Finding the cheapest fare requires specific research. Here’s a list of tips to find a decent airfare:
1. GETTING DIRECTIONS
Several Web sites can indicate whether fares between specific markets are heading up or down and can alert you to unusually low fares. Farecast.com tracks fares from nearly 100 domestic cities. Plug in your departure and arrival dates. The site makes a prediction and also indicates how sure it is of that prediction. Another good fare-trending site is farecompare.com.
2. CHECK WITH AN AGGREGATOR
Booking aggregators – including kayak.com, mobissimo.com, bookingbuddy.com, farechase.com, yapta.com and cheapflights.com – scan numerous booking sites at the same time and cull the results.
3. LOOK AT AIRLINE AND AIRPORT SITES
See whether they can match the lowest fare you’ve found. You may get extra frequent-flier miles for booking directly, and you’ll avoid service fees. Also, check flight schedules on the local airport sites to make sure you’re not missing a carrier not listed on major booking sites. Southwest, for example, doesn’t sell through third-party providers.
Most airlines now charge fees for checked bags, overweight luggage, meals, unaccompanied minors, well-positioned seats, etc. The fee schedules can be found on individual airline sites. Also, pages on several general travel sites, including kayak.com /airline-fees, have fee charts that cover multiple airlines. Southwest is one of the few airlines bucking the added-fee trend.
5. LAST-MINUTE SPECIALISTS OR AUCTION SITES
Check out the packages at services such as Lastminute.com, which offers late-breaking air-and-hotel combos. Although you might not need the hotel, the package price could beat the no-advance-purchase fares offered elsewhere. On a site such as skyauction.com, you can bid for an airline ticket; just remember that once you buy, you’re stuck with the ticket.
6. TURN OFF THE COMPUTER…AND CONTACT A TRAVEL AGENT
Many charge fees for booking a ticket, but a good agent knows where to look for cheaper fares and can give you pointers on how to find them. Also, for complicated itineraries, such as an around-the-world ticket, check with an agent who works with consolidators; many consolidators don’t deal directly with the public.