentals for 50% off.

  5. Another option that applies to Military members is the use of Space-Available travel on military transport aircraft. Although this is always risky, due to the very namesake “space-available”, it can result in free travel worldwide for active duty members, reservists, and eligible retirees.

  6. If you’re checking luggage, allow a margin of error. Either the bathroom scale under-weighs or airline scales over-weigh but I’ve been under on the former and over on the latter more than once. And when you’re in the airport with the bag, you’re basically at their mercy in terms of surcharges.

    • Alex, one thing you could do is get yourself a portable luggage scale. They’re great because they’re small and won’t take up much room in your luggage. You’ll have the piece of mind of knowing that you were charged the correct amount for the correct amount of weight.

  7. I found the cheapest way to get a ticket is to wait until the day before the trip and buy one. The only issue is these tickets are non refundable. If you have a hard time finding one online, just pick up the phone and call cheapoair or similar services.

  8. Book in advance. It’s way cheaper that way. I book at least three months in advance for most of my travels. But before that, read the airline company’s refund policy.

  9. Thanks for the awesome tips! I didn’t know that Wednesdays are the cheapest days to fly. Will keep that in mind when booking tix.

    Also, yay for cheap nights at the Mandarin Oriental. Definitely one of the best hotels in the world.

    Good to know that airlines will honor lower fares.

    I wonder if this applies to Southwest and other budget airlines?

  10. Nice post with some great tips. I reckon I will be travelling at least 3 more times this year so I really need to make sure I get the cheapest I can.

    I normally just search every single site I can think of and get a reasonable deal in the end.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing such an informative things among us and I love to read such a great post related to travel because I am very Passionate about it.

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