We’ve all experienced the tiresome, repeated searching when trying to book the cheapest possible flights to any given destination. With endless search engines and continually fluctuating prices, the approach to frugal flight booking is overwhelming. Here’s some key tips that will save you time, frustration and most importantly money when booking your next flight.
When you do find small airlines, even if they are listed in a search engine results, it often pays to check the company site which may reveal exclusive online offers not found in a regular search engine. For example, when flying in Western Canada, I found that Hawk Air, a small and local company offers weekly deals on certain days. Be sure to double check!
Rarely ever do airline tickets get cheaper as your departure date approaches, especially if you need to fly on a certain date. Budget airlines typically offer low rates as a baseline price, and as these tickets sell, the remaining ones increase in cost. This is very typical in Europe and Australia. If you know when and where you’re going, don’t wait on an unknown sale. More often than not, your biggest savings come from booking far ahead when you can.
You can even book your own multi-day layovers, essentially allowing you to see 2 destinations for the price of 1. Rather than spend a day sitting in the airport, you can spend multiple days exploring the city you are laying over in. AirWander is a specialized search engine for doing exactly this. Put in your origin, final destination, and number of days you want to stopover. AirWander will return a list of places you can visit on your stopover, often even cheaper than a regular flight search engine! To learn how to do this, read our guide on How to Get Free Extended Layovers & Hack One Trip Into Two.
Scalping tickets refers to the advance purchase and resale of tickets once an event has sold out. Depending on the supply-and-demand for a given ticket, there is a lot of money to be potentially made in ticket scalping. It is illegal most places, you can easily fund your personal ticket purchases by learning the craft of scalping and selling a few at each sold-out show you attend.
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Unfortunately, while the statistical data surrounding airfare prices can provide insight into when some people managed to land the best deals, it's sort of like playing the lottery. You may be more likely to snag a low price during these forecasted days and times -- the odds are technically higher -- but it's a bit of a long shot. There are simply too many factors in play to truly predict the prices at any given day or time.
Price Isn’t Always Everything: it’s all about what matters to you that determines whether airfare is truly “great” or not. Do you value price over schedule, or schedule over price? Usually, there’s a trade-off. After all, you may get a great deal by doing a three-connection flight littered with redeyes, but unless you really love to fly it may be worth spending the extra money to get yourself there comfortably.
The airfare for your family vacation to Orlando, Fla., cost you $500 a person. Your friend snagged tickets there during the same week for nearly half the price. What gives? It may not be pure luck, according to Rick Seaney, the founder of farecompare.com, an airline ticket comparison site. “There are ways to save on airfare, but you have to know the tricks,” he said. Here, he shares his top ones.
For instance, if you fly frequently with American Airlines and have the habit of purchasing your air tickets directly with them, you could consider getting the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®, a partner card. The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® allows you to earn a welcome offer of 40,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after you've spent $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months and 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 12 months. Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible purchases from American Airlines, gas stations and restaurants. Earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your card year and renew your card. You and up to 4 companions traveling with you on the same (domestic American Airlines itinerary) reservation get your first checked bag free. Additionally, you get to enjoy 25% savings on your eligible inflight purchases on things like food and beverage and headsets on top of skipping the snaking queues via priority boarding on American Airlines flights!
Check low-cost airlines individually. Comparison sites like Kayak don't necessarily do all the work for you. Some low-cost airlines, like Southwest, don't allow their tickets to be quoted on popular comparison websites, Seaney says. So be sure to check them separately. And do your homework to understand what extra charges, such as carry-on or checked baggage fees, might increase the cost of your ticket.
Getting a cheap flight is really about timing. Prices fluctuate heavily and often on all routes. Booking a flight today from London to Bali could cost £600, but tomorrow it could be £300 on the same airline. These unannounced sales – when an airline suddenly drops its prices – are triggered because airlines release tickets 11 months in advance and predict what percentage of tickets will be sold as time moves on. For example, after five months they may expect to have sold 30% of the tickets but if sales are not as high as anticipated, it will announce a flash sale. Prices will plummet (by up to 60% on occasions) for a few days until demand catches up.
Southwest Airlines actually is a pretty good budget airline to fly with. It’s actually my favorite airline to fly with, even if I have to pay a little more to fly with them. They dont charge fees for their first two checked bags nor do they charge fees to change flights. They now offer electronic boarding passes you can scan on your smartphone. They offer complimentary snacks (usually peanuts and some sort of crackers or pretzels) and drinks. They also fly to many major airports especially after merging with AirTran Airlines!
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I’m not sure why it’s a good idea for some, but not others. Certainly there are risks, as I start off the entire discussion by pointing out. But if people do some research, start small, and follow some of my other tips (from today’s post and part 2), then it can be profitable (it’s a career for some!) or at least a low-margin (overall*) MS opportunity. I say overall, because anyone who does this WILL have occasional losses. If someone tries it and finds that the losses outweigh the gains, then they obviously either need to quit or figure out what they’re doing wrong. Again, it is clearly not for everyone, but there are LOTS of people doing it (as anyone who does it knows) and can be a good venture and/or tool.
Lower your prices if necessary. Like so many things in business, there is an element of financial risk in scalping tickets. Sometimes, a show will not sell out near as much as you thought you would. The tickets you are selling may not be quite as demanded as you had hoped for. If you're having bad luck, don't be afraid to lower your ticket prices. If there is no hope of selling them for a profit, you should cut your losses and sell the tickets at face value or below. It will be a defeat, but nowhere near as much as if you let the tickets go to complete waste.
If it looks like the delay is going to cost you more than the airline is offering -- like if you had a non-refundable hotel reservation, or miss a private helicopter ride (look at you!) -- you’ve got 30 days to try and get as much money out of them as you can. But once you put a check into your bank account, you’ve essentially agreed to accept whatever you were offered.