When in Rome you can consider doing as the Romans do. When buying a ticket you should without a doubt do what the experts do. As a travel expert (pats back) I've developed a few essential tips to ensure that you never look back at the person next to you who got a better deal in anger. Oasis anyone? Anyway, we all want to book tickets, we all want the best price but few of us actually lock it in. Make sure you do not one but all of these things before booking your next ticket...
ITA Matrix, SkyScanner, ETC.
I've covered the ITA Matrix in depth. It's a wonderful "power tool" allowing you to search air fare for an entire calendar month with a variety of variables including length of stay, fare class, routings and more. It's my essential go to first look for all bookings and almost always yields the answers as to the best fares and dates for savings. With that said, not every fare is filed on the ITA Matrix, especially flash sales, error fares and other. It's for this reason I highly suggest also simultaneously scoping out sites like SkyScanner, CheapOAir as well as other online travel agencies and of course, the airline directly.
Discounts aren't just for senior citizens, members of the media and airline employees. Many companies or membership organizations offer substantial discounts worth investigating. Organizations like AARP (open to everyone) can save up to $400 on flight bookings. Furthermore professional organizations like industry guilds, insurance companies and interest groups like FoundersCard often bundle savings between 5-25% off all flights with various airlines. Be sure to have a look through your membership card wallet for a program that might save you serious change. Knowledge is power!
Spontaneous? Deal sites.
This post is mostly geared towards the flights with fixed schedules that you plan in advance. Sometimes the greatest deals, fare wars, promo fares or error fares can happen to coincide with your planning! Before going through your standard online travel agency and just booking whatever you find I highly suggest scanning Secret Flying, The Flight Deal, AirFareWatchdog, and the Flyertalk Premium Fare and Mileage Run forums. Sure it's a little more browsing time but considering there have been flights from the US to Europe for under $250, and across America for $99 it's hard to think how mad you'd be if you never even looked!
When Possible, Book Direct With The Airline.
Booking direct with an airline has major advantages, especially when things go wrong or changes occur. If you are able to find a fantastic fare on an online travel agency like Expedia, Orbitz, etc and on the ITA Matrix, try to duplicate it directly on the airline website. Doing so will all but guarantee your ability to earn miles and make changes without having to call five different guys. Sometimes it's even a couple bucks cheaper!
Currency and Location? Savings!
In case you didn't know, in many parts of the world fares are often cheaper if booked from that part of the world. Booking a flight from Hong Kong from a US travel website is almost always going to gouge you and offer a terrible price. It's always worth checking with an airlines local website. For example, there was recently an incredible fare sale/error sale which could only be seen by using the American Airlines Brazil website and not the one local to my area. To change to a foreign version you can usually just change location in the top right hand corner of the website. Alternately just google the airline and the country of interest. Furthermore this can allow you to purchase in a currency which may create serious advantage for those of us in the western world.
Alternate Airports / Cities...
I am a big fan of flexibility. It's a luxury but it can save meaningful money. I just returned home from a trip where I paid the same price for business class from New York to Paris that I would have for coach to London, my final destination. I needed only 9,000 frequent flier miles round trip to book my connecting flight from Paris to London and managed to get hours of sleep in a flat bed on the long haul. Consider looking for acceptable alternate destinations which offer cheap feeder flights. If a connection isn't in the cards at the very least check out the other airports in your city. Sure, I might prefer to fly from JFK in New York but if there is a fare war at Newark between a few carriers representing major savings I can handle an extra half an hour ride.
Insanely Expensive? Miles.
It's never ideal but situations occur when flights are simply too expensive. Enter miles. Because you are not an idiot, no matter what airline you fly you collect miles. Hopefully you've even figured out that you can fly quite a few different airlines and still earn miles on just the one you want to earn with. Keeping a stack of miles large or small can enable you to book a free round trip or at least get you one way amounting in huge savings and in some cases making the trip possible at all.
Book! You're Ready to go!
Many of my tips relate to frame of mind. We all have different needs but there are "best practices". By considering all of these elements before handing over your precious credit card details you can find yourself with savings that can represent a fancy dinner, a special tour or a bigger hotel room. I absolutely adore all of those things. Enjoy.
As Always, Get in Touch: GodSaveThePoints@gmail.com