What are your favorite tips and tricks for getting the biggest bang for your airfare buck? How do you find the best airfare? When is the best time to book? Have you had luck being upgraded? How do you make the most of frequent flier miles?
Please include any airline details where applicable!
TI am a big believer in www.hopper.com as a good way to follow what airlines are up to. Here is a summary of good tips and tricks:
We've all seen the emails from our favorite airfare site - ‘Flights to New York for $99!’,’Book your trip to Vegas now for only $79!’. Not all advertised cheap offers from airlines or any cheaper than typical low prices on a route.
Airlines start and stop fare sales unpredictably, based on competition or excess inventory, and they are too frequently gone before you even get a chance to look. These sales can sometimes save lucky customers hundreds of dollars, but only if they’re quick enough to grab a ticket before the sale ends.
The tricky thing about identifying sales is how much information you have to watch. With over 600 active airports in the US alone, there are hundreds of thousands of markets to check for potential sales at any given time. By watching prices in real-time across all these markets, and detecting sudden changes in the typical quoted price, we’re able to find sales soon after they start in any market. For example, Figure 1 shows prices for Oakland to Dallas dropping significantly early on Oct 7th:
To get a better idea of when sales are most likely, I've looked at the more than 5,500 sales we identified over a 70-day period (Figure 2). This accounted for over 131 unique origins (83 in the US), and 315 unique destinations (76 in the US).
The most common day for sales to start was early in the week, on Tuesday, followed by Wednesday and Thursday (Figure 3). This is probably because sales are initiated by airline sales & marketing staff. Sales were distributed fairly evenly between business and nonbusiness hours, but looking more closely at time of day, sales are most likely to occur between noon and three, and least likely early in the morning (Figure 4).
While the majority sales happen in the afternoon, Figure 1 is an example of a sale that starts outside of the ‘peak sale time’. On October 7th, at around 5 AM PDT, the minimum price on the OAK-DFW route dropped from ~$140 (blue) to $115 (red). With this sale occurring so early in the morning, (8 AM on the East Coast), it would be difficult discover manually.
Applicable to all airlines / booking websites:
Don't forget to delete cookies after every search. Travel sites often track your visits and will raise the price simply because you've visited before...
Special tip: when reserving seats for two people, choose the aisle and window seats. If no one takes the middle seat, then you get the full row, and if someone does, then just ask to switch seats so you can sit next to your partner.
If you're able to be flexible with your travel dates, try these places:
The Hipmunk app (and website) has great last-minute deals. Just open the app and scroll down to see their best flight deals. Right now on my app I see everything from $81 round-trip flights to Vegas from LAX (an always expensive hub) to $839 round-trip flights to Beijing from LAX.
Also sign up for Travelzoo.com's email list. That's what I do and they send some pretty great deals over every week - if only I could act on them all!
Another thing that I do is I follow The Points Guy on Facebook. They give some pretty great updates on fare deals - that's how I learned about $99 flights to Rejkavik a few weeks ago and the $32 NYC to LAX flights last week! If you're like me and you check Facebook enough you'll get the alerts before they run out.
Hope that helps! Happy travels!
I learned all about "travel hacking" with frequent flyer miles through this Frequent Flyer Master Guide. So my #1 tip would be to start there. It's like Travel Hacking 101 and would answer all of the questions you're asking. The author is in his 30's and has already been to every country in the world. I got his guide a little over a year ago and my husband and I have already booked 3 pairs of international tickets completely on miles - we went to France last summer, Jamaica in December, and will be traveling to Japan and Vietnam this Spring (details on our blog).
I just found this cool website http://www.hopper.com/ which gives you average price points of what other people paid for a similar flight!
Finding Cheap Airfare:
When to book:
I have not found much clarity here, but booking 8 weeks out seems to be a good time. Waiting for last second deals is a possibility if you're flexible. Flying on Tue, Wed and Sat tend to be cheaper.
Being a high-tier member with an airline's frequent flyer program will give you greater priority over lower tiers and the general passenger if they have upgrades available. I'm not a great expert on this one as I tend to maximize my frequent flyer points by choosing more flights over less (but upgraded) flights.
Frequent Flyer Points:
I haven't paid full airfare for a flight in over 3 years, while saving over $40,000+ for myself and $30,000+ for others by hustling the miles and points game. I've also been able to fly business and first class for just the price of taxes and fees. This last year alone I flew to 31 destinations around the world. The retail cost would have been $22,000+, but I only paid $497 out-of-pocket.
It's way too much to explain here, but you can sign up for free training (or the full training package) over at our website. So that I'm not biased, you can also check out blogs like Million Mile Secrets or MileValue who will give you the same information, but broken up and scattered into tons of different blog posts. Either way, if you want to travel hack, any of these places are a good place to start!
I like Trip Advisor. You can see all airfares from many sites using their sites. Aside from this? Airline consolidators are great if you are flying outside of the country. I've found much lower rates there.