Finding Low Airfares 101
Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Tuesday and I hope you are having a beary safe and great week so far. Yesterday, I started blogging about tips on finding low airfares that I will finish today.
When to use a real live travel agent
There is another way to find a low airfare, and it's one your mother probably used. Pick up the phone and call a local travel agent, the kind with a real storefront. As good as do-it-yourself online sources can be, your friendly neighborhood travel agent may have some tricks up her sleeve to save you money. Let's say, for example, that you get an airfare alert that fares from Houston to Honolulu are $800 round-trip. But who knew that the same trip, same dates from Dallas is $300. Or that you can fly from Houston to Dallas for $100 and connect onward? Travel agents also sell "consolidator" airfares, which are heavily discounted deals (mostly on international flights). These fares come with more restrictions, but can save you money. And they can also find you amazing package deals. "Bricks and mortar" travel agents often charge for their services, but the savings can be tremendous.
Getting a refund when the fare drops after you buy
Several domestic U.S. airlines will give you a full refund, in the form of a voucher good for future travel, if the airfare drops between the time you buy and time you fly—if and only if you fly on the same itinerary. Those airlines are Alaska, Jetblue and Southwest. Some other airlines issue vouchers, but deduct a ticket re-issue fee (thanks to recent fee hikes, now as much as $200 on domestic fares, or $250 or more on international ones). A good place to track price drops: Yapta.com, which works with some but not all airlines (notably missing: Southwest).
Watch out for fees
Once you've found your fare, your job isn't quite done. A low fare on one airline could turn out to be not so low once fees are added on. Airlines are making most of their profits these days not from selling you airfares but with all those fees for baggage, premium seats, and other perks. The fee for an "overweight, over-sized" checked bag to some international destinations on Delta Air Lines can cost (gulp!) $700 round-trip. One airfare website that tries to forewarn passengers about fees when they search is TripAdvisor.com/flights. Do a web search for "airline baggage fee chart" or "airline fees" to be notified of what you might pay. And don't trust airport baggage scales. Weigh your bags at home before leaving for the airport, and bring a portable digital electronic bag scale to make sure you're not being overcharged. Southwest is currently the only airline that doesn't charge for the first and second checked bags (within weight and size limits), and also doesn't charge a fee if you wish to change your travel dates.
Best days to travel
Although a low airfare can pop up at any minute of the week, one thing's for certain: it's cheaper to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Saturday is also a low-fare day. If traveling internationally, Monday to Wednesday is often the sweet spot.
Is there a "magic" hour or day to buy?
It's true that the airlines' weekend deals come out Monday to Wednesday, and some airlines announce their sales early in the week, but if you limit yourself to searching just on those days, you'll miss out. A good fare can pop up literally any moment of the week. And if you search one minute or one day and the fare is way too high, don't despair. Come back an hour or two or a day or two later and search again. Not only do airfares change with the wind, but the number of seats offered at the lowest fares changes as well, based on supply and demand.
Speaking of "when to buy," Bing.com/travel purports to offer accurate airfare predictions, indicating whether the site thinks a fare will go up or down, and it's certainly worth a try, but it's not always accurate. To see if an airfare is currently on the high or low side, do a web search for "historic airfares" to see airfare trends over time on a particular route. Two useful sites: Farereport.com and Kayak.com/trends.
Hope these tips the past two days help you find a great rate for your airline tickets the next time you decided to fly and have a beary safe and great Tuesday!
Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.
big bear hug,