1. Be patient. It takes effort to get a good price on flights. Now, don’t let that put you off, because saving more than $ 100 on flights can mean having more money to spend on sightseeing, hotels, restaurants, excursions, etc. This means that if you want to travel in the spring, you should start checking prices in late fall or winter. Sometimes there are last minute deals, but most of the time, you will find the best deals at least 21 days before the departure date.
First thing in the morning (around 9:00 a.m. and at night, after 6:00 p.m.) I like to browse travel websites to see if deals are offered that day . I also like to delete my browser history and cookies, because sometimes travel websites and airlines will remember your search and this could actually cause prices to rise.
My favorite website is Skyscanner. One of the best features of this website is that you can check to see what is the best price of the day to travel worldwide from the airport of your choice. For example, I live in Toronto, so I will enter flights from Toronto (YYZ) anywhere. This is a great feature because it will tell me where that day, what date, month, etc. it is cheaper for me to fly anywhere in the world. [I used this site recently to help me get tickets for my trip to Seoul, South Korea in April. Other airlines were charging $1,000-$1,500+ for flights to Seoul, but Delta was having a promotion and I was able to get round trip flights for only $850 CAD / $770 USD with the exchange rate.]
Another great feature of Skyscanner is that you can enter your destination and travel dates and subscribe to “Price Alerts” to be sent an email if the price rises or falls for the specified travel dates. [My sister just used this feature to help her get a flight to Edmonton, Alberta for travel in May. Prices for one-way tickets were around $300-$400 and she was able to get it for $269 CAD.]
Another website that I like to use is Expedia. Every day they will show available travel offers for the main national and international tourist destinations. They will also include special packages for “Flight + Hotel”. This helps me feel what the average cost is, for example, a 4-night trip to Las Vegas. Let’s say the price of the flight and the hotel to Las Vegas for 4 nights on the Strip is $ 500- $ 600 per person from Toronto, I like to try to be attentive to the offers that are equal to or less than this price, this is How do I know I’m saving money and getting the best price.
However, one thing about Expedia is that the advertised price is not always available. If I’m looking for last-minute getaway deals, you might see round-trip tickets to Miami for $ 250 CAD (departing from Toronto), but once I click on the deal you can tell the price has increased at $ 350 CAD. This is not always the case, but sometimes it does happen, which is something to consider.
Other websites that I like to use are: Kayak, Redtag, Sunwing, Bing Flight Predictor and Airfarewatchdog.
2. Check the direct website of the airline. While these third-party travel websites can be great, sometimes the best unannounced deals are found directly through the airline’s website. I recommend subscribing to the email promotions offered through your preferred airline. For example, since I live in Canada, I signed up for Air Canada travel promotions. This allows me to view special offers available as soon as they are posted on the Air Canada website.
I really wanted to take a weekend trip to New York with my sister last February to celebrate her 21st birthday. In addition to consulting third party websites, I would also tinker with dates when entering the trip on Air Canada. They didn’t announce this deal, but I was able to find direct round-trip flights from YYZ to LGA for $ 199 CAD. It was a great deal that I was so happy to find through Air Canada. Sometimes the airline’s website will also offer promo codes, so it’s worth checking out.
3. Check departures / arrivals from alternative airports. This is not always convenient, but sometimes many major cities have more than one airport or have another airport near them in another city. For Toronto residents, we have Pearson Airport that offers domestic and international flights and Billy Bishop Airport that offers select flights within Canada and the United States. There is also the option to cross the border and fly from the Buffalo airport. It is almost always cheaper to fly from the Buffalo airport than Pearson or Billy Bishop. But the downside is that most (if not all flights) are non-direct and you will have to pay for parking since most people leave their car at the airport while traveling. Flying out of Buffalo is always a last resort for me, because it’s a 90-minute drive from Toronto (you must consider fuel charges) and, depending on the length of your trip, parking costs can take that discounted flight up to or around the same cost that the flight would have had if it had left YYZ or YTZ. However, there are sometimes significant savings when flying from Buffalo, which will definitely make it worth your while. [When I handled the company corporate travel at my previous job, last minute trips happened often and if a group of 2 or more needed to travel to the USA, flying out of Buffalo saved the company upwards of $300-$600 + per flight ticket.]
This can also be said not only for the departure airport you choose, but also for the arrival airport. For example, when you fly to New York, there are essentially three airports you can choose to get to: LGA, JFK, or EWR. Sometimes you can get a better price when you get to one airport over the other. However, one thing to consider is the journey from the airport to your hotel. If you take public transportation, you can get to Manhattan from LGA for just $ 2.50 by taking the bus and subway. However, it is a little more expensive when you get to Manhattan from EWR because you have to take the New Jersey transit and then switch to the Manhattan transit system. If you are taking a taxi, the prices to get from each airport to Manhattan may vary. This is an important point to keep in mind and I recommend that you do your own research before traveling.
4. Follow airlines and third-party travel websites on Twitter (social media) and sign up for their mailing list. One of the great features of social media is that airlines can use this to advertise special travel promotions through certain social media. Sometimes an airline will offer a special promo code through its Twitter or Facebook page that is not advertised on other websites. West Jet offers Blue Label Thursdays, which is a special promotion offered only on Thursday afternoons (unless they have another special race during this time). You can find this on their website, or see it advertised on their Twitter or Facebook page. By subscribing to a third party or airline website mailing lists, they sometimes send private promotional offers to their subscribers that give them secret access to their sale.
5. Don’t be afraid to book your flight and hotel separately. Sometimes you can get a great deal on sites like Expedia when you bundle your vacation and book flights and hotels at the same time, but this is not always the case. If you see exceptional treatment on a flight, book it now, don’t wait! You may be able to find a better price at the hotel later. I also recommend that if you actually see a lot on a flight, book it now, rather than waiting until later that day. Let’s say you see a lot on a morning flight to San Francisco, but wait until you get home from work to buy the tickets, this may not be an advantage for you.
I’ll give you an example: I grew up in San Francisco and was looking for flights to return and visit (this was in October 2012), but they cost around $ 600 and I wanted to expect a better price. A few weeks later, Delta made a sale and offered flights from Toronto to San Francisco for $ 437 CAD. This was an incredible price, considering that everything I was seeing was over $ 600 in the previous weeks, so I didn’t wait and bought the tickets right away. I checked later that afternoon to see if the deal was still alive and the price had risen to $ 600. I highly recommend booking when you see a price that you consider to be a great deal, because it may go away sooner than you think.
Sometimes, if you are booking flights from multiple cities, it may be more cost-effective to book them separately than going with the same airline. For example, last summer (June 2013) I wanted to fly from Toronto to Las Vegas, then from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, and finally from Los Angeles back to Toronto. I spent about a month and a half checking prices daily to get the best deal. I was finally able to get a sale through Air Canada for flights from Toronto to Las Vegas and Los Angeles back to Toronto. I waited to book the US domestic flight from Las Vegas to Los Angeles because Air Canada obviously didn’t offer this and prices were around $ 100 for this one-way flight at the time. About a week later, I was on Southwest.com and saw that they had a “Get Away” deal for $ 49 for the flight I needed from LAS to LAX. This was a great deal, so of course I booked immediately. My entire airfare from multiple cities ended up costing $ 515 in total. [YYZ to LAS and LAX to YYZ cost me $466 CAD and the Southwest flight from LAS to LAX cost $49 USD].
6. Know what time of year and what days are cheapest to fly. Traveling on Tuesdays and Wednesdays is generally cheaper than any other day of the week. (Generally, searching for midweek flights also produces the best deals.) From experience, I also find that Thursday and Saturday can offer the best price sometimes as well. Of course, it doesn’t happen all the time and you’ll have to experiment with dates, so Skyscanner is great for figuring out which day is cheaper to leave and return. The days that are usually more expensive are Mondays, Fridays and sometimes Sundays. Airlines know that most business trips are made Monday through Friday, so it is often more expensive to depart on Monday and return on Friday. However, business travelers have started flying on Sunday instead of Monday in hopes of getting a more affordable fare, but this doesn’t always work. Getting the cheapest departure date for the week, of course, depends on the flexibility of your travel dates.
The time of year also helps. It is generally cheaper to fly to Europe out of season and in the shoulder season (late fall, winter, and early spring). Last year (2013) my parents traveled to Paris in April with direct round-trip Air Transat flights from Toronto for $ 671 CAD each. This is not the best price I’ve seen, but it was definitely the best deal at the time for nonstop round-trip flights. Traveling during the off-season or shoulder season is not always negative. Sometimes due to bad weather, you won’t want to travel during the low season, but generally the low season is less crowded and offers better prices.
I think right now (early spring) it’s a little more expensive to fly to Las Vegas (around $ 400- $ 500 CAD) because most people like to go there during spring before the weather is too hot in the summer months. [I am comparing this to flight deals I saw this past winter for around $350 CAD.] It is always wise to check what events are happening during the dates you want to travel to a particular destination. Sometimes a holiday or large conference meeting can increase rates. I always suggest determining the average price of flights to your preferred destination, and then watching how the price fluctuates.
7. Save money on your luggage. Most airlines now charge you $ 25 each way to check your luggage. And they will charge you extra if your luggage exceeds the weight limit of the airline. You can avoid this by packing lightly and making sure your luggage doesn’t exceed the limit (check with the airline to confirm the weight limit and checked bag prices). Also, if you are going on a short trip, consider sharing a checked luggage bag with your travel partner (s). This can save you $ 50 in travel costs, as it costs $ 25 each way to check your luggage.
If you’re going to take an even shorter trip (weekend trip), consider carrying only carry-on luggage and forget about checked luggage. Most airlines will allow you to bring a small amount of liquids on board the plane. If you’re just going on a quick weekend trip, you might be able to escape with just a carry-on bag. I did this for my trip last month to New York. I went to my local dollar store and bought a small travel bag with clear plastic containers. This allowed me to bring shampoo, conditioner, face wash, night / day cream, foundation, etc. It also included stickers to let you know what it was all about. I realize this is not practical for everyone, but for a 2 night trip, I would rather spend $ 1 for the Dollarama travel bag and then $ 50 for a registered suitcase. It also saves me the trouble of waiting to retrieve my checked baggage from the Baggage Claim.
8. Compare travel / health insurance. I always recommend getting travel or health insurance (extra) for your trip, but sometimes you don’t get the best price when you select the insurance package offered through the airline when you book your flights. Generally, your work insurance will offer some form of travel or medical coverage when you travel. Talk to Human Resources about this if you are not sure. You can also buy insurance through your bank; that’s where I tend to find the best prices. This will also be profitable long term on your plan and you will travel multiple times throughout the year. [Rather than pay for insurance each time you book a flight, you can get covered through your bank or alternative place for the year for a set fee.] If you’re over 40 (or have a history of health problems), I recommend buying additional health coverage (even if you’re already covered by the job). Unfortunately, we can never predict what might happen while traveling, and if, God forbid, something happened, you will be happy to have purchased additional health insurance. This is something unique to each person, so I cannot tell you what is the best option, it is something that you should discuss with HR, your bank and your family to see what is the best option for you.
9. Avoid paying for seat selection (if you can). Some airlines request an additional fee for early seat selection, sometimes it is included in the price; If that’s the case, then great, but if you have to pay $ 20 or so to make an early seat selection, I’d approve. You can usually register early (24 hours before flight departure) and select your seat for free. You may or may not be able to get the seats you want. It is a success or a mistake. If you have no preference over where you sit, or if you are willing to take the risk, avoid paying the additional fee for early seat selection.
10. Take advantage of travel rewards programs. There is a lot of competition between airlines and credit cards today, so sign up for their travel rewards programs. Talk to your bank and see which travel reward credit card works best for your needs. Many of them allow you to accumulate points in your daily expenses so you can redeem them for free flights. Some of these credit cards have stipulations, such as that you can only book flights through your bank, or there are blocked dates to travel. However, due to the large number of travel reward credit cards on offer today, they are improving and you can find one that does not contain any of these stipulations. That means you can use your points to redeem flights anytime, anywhere. Sometimes these cards come with a small annual membership fee, but the rewards are worth it.
The same goes for the airline’s frequent flyer programs. The more you fly with an airline, the more frequent flyer points you will accumulate. This works great for business travelers because while your company pays for your trips, they can accumulate frequent flyer points so they can redeem them for their personal vacation trips. Some companies even allow employees to book their own flights and then send receipts for reimbursement. This allows the employee to earn points on their travel reward credit card in addition to frequent flyer points.
I hope these tips help you when you book your next vacation or trip. Please note that these tips have worked in my own experience, but may not work for everyone. The main thing to keep in mind is that the key to getting the best deal on your flights is to be patient and flexible with your travel dates.