Budget Travel: How to Find Cheap Airfare
Booking airfare is one of those things that I used to put off. I’d experience overwhelm with all the options in front of me. There are so many travel-related websites and well-meaning travel experts eschewing money-saving advice.
A thousand times I’ve heard that I need to be flexible on my dates of travel and look for flights into and out of surrounding airports. I believe it, but the question I is, “How?”How do you easily look at your travel options and prices by date and by airport? Even if you can, how do you know if you are really getting a good deal?
These four websites will give you the information you need to be able to book a flight at the best fare possible:
iFly.com. iFly has a lookup tool where you can find the closest 10 airports to any US city or town. You won’t have to Google “airports near Dayton, OH” again (Amen!). International travelers may find iFly’s list of international airports a useful reference tool as well.
Hipmunk.com. Using Hipmunk you can quickly browse flight prices by date. You see an easy-to-read bar graph with daily fare prices for each of 30 outbound travel dates. After selecting an outbound date, you’ll see another bar graph showing your fare total for a number of return dates.
Bing Travel. The best feature in Bing’s travel section is their fare predictor. Even if I see good prices at Hipmunk, how can I know if I should buy now or wait for fares to drop? Input your itinerary info into Bing.com/travel and get a red, yellow or green light on whether to buy now or wait.
Kayak Fare Alerts. Once you decide to wait for a lower airfare, then you need to monitor prices for your route. Set up a free fare alert at Kayak.com to get prices emailed to you daily. When you see a price drop, confirm with Bing that now is the time to buy and start packing.
When it is finally time to buy, do it directly through the airlines website. Should your itinerary change, you’ll get better service dealing with the airline itself than you will a third party travel site.
To get the best airfare start your search 8-10 weeks out from your date of travel. That gives you plenty of time to wait for the coveted price drop.
Even after you book your ticket, keep your fare alert active. If you see a lower price down the road, contact the airline. Most have some type of fare drop refund that allows you a refund on the difference.
What do you do to save money when you book flights?