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Home / General Travel Tips /
Finding Cheap Airfares

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Finding Cheap Airfares

by Lorry Patton

Getting a cheap flight is not complicated. It just takes a little time and a little effort.

GENERAL RULES ARE:

  • Book in advance (anywhere from one week to three weeks)
  • Stay over a Saturday
  • Travel on slow days (usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays)
  • Go to the destination during off-season (winter in Europe, Hawaii in summer)
  • Travel on red-eyes (late flights)
  • Don't fly direct (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, is usually cheaper than Vancouver,Toronto.)
  • Travel coach fare (business and first class can be twice or three times as much)
  • Be flexible with your dates so you can take advantage of seat sales. (Most of the time seat sales are only for a few seats on the plane and for certain dates. For example, you have to leave on Tuesday and be back on a Tuesday within a two week window).

LESSER KNOWN RULES ARE:

* ASK FOR THE LOWEST FARE. The reservation clerk won't say unless you ask. Give her several dates so she can get some prices up on the screen.

* Let the airline know your are WILLING TO BE BUMPED to the next available flight when you are at the airport in case they over book. Besides getting you on their following flight, they will give you a cash discount voucher for a future flight.

* Offer to GO STAND-BY when they tell you the flight is sold out at the lowest fare. If you don't have any connections to make and don't mind hanging around the airport, chances are you'll get on.

* RETURN FLIGHTS ARE CHEAPER THAN ONE-WAY TICKETS. So if you are driving from New York to Seattle with a friend and need to fly back home, say your departure is Seattle and choose any date to come back from New York and when the time comes ignore the ticket. Remember, if you say your departure is New York and you don't show up at the airport your return portion is automatically canceled.

* CHARTER FLIGHTS are CHEAPER then conventional flights; most include lodging and are called vacation packages. Note: Packages are based on two people traveling. Charter flights also offer one way tickets for flight only.

* TOUR PLANNERS and Tour Operators BUY BLOCKS OF SEATS or lease planes to certain destinations. Some airlines have a tour division with packages of their own. Some tour planners own their own planes (Charters). When they don't fill the seats on certain flights, they offer them to the public at discounts via radio, TV, and in the newspapers.

* If you can CHANGE YOUR DEPARTURE AND ARRIVAL GATES and have time to spare, you can save lots of money. For example: Flights from Vancouver, Canada to major cities in Ukraine are over $1000. Flights to Berlin are under $700. You can take a train to Ukraine from Berlin for a lot less than the $300 savings. And the bonus is you see another country in the process.

* Another example of changing gateways is US travelers living in Seattle wanting to go to New York can cross the Canadian border and fly from Vancouver to Montreal using Canadian dollars and then taking the train to New York from Montreal.

* If you don't have a destination in mind, be aware that FLYING ACROSS THE WORLD IS CHEAPER than flying within your own country. Especially during off season.

RARELY KNOWN TIPS

* Before security checks became so important it was possible to buy tickets from passengers who changed their plans or only used a one-way portion of their tickets. Now the tickets have to match the name on the passport. Some domestic airlines, however, don't ask for matching ID. If you book in using the name on the ticket and it's of the same sex, you might get by, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it and I certainly would not feel secure.

* Some companies offer travel certificates-- buy one ticket and get one free. Occasionally, it's part of a giveaway if you sit through a sales presentation such as for a time-share package. I would be leery of purchasing this type of ticket without first checking to see if the airline honors it. Give the airlines a call or go to the home page of the airline. Occasionally, the airline has its own promotions, bonuses and incentives.

* Look in the paper to see if a physically-challenged passenger wants company or assistance. Often family members will offer to pay a portion of your ticket. On occasion, companies want packages (legal documents) delivered in person and are willing to pay for the service. If the flight is an emergency because someone died, call the airline and ask if they have any special fares for emergency flights.

ACCUMULATE POINTS QUICKLY

* Sign up for an air miles reward program and start accumulating air mile points. Don't use your points when their is a sale, instead let the points mount up by paying for that flight. It's a cheap way to accumulate thousands of air miles for a minimum cost.

* You can also increase the points quickly if you pay with a card that also offers air mile rewards. For example. Show your Air Miles card at Safeway Stores, but instead of paying cash, pay with a card that also offers awards and double your points. Use the double or triple coupons that come in the mail each month and you triple your points.

FIVE STEPS TO THE CHEAPEST FLIGHT FROM ANYWHERE TO ANYWHERE

1. If your destination is not to or from a major gateway like Paris, New York or Sydney, go to an online Encyclopedia and upload a map on the destination. Make note of the closest major city in the next closest country.

2. Call several major airlines to get their best rates on your destination and the rates on the next best city. Ask if they offer charters or have a tour package division.

3. Call railroads that service across countries like Eurail and Britrail and ask for rates to and from the next best city. For Eurail and BritRail fares call 1.800.361.7245. for Amtrac Railroad in the United States call 1.800.872.7245. For VIA RAil callers from Canada call 1.800.561.8630. Callers from United States call 1.800.561.3949.

4. Now armed with figures and info, call your local travel agent and ask what deals are available. Share the information you have to save time and explain you are looking for the cheapest possible fare. Jot the prices down in your notepad.

5. Go online and key in any major airline booking site and compare prices. Go to the airlines home page and see if they have any better deals.