[HOWTO] Get The Lowest Airfares Online

Category: Travel

Finding the lowest airfare for your business or vacation trip takes a bit of cunning. It also helps to use specialized online search tools. But sometimes getting the lowest airfare has more to do with timing than tools. Here's what you need to know before booking your next flight, in order to get the lowest fares possible. I also have some nifty online tools for flyers. Read on...

Want to Book a Cheap Flight? Here's How..

First, book your flight well in advance; at least two weeks before departure. You would think that airlines would drop the price of unsold seats as the departure time nears; after all, the risk that the seats will go unsold is increasing with each passing minute. But in reality, travelers will pay more when they have to fly on short notice. A family emergency or urgent business deal compels travelers to pay whatever it takes.

Avoid flying during peak times. Most business travelers fly on Mondays and Fridays. Many pleasure trips are booked on weekends. So if at all possible, you should fly on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday to get the lowest airfare.

According to a study done by FareCompare, Friday and Sunday the most expensive days to travel, and the best time to find a cheap flight is Tuesday at 3pm Eastern. Yes, they actually found that shopping on a Tuesday will yield the best deals on airline tickets, and that most discounted airfare deals disappear by Thursday. You can find some other interesting tips from travel insiders at the FareCompare site.

Cheap Airfare

Flying early or late in the day can also save you money. So-called "red-eye specials" are the earliest flights of each day, and they can be much cheaper than flights that depart at a decent hour. Be aware of the different airports near your destination and departing point. Typically, flights are more expensive out of the busiest airport in an area. It may be worth your while to drive an extra hour to a lesser-used airport.

Accept layovers to get the lowest airfare. Everyone wants non-stop flights, and they're priced accordingly. Connecting flights may leave you killing a couple of hours in some second-tier airport, but they can save you significant cash overall. Just hope that your luggage changes planes with you.

Online Flight Search Engines

Does it matter whether you book your flight through Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz, or another online ticketing agency? It does, but not in any consistent way. One of these sites will pick up deals that another misses, but coverage varies randomly. (Did you know that Expedia Inc. owns Hotwire, Orbitz, TripAdvisor, BookingBuddy, SmarterTravel, SeatGuru, and a few other travel sites?) The best thing to do is compare the best deals from all of the major ticketing sites simultaneously. That's where travel search engines come in.

Google Flights uses a unique calendar-based approach to help you figure out which departure day would save you the most money. Google Flights will also tell you the average legroom, and if Wi-Fi, in-seat power and on-demand video are available on your flight. An Android app will check the current price of your “saved itinerary” at any time, and if the price drops dramatically Google will send you an email alert. You cannot buy a ticket directly via Google Flights, but it does provide you with direct links and phone numbers to the airline(s) so you can book and pay for the flight without involving a middleman markup.

Kayak is one travel search engine. It lets you input your travel criteria just once, then it searches multiple ticketing agency sites for you. Kayak can also set a price-reduction alert after you book your flight, which will notify you any reduction in the fare that occurs after you book. You may be able to take advantage of such savings.

Hipmunk is an airfare price comparison tool you might find useful. Results appear on a single-page timeline that makes it easy to understand the tradeoffs between various flight options. Another interesting feature of Hipmunk is the ability to sort results by "Agony." The agony factor is based on a combination of price, flight duration, and number of stopovers.

AirfareWatchdog is another tool you may find useful. It lists low fares that their community of users find and verify. You can sign up for free city-to-city fare alerts, or "Anywhere That's Cheap" alerts, if you just want to get away, and you don't care where.

During the booking process, check with SeatGuru to find out which seats are the best seats on the plane, which are the ones to avoid, based on seat width, leg room, power outlets and other factors. If you're a business traveler with a laptop, this is especially important.

And although I can't confirm this, I've heard that you should delete your cookies before going back to an airfare site that you've used before. Apparently, they will raise their prices if they can tell you're a regular. Using the Private Browsing or Incognito feature of your browser should have the same affect. And some studies have found that shopping for airfare or hotel accomodations on your mobile phone will yield a lower price than the same searches on your desktop. That's an easy test.

Remember that airfare is only one component of a trip's cost. Many travel sites offer bundled deals on air travel, hotels, care rentals, and destination attractions. The money you save on the ground may be more than the cost of your airline tickets.

More Online Tools for Flyers

Okay, your trip is planned, and the departure day has arrived. You drive like a fool to the airport and then, you wait. But for how long? If you're flying from or to an airport in North America, Uncle Sam has some stats that may help to answer that question. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics has detailed information regarding airline punctuality. To find out how likely you are to encounter a delay with your airline, check the Transportation Statistics website.

If you make it through the security checkpoint without setting off any lights or buzzers, you can proceed to the gate, and wait some more. The Federal Aviation Administration has a website that offers data on arrival and departure delays at most major airports. A graphical display shows green, yellow, orange and red dots to indicate how long you may have to wait in the airport, or on the plane for take-off and landing. View Arrival & Departure Delays online.

Are you meeting a friend or business associate at the airport? Track a flight, with this graphical real-time monitor that shows the flight path on a map, along with the aircraft's altitude, speed and estimated arrival time. Try the FlightAware Flight Tracker.

Got any tips on finding low cost airfares, or dealing with the hassles of flying? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "[HOWTO] Get The Lowest Airfares Online"

Posted by:

Big Brother Tom
23 Jul 2018

Another thing to consider in 'cheap' is the parking rate. For instance, Albany is $6/day, while NYC is more like $30, (or even higher, if you are forced to use short term parking, as happened to me recently!)

Posted by:

23 Jul 2018

I always check Monomondo as they have a very graphic way of showing which days are cheapest in and around the date you have chosen. Usually we are flexible on our dates for vacation and this does save money. Also you can limit which airlines it will check out.

Posted by:

23 Jul 2018

Here's a favorite of mine for finding carriers and cost options for trips: skyscanner.com

Posted by:

Dave in Indy
23 Jul 2018

The one thing I can't stand when researching airfares, are the sites that make you click on other travel sites to get the best deal. Stuff doesn't get to me, normally but that does. I go elsewhere. Srsly.

Posted by:

Kenneth Heikkila
23 Jul 2018

I may be a bit of a fanatic, but I also check the airline websites which often offer the same deals and occasionally a better deal after I look at Kayak and Trip Advisor and the sites they link to.

Posted by:

Steinarr Gudmundsson
23 Jul 2018

A great app to keep your travel details in one place is TripCase. It keeps you informed if your flight is delayed and reminds you to check in online, if possible.

Posted by:

24 Jul 2018

Another source of helpful information on security lines at the airport is an app for your phone called MyTSA. It will tell me how much of a wait is is for security so I know if I need to plan more time in line.

Posted by:

Alan Dickey
24 Jul 2018

One airline, Southwest, has it's own Website and offers some of the lowest cost flights to just about anywhere in the country. You can't look them up on any of the travel Websites.

Posted by:

Malcolm Howell
25 Jul 2018

If you have made fare enquiries with any airline, delete all your cookies before you do another fresh travel enquiry. The Airlines DO raise their fares, if they know you have previously been sniffing around them or other airlines. Airlines are a devious bunch when it comes to making money.

Posted by:

28 Jul 2018

"(Did you know that Expedia Inc. owns Hotwire, Orbitz, TripAdvisor, BookingBuddy, SmarterTravel, SeatGuru, and a few other travel sites?)"

TripAdvisor is not owned by Expedia. While it is true that Expedia once owned TripAdvisor, TripAdvisor was spun off from Expedia in August 2005.

TripAdvisor does own SeatGuru and SmarterTravel.

Posted by:

06 Oct 2018

"Rome2Rio" (https://www.rome2rio.com/) gives you all possibilities for getting where you want to go - air, train and bus - in a very easy-to-understand format.
"OneTravel" (https://www.onetravel.com) is easy to use and good presentation. Also, it once gave me a flight that was not advertised anywhere else - I got one from Hawaii to Victoria BC that never even showed up on the company's website when I looked for their choices for that trip.

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