How to Buy Cheap Airline Tickets
By 38 co-arthors
With an influx of studies about the best time to buy airline tickets, search engines that aggregate the prices of dozens of travel websites, and airlines accommodating the strained wallets of most people post-2008 economic downturn, booking cheap airline tickets is easier than ever. Keep reading for detailed information on how to take advantage of all of the tools at your disposal to ensure that you get the best deal on your vacation. To get as much bang for your buck, you'll have to start planning months in advance and secure refunds if a ticket price dips below what you paid for.It is always advisable to shortlist two to three destinations and work towards the one which offers savings in all aspects
Plan in advance and sign up for email alerts about low-fare deals. To ensure you get the best deals, you should know at least 3 months in advance that you want to take a trip somewhere.
If you have a specific destination in mind, sign up for a low-fare alert from Yapta or AirfareWatchdog. Make sure you include nearby departure and arrival airports when you sign up -- you might get more emails, but it'll be well-worth the savings in cost.
- If you don't have a specific destination in mind, sign up for email alerts about the cheapest tickets from a particular departure airport (and any nearby airports).
AirfareWatchdog also organizes the best prices for flights from a particular city and to a particular city, so you can prepare the most cost-effective, multi-destination itinerary.
- AirfareWatchdog has real people, not computers, vet deals they hear about to ensure that the sales to which they alert customers are actually worthwhile.
Know the best time in advance to book tickets. According to studies cited by The New York Times, international flights have been the cheapest 3-5 months in advance, but there is variation among different regions. Domestic flights are a bit trickier to pin-point, but it's a good idea to start searching 3-4 months in advance and see if they get any cheaper week after week -- there have been studies indicating a 6-weeks-in-advance sweet spot for domestic flight booking.
Know when airfare prices are typically the lowest. Airlines generally release sales for specific routes Monday night because they want travel agencies to catch wind of sales early in the week. Deals are then matched by competitors Tuesday morning. Therefore, your best shot at these deals is by searching for flights Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon or evening.
- Keep in mind that fares will be highest on the weekend. Airlines know that's the most convenient time for people to think about vacation plans, so they markup their prices then. Sales released early in the week are also gone by the weekend. Moreover, airlines don't manage their inventory as much on the weekend because they have fewer staffers on hand -- so if a few tickets sell for a specific route, prices will automatically jump higher because computer algorithms perceive an increased demand.
- It's a good idea to do a cursory search for specific routes of interest on several days of the week (including weekends) at least a before you are planning to book, so you have an idea of how much the tickets cost. That way, you can identify a sale when it appears.
Use aggregator sites to search for fares. There are simply too many different airline and travel websites for you to make individual queries in each one, so use Software by Google. It not only aggregates dozens of airline and travel websites to give you the best price, but it also has a low-fare calendar so you can see which are the cheapest days to travel in a 30-day period. You can also easily include nearby airports in your search.
- Not every airline/travel website is included in ITA Software, so you may want to visit favorite airlines separately. Also, if you know that a certain airline operates out of a particular destination or specializes in certain routes (e.g., Southwest for flights in the western U.S., Hawaiian Air for flights in the Asia-Pacific, etc.), you may want to make those searches separately to make sure you're not missing the best deals.
- AirfareWatchdog allows you to make searches at individual sites with just a few clicks. Search for a flight, and a box will pop up asking you which sites you'd like to visit. Each logo or link you click on will open the search in a new window.
- According to FareCompare, the cheapest day to fly is Wednesday, followed by Tuesday and Saturday. Friday and Sunday are the most expensive -- naturally, as many seek weekend getaways. But this can vary among destinations and months, so use a low-fare calendar to be sure you're getting the best price.
Clear out your cache and cookies in between airline searches, especially on different days or weeks. Otherwise, old prices will sometimes display in lieu of new ones, and you may miss out on the best price.
Note: This article appears as part of a college assignment in ITP104 at the University of Southern California. \