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Tips and Tricks in the Quest of Searching for Cheap, Low-cost Airfare

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airfare_loading.jpgThe Winter Christmas Holiday is long gone. Many people, like me, were not able to go on vacation to a warm tropical resort, a cold high-rise city, or just a small town with old friends and family. Not to fear, summer is just on the other horizon! Spring break just passed and many people are starting to plan their summer vacations.

What about my summer vacation? I don’t have any cash. I would like to go to the Barizo Family Reunion but it’s too expensive! One thing I’ve learned about travel is that you have to be savvy when looking for cheap airfare. Below are a couple of tricks I’ve found successful in getting a great deal on a plane ticket.

Week or Days from Departure

When flight is within weeks of departure, use Priceline especially if it is a last minute trip. This site is an offer site. You tell Priceline where and what day you want to go. Then make an offer. Priceline will submit your offer to airlines for approval. Many airlines will accept dirt-cheap offers at the last minute because its better to take a low offer and fill a seat than to leave the seat empty. It takes Priceline about 15 minutes to see if your offer has been accepted or rejected. Now, this offer is legally binding. You have to pay if they accept it. If the airlines reject it, you are free to make a higher offer and repeat the procedure.

One or Two Months from Departure

airfare_morning.jpgWhen flight is within a month or two of departure, use HotWire. Like Priceline, you specify your dates and they decide the airline and time. I’ve found that this site has always given me the cheapest price on airfare when I needed a quote.

Additionally, you can try the airfare watchdog. Just recently, I’ve discovered this service and I have been extremely impressed. Inconsistent with most bargain airfare prices like Priceline and Hotwire, you can actually specify the date, time, and airline. Basically, these are real live people looking for hot airfares to and from various cities around the US. The only caveat is that there are uncertain expiration dates for the airfare sales and most of the time you cannot find a flight past the upcoming season. So in this case, the really early bird does not get the worm! For example, if I find a hot deal to Las Vegas, that deal may not be available in a couple of days and I cannot take advantage of that sale for a flight in the fall. I’ll have to check back with airfarewatchdog in middle of the summer for deals in the fall.

Plane Ticket Prediction

If departure is several months into the future, price prediction may prove helpful. Farecast is a relatively new company with a groundbreaking concept. This company takes airline data and predicts the best time to buy airfare. It even claims to predict the ball field price. That is quite a claim to make! Farecast was featured in many notable and prestigious publications such as Time Magazine, PC World, BusinessWeek, and Popular Science. Given that credibility, I think that it is worth a shot. I’ve tested it out but I have yet to see if this helps me in any way. So far, it’s given me bad price predictions. Maybe they should read my palms. 🙂

Direct Cold Calling

airfare_aisle.jpgAnother option is to directly call each airline. Call late from Tuesday evening to Wednesday Morning. Around midnight is when most airlines release their discount deals. This competitive pricematching usually happens after the weekend airfare hike. By noon, I hear these discounted fares are already taken. Call early so you will be the first in line. Keep in mind the differences in time zones. Since American Airlines is stationed in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX. Call 12:30am Central Standard Time.

Also check with Southwest Airlines. They are known for having inexpensive fares. However, they are also known for not sharing their database with cheap plane ticket sites! You will not find them on most third-party comparison sites. You’ve got to go to the source.

Comparison Sites

Some sites claim to search all of the airfare sites. I do this to rule out any other places that I neglected to check. The most popular ones are Qixo and SideStep. So far, I have not been able to find a decent deal worth taking advantage of. But, at least you have peace of mind that you checked everything you could.

International Flights

When flying international, its a whole different ball game. All the ones mentioned above are marketed towards domestic US flights. Discount Fares specializes in international flight. One year, we bought a couple of round trip tickets from San Antonio, TX USA to Manila, Philippines for only $800!

I hope these trips are helpful in finding great airfare deals. Comment about your experiences and if you have any tips to share as well!

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Posted on Thursday, April 5th, 2007

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