November 20, 2008

traveltip: fairer air

Travel is my vice. But I don't think I would ever be able to travel the way I do if it weren't for ferreting out deals on the internet. Remembering a time 15 years ago when you just called an airline and booked a ticket without shopping around is baffling to me in todays terms. So I'm going to try to post some basics about how and what I do to make my travel possible. Today I'll ramble about finding airfares. And these are only my opinions based on my experience - I'm not saying my ways are the best ways.

For searching flights, I have found to be the best search engine. For one, you don't book from kayak, and I like that - instead they search all the other sites like Orbitz and Expedia, etc as well as the airlines own sites - and send you to those if you click purchase. It also saves your searches, so you can go back many times and check the latest fares with just a couple clicks. Airfares can change several times a day. If you're searching round-trip, be sure to search flexible dates (if you have that flexibility) - fares can be cheap one day and expensive the next. Once the search results come up, use matrix mode. That way you can also note if an airline you prefer might be just a few dollars more - that could be worth it to you. The sliders on the left are pretty handy too - if all the flights showing up are at 6am and you want to see how much the difference is for flights after 10am, just slide those bars and your results update. If you really wanna get deep into it, click on 'charts' to see comparison of dates and prices, but that gets pretty detailed. There are lots of other options to play with on Kayak, spend a little time playing around with them and you'll get a feel for what is helpful to you and what to ignore. You can easily ignore all of them and still get great searches. Once you pick a fare, go check on that airlines own website. Very often I find that may save you five or ten dollars, but sometimes much more (as well as sometimes be much more expensive). Also note that Southwest doesnt show up on Kayak. There is a link on their site though if you want to check them. I rarely find Southwest to be cheaper than other airlines and their terminal in LA is a nightmare, so I rarely fly them. Its good to be aware of airlines extra charges nowadays. USAirways charges for everything - every bag, every this, every that - even water. I don't even bother with them anymore if I can help it. American, United and Delta arent much better, so its worth checking their baggage fees on their websites. If you plan on checking one bag, you might be adding $50 to your fare. Suddenly that may make them more expensive than an airline that doesn't charge extra. Finally, check your search a few times over a couple days. Its a bit like gambling - you might lose that cheap price you once saw, but prices go up and down often. Just because a flight goes up doesn't mean that it won't come back down. Most airline websites will allow you to place a 24 hour hold on a flight before purchasing (at the last step it will offer 'purchase' or 'hold') - this is a good safety measure, but isn't an option for all flights. I also often find more seats available and cheaper prices after Midnight or 1am. This may be coincidence. I once read it was because of seats put on hold that didn't get purchased getting released at Midnight. Whether thats true, I have no idea. So... that was a lot of rambling and it seems like I've barely covered anything, so I'll expand airfare to a couple more posts over the next couple weeks. I want to cover Frequent Flyer miles (the last several years, all my holiday travel and international travel has been covered by using miles); and I'll also hit last minute travel as well as my favorite airline.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I use Kayak too...great site...hopefully the next tip will be where to get the money to do all that traveling!!