If you’ve looked for a flight recently, you may have experienced sticker shock. Gas prices are not only impacting the price you pay at the pump. Gas is impacting the price of airfares. Here are some tips to find lower fares.
Setup an airfare alert
Finding cheap flights really is a game. You need to be ready to play the game to save money. Playing this game isn’t that tough. Let a computer program keep tabs on flights by setting up airfare alerts. I did this recently, and cashed in on a deal that almost seemed too good to be true.
I was searching for August flights from Hartford to Cleveland. The nonstop flight was close to $400. Last summer it was $300. I refused to pay $400, so I was going to stick my mom on a cheap Southwest flight with a connection. I set up an airfare alert, and on a random Wednesday I saw an unlisted fare for $229 with all the taxes and fees. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a mistake, but it wasn’t. $229 for a nonstop flight is a fare I haven’t seen in several years. So, the deals are out there. You just have to know when to look and where to look. Let an airfare alert program do the work for you.
Kayak makes it easy to figure out if you’re buying a flight when it’s on its way up or down. On Kayak, click “Show Fare Chart” to see the history of prices. It will show you the absolute best fare and average low fare over the last month. You can also set up a price alert on Kayak.
With Bing travel, the site predicts whether it’s a good or bad time to buy the flight and Bing’s confidence level. This only works if you pick a city that Bing can predict, but most major U.S. cities are included.
Orbitz offers Deal Detector. It allows you to choose targeted cities and dates. You’re alerted when the price drops below a price you set. While you may want to pay $200 for a certain flight, set the deal alert at a price you’re willing to pay so you’re alerted when the price begins to drop to a respectable level. If you set the alert too low, you may miss a good deal because you’re in search of an incredible deal that may never happen.
Airfarewatchdog is a great site to find cheap, often unadvertised rates for flights. This is where I found the $229 unadvertised flight. You can setup an alert for a departure city, arrival city, or city to city route.
Farecompare allows you to set a travel route and the site will watch it for you. You can choose flexible dates or specific ones.
Yapta is another site that lets you track flights. If you use the search engine, it will remind you of Kayak since it’s powered by Kayak. Once you search a fare, you can click on that route and track the price drops.
I like the fare alerts to save on junk email. Your other option is to sign up for alerts from the airlines, but this can lead to a lot of email unless you only fly one carrier. If that’s the case, you’re probably not a deal hound. Email is just one way carriers advertise rates. Twitter and Facebook are also becoming common methods. That’s too much for me. I keep it easy, and setup an airfare alert.
Search multiple sites
Even with an airfare alert, you should search on your own from time to time. Make sure you search on many sites. Some airlines are no longer on some aggregate sites over disputes. So, check aggregates and the airline itself. Remember, some airlines like Southwest have never been part of aggregate sites.
When you’re searching, search one way tickets and roundtrip. Sometimes, you can get one way tickets on different airlines cheaper than a roundtrip.
When you setup the airfare alert, select multiple cities if this is an option for you. An investigation for NewsChannel 5 found you can save hundreds of dollars if you are ready for a road trip before your flight. Sometimes that road trip isn’t that far.
I analyzed flights for eleven cities in June, July, and August departing from Cleveland, Canton/Akron, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. I put Cleveland into a head to head matchup with the alternative airports. Out of the 33 routes, Cleveland had a handful of the lowest fares. Pittsburgh, Canton/Akron, and Detroit always had the most low fares.
With gas and tolls if you’re headed to Pittsburgh, the fare probably has to be about $100 cheaper to make financial sense to make the hour and 45 minute drive. It’s over two hours from the west side. $100 savings were not that hard to find, so look.
Also, be flexible with the days you are willing to travel. Travel mid-week to save money.
Fed up – try a low price guarantee program
A lot of sites now guarantee the price you pay is the lowest. Every site calls it something different. If you are flying a common route say to a big city like New York, Boston, or Las Vegas it may be worth it to book when you find a respectable price hoping that you’ll be alerted under the low price guarantee. You need to read the site’s terms and conditions. Every site has a different policy.
Expedia’s best price guarantee only works if you find a lower flight within 24 hours of booking your flight. The travel dates need to be the same. Expedia will refund the difference plus give you a travel coupon worth $50. The $50 is a coupon for a future booking of an Expedia Special Rate hotel or air plus hotel package.
Orbitz offers price assurance. You get a cash refund for the difference in the fare you pay and the one someone else booked if it’s lower and is the same itinerary as yours. The amount ranges from $5 to $250 for an airline ticket. Your check arrives six to eight weeks after your trip.
Price assurance is probably only a good idea if you’re flying a common route say to Las Vegas on a Thursday through Sunday. That’s a trip I would say might be worth rolling the dice for the low price guarantee, because it’s likely someone else will book that same flight. I’d only use this service after I looked at flights for awhile and setup fare alerts to no avail.
You can always Priceline a ticket, although you need to be very flexible and patient if you use this service. While you can save a lot of money, sometimes it’s not worth it because you may have a very long layover. With so many different flight combinations, it is hard to predict the airfare you’ll get for a bid price. I like Priceline a lot better for hotels. There’s a lot less risk.
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