Air travel certainly has made getting around easy – but airfares are expensive. As a result, everyone hopes to get the cheapest tickets available. As masters of the art of money-saving, we know that we need to have a method to our madness. Let’s take a look at the best ways to ensure you get the cheapest available flight.
You’re not just going to get general principles here. You’ll also get the tools you can use when planning your trip. Extra holiday money needed? Save on your airfare, and your spending money automatically increases!
Timing is critical
The time of day your flight leaves, the day of the week or the presence or absence of holidays affect airfares enormously. Generally speaking, flights on Fridays and Sundays are more expensive, as are flights during holiday seasons. Flights that leave at a ‘civilized’ hour of the day are also often more costly than those that leave in the wee hours of the morning.
But using general guidelines might not get you the best possible price on your flight. ITA Matrix is a handy tool that will help you get the best deals. Just select a destination and a departure point, and select “see the calendar of lowest fares”.
It’s really just a specialized search engine, so you don’t have to worry about it favoring any particular airline.
Book well in advance?
Not everyone agrees with this piece of advice, but booking well in advance often is cheaper – as long as you do your homework. If you’re looking at booking a couple of days before you’re planning to depart, the airlines know they can charge you top dollar because you’re desperate for a seat.
On the other hand, Business Insider says that airlines may be hoping to fill last minute seats – and they could try and tempt you with a lower airfare. The only problem with this bit of advice is that you might not be able to find an under-booked flight on the day you need it.
For those who like to plan ahead, six weeks ahead of your flight is the right time to book and get a good price, according to the Airlines Reporting Corporation.
How to use booking sites to get the best prices
Private browsing isn’t just a way to hide guilty online vices – it also helps you to get the best offers on airfares – especially if you delete all your cookies first. Those cookies might tell the booking site that you really hope to get a certain flight, and you might end up being quoted a higher price as a result.
Private browsing helps to hide the fact that you’ve been searching a particular route in the past, and according to those in the know, the more interested you appear in a route, the more you get charged.
It’s also a good idea to get a price on one ticket before trying for several. Apparently, an airline might be keen to sell a seat at its lowest price. As soon as you increase the size of your booking, the same spot could be offered at a higher rate.
Strange but true: there are times when a return ticket works out cheaper overall than a one-way ticket. If you stumble on a round trip ticket that’s cheaper both ways than the one-way ticket you actually want, it makes sense to take the round-trip ticket and just miss the return flight.
Use at least three different booking sites to see if there are variations in price depending on who you choose to book through.
You should still shop around
Booking sites may not cover all the carriers that fly certain routes. Some of the small, budget airlines aren’t considered at all. Once you’ve identified the best price on a booking site, go and do a spate search of the small airlines covering your route. Look out for hidden charges!
You should also check to see whether your fare will be lower if you were to book it directly from the carrier. Booking sites often charge a commission.
Try Google Flights
There are several cool things about using Google Flights as a booking engine. You can search flights in an entire region instead of specifying a destination, you can decide on a country and see what fares to different airports would cost, and you can see fares spanning a full month to help you get your timing right.
Don’t laugh this tip off until you’ve tried it. Travelers are saying they saved hundreds of dollars thanks to Google Flights.
Other great flight search engines to try
Despite the good press that Google Flights is getting, there are those who say you’ll still get a better deal on SkyScanner, AirFare Watchdog, and Momondo. And if you want to include budget airlines in your search, JetRadar will give you these rates too.
Check all airports in an area
You might just find that arriving at a different airport that’s still near where you want to save you money. Driving a few miles more can still be cheaper than landing or leaving from the airport that’s closest. So while you’re checking fares, try tweaking your destination too.
Coupon clipping isn’t just for grocery shoppers. You can get travel coupons too. Be on the alert and use your internet like a pro.
Coupons can get you better prices on hotels, car rental, and of course, flights. But don’t forget to compare prices all the same. A 10% off discount on an expensive flight might still work out more costly than a cheap flight.
Don’t overlook travel agents
Travel agents often get fantastic discounts on fares and full holiday packages. Booking an entire holiday through an agent can sometimes work out cheaper than your airfare would be if you booked as an individual. Find out what specials travel agents are offering, and you could end up saving both time and money.
Pay the clever way
You should also pay in the same currency as the flight is advertised. Currency conversion fees could take a big bite out of any savings you made on the airfare itself.
Last but not least, track your flight’s fares using Yapta. It gets you a refund if the price drops after you made your booking. Obviously, you’ll pay something for the service if it reclaims money for you, but it’s better than losing out altogether.
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