There is no secret formula for getting the lowest possible fare every time you purchase. However, there are avenues to ensure you at least come close to that elusive, budget-friendly fare. I’ve compiled a list of apps and sites I use to research and purchase award travel and cash purchased flights.
First, I ALWAYS check Google Flights. If you’re using chrome, all you have to do is type in the flight route you’re looking for, like DCA to ATL, and you’ll instantly get results. You can now set flight notifications that will automatically go to your gmail account when prices change for the dates and destination(s) that you choose. It will give you the best snapshot of how much your airfare will likely cost and allow you to keep track of the prices changes without actually going to the URL every time.
Travel Pro Tip: Clear your browser before searching for airfare each time. Airlines will cookie your browser and when you search for the same flights multiple times they will raise the price.
There are a few airlines that will not show up on Google Flights or other research sites like Expedia, Kayak, etc. That includes Norwegian Air, Southwest, sometimes Icelandair, and other international based carriers. Use Momondo, Hopper or Skyscanner to make sure all available airlines are included in your search. When you do find the flight you’d like, NEVER book from a 3rd party site. Always book directly with the carrier. You’ll avoid any associated fees and have more flexibility should you want to upgrade your seat or use award travel later on.
Travel Pro Tip: Stay away from Basic Economy Fares!!!!! Beware when purchasing flights from many US based carriers. They have introduced a new low-end fare which does not give you a seat assignment until you get to the gate (hello middle seat at the back), you must pay extra for all your luggage including your carry-on, you cannot change your ticket and you won’t get award miles. Read the fine print when purchasing a ticket and spend the extra $20 to get the next fare up. For more info check out our blog post: Basic Economy Fares: What You Need to Know
Tips & Tricks
- To get better deals on airfare, be flexible on your dates and destination if possible.
- The best days (typically) to purchase airfare is a Saturday or Sunday.
- Try searching in another currency. Sometimes the same flight from Los Angeles to Sydney will be cheaper in Australian dollars.
- Search as one person. Airlines have specific prices associated with each seat. If you search as 4 people it will automatically find 4 fares that are the same price and they will not be the cheapest.
If you don’t have an award travel credit card, GET ONE!!! I’m not talking about a specific airline card, which pigeon-holes you to one carrier, rather a travel points card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Check out the Best Travel Credit Cards.
I am a frequent United flyer because their international award flights are competitively priced. For example, if you wanted to fly round trip from DC to Croatia, you can do so for 40k miles. Most airlines would charge twice that. If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you can transfer your miles to your United account and book from there.
To really save some cash when going overseas to Europe, fly/drive/train to NYC or Boston and catch a direct flight on a low cost carrier like Norwegian or newcomer Primera Air. Right now, you can book a round-trip ticket from EWR to Paris or London for just $200 for travel dates starting in April 2018 on Primera air! They recently ordered 8 Airbus A321’s from Boeing with really nice looking economy comfort seats. Don’t expect much else in way of entertainment though – just bring your iPad with you!
So.. what are you waiting for???
Travel Pro Tip: If you want to stay on top of amazing flight deals as they come up, I recommend following The Points Guy on Facebook. That’s how I discovered Primera Air.