RAFI MOHAMMED: Well, you know, we can’t tell all the secrets, but I’m happy to share some of the key secrets. And it really comes down to uncertainty, and how you deal with uncertainty. And it’s been my experience that the closer you get to an event, whether it’s a rock concert or a sporting event, you see prices go down. And so obviously, if you’re taking a significant other, or celebrating a very important event, or going out with clients, you really don’t want to be sweating it out until the last second and hoping that prices are going to go down.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to save money on flights and lodging that don’t involve eschewing them altogether—life hacks I didn’t even realize existed until I began reporting this story. Like, did you know you can download apps that will alert you the moment the price goes down on that flight you had your eye on? Or that hotels will often offer you better deals on rooms you’ve already booked if you find that room available for a cheaper price after the fact on some other site? The list goes on. And here it is:
When the pre-sale tickets for The Tragically Hip’s final tour went on a sale, many of the fans were shattered after realizing that the tickets, which were sold out instantly, appeared on reseller sites like StubHub at up to 10 times the original price. Similarly, in December 2015, the tickets for Adele’s US tour on Ticketmaster got sold out in a few minutes. Many of those tickets were up for sale on resale sites such as eBay, StubHub, etc., where even the floor tickets cost about $4000. These are just the tip of the iceberg as many such ticketing websites have fallen prey to ticket scalping attack.
Comparison-shop "air plus hotel" promotional deals. Some airfare aggregators and airlines offer "getaway" deals. For one low price, you get a round-trip flight to a European city as well as a few nights' lodging. Given Europe's high accommodation costs — especially in big cities — these can be a good value, though you can expect to be put up in a soulless business hotel.
Stopovers can range from a mere hour to even a full day (or more), so it's really up to you whether you would prefer paying less for your flights in exchange for doing some time at the connecting airport. The biggest issue is that time spent in airports eats into the "free" time you would otherwise enjoy at your final destination. If you do settle for a trip with a long layover, check into sights to see or activities to do near your layover airport. A 10-hour layover might provide the perfect opportunity to visit a famous landmark or explore a new city. To each, his own.
Almost all search engines, airlines, and OTAs allow you to sign up for price alerts. You simply enter your departure and destination cities and when ticket prices plunge, you’ll get an email immediately. You can even set-up your alert to notify you only when an airfare drops below a specific amount. A favorite among travelers is Kayak Alerts and Airfare Watchdog.
"Cheap" is always relative, depending on your budget and needs, but we have a few guidelines in the Traveler office for what counts as a good deal from the U.S. Flights to Europe at or under $400 round-trip are a go. Getting to Northern Africa for less than $500 is a steal. Round-trips to South America at or under $500 are also great, a number that applies to flights to Asia, too. Going farther afield, anything under $1,000 is a stellar deal for southern Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. That said, if you see a flight that's cheap enough to make you want to book, go for it. The "grass is greener, flight is cheaper" mentality of waiting for the least expensive flight will make you miss out on some great (and yes, cheap) flights.
I never give out my phone number in a Craigslist ad for selling tickets and always try to strike up a conversation via email with a potential buyer. Usually pretty quickly you can determine if the person communicates clearly and feels like the type of person you want to “do business” with. If they aren’t, just move on (unless you’re desperate to sell at the last minute – which happens sometimes!).
These days the fan rip-off scheme by ticket scalpers (or ticket touts) who are speculating on a massive demand for the shows has become too common: major shows sell out within minutes and tickets almost immediately are listed on re-sale websites leaving fans frustrated and annoyed buy sky high prices, often the same ticket illegally copied and sold several times or any other sorts of fake event tickets.
Remember that it’s all in the timing. SeatGeek’s Flaherty said that no matter the event, a better deal is likely to emerge the longer you delay your purchase (see “Patience Pays Off,” below). Optimally, the time to act is within 48 hours of showtime, according to SeatGeek’s statistics. “Tickets are perishable goods,” Flaherty explained. “On the resale market, the price typically decreases the closer you get to the event, though you might lose some flexibility, like the ability to get five seats together.”
The New Year is always a popular time for flight sales, so if you're planning to fly in 2019, now could be a good time to book. Before booking a flight direct with an airline though, ALWAYS double-check prices for your route and dates on comparison sites to make sure it's really a bargain (and in some cases it may be worth waiting until all carriers on your route have released tickets).
What I do is show up like 6:50 or 6:55 after doing happy hour at Ember (2 for 1 domestics) for a 7pm game even show up at 7pm. Because, at this point Scalpers are desperate. Last game I went to back in March I got 9th row lower bowl behind the Magic bench for $50 a pop for two tickets. Basically, they asked me what I would be willing to pay and I just said I would pay $100 for 2 tickets, dude said sold.
So that goes back to the notion of value. So I value the certainty of having great tickets to the Rolling Stones or the Red Sox versus the Yankees. So I’m willing to pay a premium just to get that certainty. But much like what you see in life, and in pricing in general, if you’re willing to wait it out and deal with the uncertainty, you can get the best tickets at face value, if not lower, if you wait until the very last minute.
Despite persistent (and conflicting!) myths, there really is no one magic day to book plane tickets. But reliable studies show that one of the best days to buy tickets is Sunday, especially if it's more than 21 days before your trip, and prices on domestic flights dip mid-week, around Tuesday or Wednesday, because there's less demand for business travel.
“I make sure to use incognito mode on Google Chrome when searching for flights to keep my computer from tracking my history. Sites like Kayak, Expedia, and Priceline can raise the price of the same flight every time you search for it, and incognito mode keeps this from happening.” —Mona Molayem, 28, a travel blogger who takes five international trips a year
As an industry leader, with access to nearly limitless data, Ticketmaster can determine fairly precisely just how much fans are willing to pay for every kind of show. Generally speaking, Smith says, artists who charged a lot more for the best 1,000 or so seats would reduce the incentive for scalpers to buy these tickets; it would also allow artists to charge even less for the rest of the seats in the house. Kid Rock told me that on his forthcoming tour, he is planning on charging a lot more than usual for “platinum seating” so that all other seats — including those in the first two rows — can be around $20. “It’s a smart thing for me to do,” he said. “We’re going to make money; I’m going to make money. I want to prove there is a better way to do this.”
Let’s say you’re bumped from a flight, but the airline still manages to get you where you’re going within an hour of the original arrival time. You’ve got no cause to complain, really, other than just being a dick, and you’re not going to see any compensation. BUT, if you arrive between one and two hours past your original arrival time on a domestic flight (or between one and four hours for international), they owe you compensation of 200% of the one-way fare to your destination -- up to a maximum of $675. And for domestic flights arriving more than two hours later, you are entitled to 400% of your one-way fare -- the US Department of Transportation (DOT) requires they compensate you in cash, up to $1,350.