Booking a Flight: An Eight-Step Plan
Sunday, February 4, 2007
Airfares change so frequently and are available from so many sources, it's difficult to know where to start when you're looking for the Cheapest Fare Ever.
Our advice: If you go into the process content that a merely cheap fare will do, you'll save your sanity. Here's an updated primer on how to snare a decent airfare.
1. Look at historical data. A new generation of travel Web sites is giving consumers the upper hand when it comes to fares. By examining pricing history, the sites tell you if fares are heading up or down, or alert you to unusually low fares. At http:/
Farecast also recently launched a product called Fare Guard. For $9.95, it will lock in a price for one week, but only for fares it predicts will stay stable or go down during that time. Other sites that offer fare trending include http:/
2. Check with an aggregator. Booking aggregators -- including http:/
Aggregators work in one of two ways: Either you download a program or go to a Web site. SideStep works both ways. You can go directly to its site and plug in your dates, etc. In the downloaded version, the SideStep Toolbar pops up and runs a concurrent search when you're on another site; when it's done, it directs you to where you can book.
3. Go to an all-purpose travel site. The big three ( http:/
4. Look at individual airline sites. Go to airline sites to see whether they can match the lowest fare you've found. You can often get extra frequent-flier miles for booking directly with the carrier, and you'll avoid the service fees on some of the all-purpose and aggregator sites (as well as the fees charged by some airlines if you call their reservations numbers). Note that some discount carriers are not widely represented among the discounters and aggregators.
Sign up to receive the airline e-deals that pop up each week (usually midweek), and download such features as Southwest Airlines' Ding, which provides instant notification on your computer of special fares. And go to http:/
5. Check Priceline and Hotwire. Though http:/
6. Check other budget sites. A number of sites -- including http:/
Each Wednesday, Travelzoo unveils its Top 20 best deals, which include airfare specials, packages and hotel deals. Look for them on the site or sign up to have them e-mailed to you.
7. Consider last-minute specialists or auction sites. Check out the packages at services such as Site59 ( http:/
8. Turn off the computer . . . and contact a travel agent. Many charge fees for booking a ticket, but a good agent will know where to look for cheaper fares and can give you pointers on how to find them. Check for an agent's good standing with the American Society of Travel Agents ( http:/