Remember the days when you had to goto a travel agency to book a flight?!
A LOT has changed thanks to the Internet, but airlines are hoping you don’t don’t discover their sneaky tricks that mean you’ll end up paying more for your next flight. My travel hacking online courses delve deep into how to save money on flights, but here’s the basics to get you started…
The sweet-spot for advance booking is about one month prior to departure. If you book earlier or last-minute, the prices will almost always be higher.
For flights within your country (domestic), Saturday is usually the cheapest day to depart.
For International flights outside your country, Tuesday is usually the cheapest day to depart.
If you find a good price online, take a screenshot immediately! Airlines often cookie your browsing history so they know when you return to their site with the same flight search! If the price has gone up, call the airline customer service and tell them you have a screenshot of the lower price. Often, they will honor the original price!
Use www.Kayak.com, Skyscaner.net and Google Flight Search to do a general search of flight prices. This will give you an overview of the range you can expect to pay. Remember, somel airlines (such as Southwest) don’t participate in these sites, so it won’t be a comprehensive search.
Repeat the search, but widen out to include nearby airports. For example, if you usually fly from JFK, this time add LaGuardia and Newark as departure options, because it’s possible you might find a flight that’s significantly cheaper. Do the same thing with your arrival airport. Some cities allow you to search all the airports in the region by using a special 3 letter code. For example, to search all of the New York airports, use: NYC. To search all airports in London, use: LON.
Here are some other popular codes that encompass all airports in the city:
SAN FRANCISCO: QSF
WASHINGTON DC: WAS
SAO PAULO: SAO
Use www.Skiplagged.com to see if there are any hidden city flights available. Note, this is only relevant if you are traveling with a carry-on case, NOT with checked luggage. A hidden city flight is a flight that goes via a city you want to goto.
For example, suppose you want to travel from Los Angeles to New York. American Airlines might offer a flight from Los Angeles to Boston via New York, that’s cheaper than other airlines prices from LA to New York. The reason this happens is because of how airlines use hubs. If American has to fly through their New York hub to get you to Boston, they still have to try and compete with other airlines that fly the route direct.
That price discrepancy represents a great opportunity to save money, as long as you don’t need to check bags (because all bags will be checked to the final destination, and you’ll need to get off the plane at the first stop).
ALWAYS compare the cost of an economy class ticket with business or first class. It’s shocking how many times the premium fares are only very slightly more than the economy. The bonus points and miles that come with the premium ticket make it a no brainer if the price difference is nominal.
Before selecting your seat, check SeatGuru to make sure you choose the best available seat.
Be aware of the 24 hour rule that benefits you if you make a flight booking in the United States. U.S. Department of Transportation regulations require that, as long as you’ve booked a non-refundable ticket 7 days ahead of your flight, you’re entitled to change or cancel your reservation within 24 hours of booking, without paying a fee.
Note that some airlines are more generous than the law requires, and they allow you to cancel a flight booking made within 2-7 days of departure, within 24 hours of booking. So for example, if you make a booking on Thursday for a flight that departs on Saturday, you may (depending on the airline) be able to cancel the ticket on Thursday or Friday. If you want to take advantage of this benefit, for example to book a flight but keep your options open for 24 hours to find a better deal, check with the airline before making the booking about their cancellation policy.