Below are some great resources for finding a good airfare. If you haven’t done so already I highly recommend that you read over the tips for finding airfares. After that you can work through this step-by-step process to find the best prices on tickets. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to find and book an airfare yourself, then please contact me so that I can do it for you for a reasonable fee ($35 per ticket domestic, $50 per ticket international).
Step 1: Search for fares on the best aggregators which are search engines that search multiple websites at the same time. Although there is a lot of overlap in the search results you should consider using all three below, because each one searches a different set of websites and is continuously adding new sites to its search list. Using these three is the easiest way to cover a massive number of airfare sites in a short amount of time.
KAYAK.com is by far the best aggregator to start with. It almost always finds the best deals, and it has some great search features. For instance immediately after you fill in your flight requirements but before you actually click the search ‘button’ to the right you can see fares other people are getting for the same itineraries on different departure dates. Take it a step further with flexible dates by clicking on ‘flexible’ next to ‘Depart’ and ‘Return’ and then using the drop down box to indicated how much flexibility you have. This finds you the best fares available for the dates that work for you. I once saved almost 50% by moving my departure date by one day! You can also request daily or weekly email alerts with price changes if you sign up with them which is relatively painless and quite useful. Great for searching for rental cars and hotels as well.
Wego.com is another really great aggregator. It doesn’t have the same great search features as Kayak, so Kayak is still the best place to start, especially if you have any flexibility in your travel dates. But sometimes Wego can find better prices than Kayak for the exact same flights. Money is money! However, beware of any quotes from CheapoAir which is one of the many sites they search, because there seems to be lots of complaints about them on the internet.
Skyscanner.com is a smaller aggregator, but it is growing in popularity and sometimes can find more esoteric routes that might not be covered by the larger aggregators above.
Momondo.com is a newer aggregator based in Europe that sometimes beats its competitors above. Again however, beware of using any quotes from CheapoAir.
Step 2: Once you have found a cheap airfare on an aggregator site you should also go to the airline’s website to check the fare there directly. Occasionally it will be lower. You could even take it a step further and do a search on Google.com for ‘promotion codes’ along with the name of the airline. If you are lucky you might find a code that fits your itinerary and can be used on the airline’s website for an additional discount.
Step 3: After checking with the aggregators, then it’s always best to see if the aggregator searches didn’t include a great budget airline flight. Some budget airlines do not allow themselves to be listed with aggregators. Southwest Airlines is an example.
Whichbudget.com tells you which, if any, budget airlines fly the route you are looking for. It doesn’t give you specific prices, but it is easy to go to the airlines’ websites and find the fares yourself. Sometimes the savings are substantial, especially for international flights. (Tip: Some budget airlines, particularly non-U.S. ones, often have very expensive luggage weight overage charges, so buyer beware!)
Step 4: Here are a few other useful websites to consider.
TripIt.com is an online travel organizer for both personal and business trips. You can easily set up a trip and start forwarding your emailed travel confirmations from the airlines, hotels, car rental companies, etc. TripIt will automatically organize the information into a master itinerary for your entire trip that can easily be updated as time goes on. For true road warriors, the paid version of the service also gets you text messaging about flight delays, the ability to see alternate flights with open seats when there is a snag, tracking of frequent flyer miles and hotel points, and automatic sharing of every trip with key people such as your spouse or assistant.
Flyertalk.com has multiple active forums dedicated to topics such as learning how to maximizing your accumulation of frequent flyer miles via special offers by credit card companies and other and other ongoing programs, finding the best deals on airline tickets whether using your own money or airline points, finding the best hotel deals around the world, and many other ways to help you work the ‘system’ in general when it comes to finding travel deals.
Points.com is a FREE SERVICE that allows you to easily track and manage all of your airline points with different carriers all in one place. It gives you the ability to trade or swap miles between different rewards programs which can allow you to take advantage of a free flight (or hotel or whatever) more quickly, and it also helps you find different ways to more quickly earn miles through various special programs that get introduced sporadically. A really great service!
Yapta.com stands for Your Amazing Personal Travel Assistant, and it alerts you when a particular fare price goes down. This can help you the most before you actually buy your ticket, but it can also help you afterwards. If you purchased your ticket directly from the airline and the price goes down then if the price difference is more than the rebooking fees involved you can get refunded with a travel voucher for future use. For a $15 fee Yapta will even do the legwork for you.
Bing.com is the latest rendition of Microsoft’s search engine, and when you do airfare searches in its travel section it will predict whether the given prices will go up or down in the upcoming days. Supposedly the predictions are about 75% accurate, and they also claim that customers will save over $50 on the typical round-trip purchase. Unfortunately only certain U.S. cities are covered at this time. It claims coverage for Canadian cities as well, but I did not see any when I tried them last.
SeatGuru.com is owned by TripAdvisor and can tell you which are the best and worst seats on all the planes of most airlines. If you have the option of picking your seat ahead of time then this can be a really great resource, especially for those longer flights. If you can’t tell what kind of plane it is then just call the airline with the flight information to ask them. When you are researching the seats on SeatGuru hover your mouse cursor over the individual seats and brief reviews will pop up for you to read.
usaca.com is the website for the United States Air Consolidators Association which is a professional organization that requires certain standards be met for membership. Consolidators purchase tickets, mostly international, in bulk at wholesale prices directly from the airlines and then resell them for a profit but often at a much lower price than the published fares. USACA doesn’t include all the reputable consolidators (beware that some are less reliable than others), but it is a good place to start. Other great places to find consolidators are in ethnic communities whose travel agencies often specialize in tickets to the countries that many in the community came from. Just make sure that the organization is legitimate by at least checking with the Better Business Bureau and with any professional travel organizations that it claims to be a part of. Likewise, be aware of what the restrictions are. For instance some consolidator fares don’t allow frequent flier miles to accrue, and some have severe penalties for changes or cancellations. Always ask.
Priceline.com allows you to bid on airfares, but you can only specify the dates of departure and return. Before bidding you must agree that your flights can leave anytime between 5 a.m. of the requested date and 2 a.m. the next day! For this reason alone I would not use Priceline for flights (still good for hotels and rental cars though) unless I were going on a very long trip where losing a day or two on the front end and/or back end wouldn’t bother me too much. And even then the savings would need to be substantial, because you also don’t get to choose the airline(s) nor do you receive any frequent flyer miles. However, if you are this flexible then it is a good way to possibly get a great deal. Just be sure to first shop around some of the big aggregator sites to get a feel for pricing. It makes no sense to pay the same amount or more for airfare due to the reasons given above. For additional tips and strategies you can visit BidonTravel.com.