Booking a Flight With A Down-to-Earth Price
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Finding the cheapest fare requires research. Here's our updated primer on how to snare a decent airfare.
1. Look at historical data. Several Web sites can indicate whether fares between specific markets are heading up or down. They can also alert you to unusually low fares. For example, Farecast, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2008, tracks fares from nearly 100 domestic cities to domestic and international destinations; plug in your departure and arrival for most major cities at http:/
2. Check with an aggregator. Booking aggregators -- including http:/
3. Go to an all-purpose travel site. The big three (http:/
4. Sign up for instant alerts. Web sites such as http:/
5. Look at airline and airport sites. Go to airline sites to see whether they can match the lowest fare you've found. You sometimes can get extra frequent-flier miles for booking directly, and you'll avoid service fees.
Also, check flight schedules on the local airport sites, http:/
Sign up with individual airlines to receive their e-deals, which offer last-minute fares and are published each week (usually midweek), and go to http:/
6. Check Priceline and Hotwire. Though http:/
7. Be aware of extra fees. Most airlines now charge fees for checked bags, overweight luggage, meals, unaccompanied minors, well-positioned seats, etc. Those fees can turn a cheap fare into an expensive one. The fee schedules can be found on individual airline sites. Also, pages on several general travel sites, including http:/
8. Check other budget sites. A number of sites -- including www.cheapoair.com, h, ttp://www.travelzoo.com, http:/
Each Wednesday, Travelzoo unveils its Top 20 deals, which include airfare specials, packages and hotel bargains. Look on the site, or sign up to have them e-mailed to you.
9. Consider last-minute specialists or auction sites. Check out the packages at services such as Lastminute.com, which offers late-breaking air-and-hotel combos. Although you might not need the hotel, the package price could very well beat the no-advance-purchase fares being offered elsewhere. Or go to a site such as http:/
10. 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. Also, for complicated itineraries, such as an around-the-world ticket, check with an agent who works with consolidators; many consolidators don't deal directly with the public.
Check for an agent's good standing with the American Society of Travel Agents (http:/