Explore all options when searching for best deal
Editor’s note: Here’s some helpful pointers to finding the cheapest commercial flight available. Some may be time consuming, but they’ll pay off in the end if you are diligent.
- If you buying a commercial flight, check with a booking aggregator to scan numerous booking sites and cull the results. Most also display hotels and car rentals. Some good popular sites are www.kayak.com, www.mobissimo.com, www.bookingbuddy.com, www.farechase.com, www.yapta.com and www.cheapflights.com.
- Go to an all-purpose travel site. The big three, www.orbitz.com, www.expedia.com and www.travelocity.com, remain dominant; all display fares from competing airlines, plus you can book your flight, hotel and car in one spot. The sites charge a booking fee of $5 to $20. Vayama (www.vayama.com) offers international fares.
- Sign up for instant e-mail fare alerts. Web sites such as www.travelocity.com, www.kayak.com, www.farecast.com and www.orbitz.com offer customizable fare-alert services. Orbitz’s Insider Deals (desktop.orbitz.com) and Expedia’s Fare Alert (www.expediaguides.com/farealert), provide instant fare notifications.
- Look at airline and airport sites. Go to airline sites to see whether they can match the lowest fare you’ve found. You sometimes can get extra frequent-flier miles for booking directly, and you’ll avoid service fees.
Sign up with individual airlines to receive their e-deals, which offer last-minute fares and are published each week.
- Know the budget airlines that go to your destination and check their sites.
- Check Priceline and Hotwire. Though www.priceline.com and www.hotwire.com provide regular flight-booking services, both also offer potential money-saving twists. On Priceline, you can bid for a flight, then discover the airline and times after you pay. Hotwire shows you the price upfront, then reveals the carrier and flight times after you’ve provided your credit card number.
- Be aware of extra fees. Most airlines now charge fees for checked bags, overweight luggage, meals, unaccompanied minors, well-positioned seats, etc. Those fees can turn a cheap fare into an expensive one. The fee schedules can be found on individual airline sites. Also, pages on several general travel sites, including www.kayak.com/airline-fees and www.expedia.com/daily/flights/airline-fees.asp, have fee charts that cover multiple airlines.
- Check other budget sites. A number of sites — including www.cheapoair.com, www.travelzoo.com, www.smartertravel.com, www.cfares.com, www.budgettravel.com, and www.independenttraveler.com — are frequently updated and full of bargains.
- Each Wednesday, Travelzoo unveils its Top 20 deals, which include airfare specials, packages and hotel bargains. Look on the site, or sign up to have them e-mailed to you.
Consider last-minute specialists or auction sites. Check out the packages at services such as Lastminute.com, which offers late-breaking air-and-hotel combos. Although you might not need the hotel, the package price could beat the no-advance-purchase fares offered elsewhere. Or go to a site such as www.skyauction.com, where you can bid for an airline ticket; just remember that once you buy, you’re stuck with the ticket.
- Turn off the computer ... and contact your base travel office. A good agent will know where to look for cheaper fares and can give you pointers on how to find them. Also, for complicated itineraries, such as an around-the-world ticket, check with an agent who works with consolidators; many consolidators don’t deal directly with the public.