Very few people on your airplane paid the same price. In fact, the variance in pricing is amazing. But you want to be one of the lucky few who paid the lowest price! How do you do that? We've booked some fantastic airline fares over the last couple of years and we're going to show you how we do it.
There are three things you have to have to book the best deal. Patience, persistence, and flexibility.
Unless you've left it to the last minute, start looking at flight prices today. Get familiar with what an "average" cost is for the ticket you're looking for. I'll use an example of a flight I'm currently searching for ourselves.
We want to fly one way from Seattle, Washington to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in early November of this year.
I explained how to use Google Flight Search in an earlier post, so I won't get into it here. But it's my first go-to website for getting familiar with prices.
If I look at Seattle to Puerto Vallarta, I see that the current best price ranges from $253 to $298 depending on the days between November 1st and the 5th. Those prices haven't changed much in the two weeks or so that I've been looking. So now, I've got a pretty good baseline idea of what the average price is.
Now I wait. That's where the patience comes in.
I'm now waiting for the price to drop. But while I'm waiting, I need to check things daily. I check at least two or three times per day. Real deals often don't last very long, and I want to catch it before it's gone. I've seen deals disappear in a matter of hours...or less! So I look for the price to change. So far, there's been nothing. And it could be like that for weeks. There's that "patience" thing again.
But I'm also checking other things. The typical flight search engines (Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak) don't list all the possibilities. They miss a lot of the discount airlines like Spirit, or Southwest, or any charter flights. So I also check a lot of airline websites directly, on a regular basis, to see what comes up. Every single day.
I also check Canadian deals. Because we have the option of leaving from either Seattle or Calgary (our return from Seoul connects in Seattle and we could stay there instead of doing the final leg to Calgary) you never know if there might be cheaper deal leaving out of Calgary. Oh, and that brings us to the next item.
We could leave from Seattle or Calgary. But we could also leave from Vancouver. It's just a short bus ride from Seattle, and we would have to factor that into the cost. But if a cheap enough deal comes up from Vancouver to Puerto Vallarta, it might be worthwhile to be flexible.
But it get's more detailed than that.
What if I could find a dirt cheap price from Seattle to L.A.? And then a deal from L.A to Puerto Vallarta? Might be worth it to check this out. And I do. Every single day. Or how about a deal from Seattle to Guadalajara and then a bus from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta?
If time is not an issue and you don't mind airport connections, then being flexible will get you the best deal. If you're the type who wants a direct flight only, then your options are limited and you'll have to stick with persistence and patience!
Here in Canada, I check and sign up with the "deal" website for my nearest major airport. For example, here's the website for Toronto... www.yyzdeals.com and here's the one for Saskatoon... www.yxedeals.com . You get the idea. The first three letters are the airport code, followed by the word "deals". Now, these sites may only come up with something a few times per year, so it's wise to sign up for their alert email so that you get an email when they find a real deal. These pages also each have a facebook presence, so it's wise to sign up there where you'll find discussion and more.
And facebook page Next Departure also comes up with some great deals departing from Canada.
Also in Canada, I check the RFD "Hot Travel Deals" website forum at http://forums.redflagdeals.com/hot-deals-f9/?c=2 . These guys post anything from flights to luggage to car rentals, and I check in here a couple of times per day as well. Sometimes it'll go weeks without something worthwhile, but when it comes up, you don't want to miss it.
For international and U.S. stuff, the best site is the deal forum at http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/mileage-run-deals-372/ . These guys come up with some interesting stuff sometimes, and it was here that I first learned about our son's $172 flight from New York to Milan and Prague to Tokyo. Yes, both flights for $172. Amazing.
Another American site that pulls a variety of deals every morning for your perusal is http://www.theflightdeal.com/. Definitely one of the first sites I check every morning.
And the facebook page Secret Flying often comes up with great deals from around the world.
And that's about it. Doing all of these things takes me no more than maybe 15 minutes per day. To get the best deal, I think it's worth it. Plus, I get to stay on top of some airfares that I may not even be interested in right now. All because I want to be the guy on the plane who paid the least amount of money!
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