One of the most annoying things about travel is exactly that: traveling. I’ll admit that taking rickshaws in India, or riding on sleeper buses in China is bloody good fun. Flying, however, is the most boring form of transportation, but in most cases it has to be done before the fun travel begins. Even more boring than flying is looking up plane tickets to so you can fly to your destination. Flying is an efficient form of travel, but it’s also the most boring, and the most expensive part of the trip. And waiting at the airport is just plane boring. No, that wasn’t a typo. It was a deliberate attempt at being clever.
Before we had Kavya, the initial flights were the only things we would book. Everything else, we winged. We didn’t pre-book hotel rooms, or train tickets. We just showed up and hoped for the best. In most cases everything worked out. The one place we had a spot of trouble was in the city of Bhubaneshwar, where every room had been booked because of some conference. So, we picked up our Lonely Planet and headed off to the coastal town of Puri, a few miles down the road, and got a lovely room right on the beach.
Flights really are the one thing we labor over though because the money we save simply by booking a day or two ahead or behind is pretty significant, particularly when you go to a country where street food costs under $1.
Our upcoming trip to Hawaii this winter is going to be an interesting one because we’re in charge of planning a family trip involving my parents, Sona’s parents and sister, and of course our 1 year old, Kavya. Winter in Hawaii is the high season, a period we usually go out of our way to avoid because it involves much more planning. And in a place like Hawaii, not only do hotels get booked up, so do rental cars. Even inter-island flights. And unfortunately, while me and Sona are down with vagabonding in Hawaii, everyone else has responsibilities, so a lot of it has to be pre-booked.
Anyway, here some travel tips we’ve learned over the years for getting good deals on air fare. Some of it is common sense, while some of it is just knowing how to play the game!
Tip #1: Shop Around
Go to Priceline
Go to Expedia
Go to Orbitz
But be aware that they are incredibly inflexible when it comes to changing your ticket. Once you see a price that you like, go directly to the airline, and book that same ticket. Plug in the flight number and it will sometimes give you a lower price. And make sure you have a mileage card, and/or a credit card that gives you points to use for travel.
Tip #2: Start Looking Ahead of Time
If you can’t be flexible with your dates, at least start looking ahead of time. For a trip during winter, start looking in the summer. Don’t look too early in the summer though. Many companies, like Orbitz, will let you set a price alert so that when a flight you want to book goes to a price you’re willing to pay, you get an email sent to you. In addition to that, most airlines and travel companies have applications you can download to your iPhone as an added benefit.
Tip #3: Search Flights For ONE Passenger At A Time
This is a little obscure of a “rule,” but the way airlines price their tickets is a tiny bit sneaky. If there are two people flying, and one ticket at $200 is available and one ticket at $300 available, guess how much the two tickets will cost? Yep. $600. So, always look for individual passenger searches, so you can better assess the price.
Tip #3: Sometimes a Multiple City Fare Search is A Good Idea
We fly to California several times a year to visit my family. This year we decided to stop by San Diego for a week and catch the Amtrak for gorgeous views of the Pacific Highway, before heading to the Central Valley where my parents live. We found a great deal from Newark to San Diego, and San Jose to Newark for under $400 in the height of summer. Most people assume that it is going to cost more for multiple destinations than it is for a simple round trip ticket. In certain situations, this is true, but very often, it is not. So give it a try and see what happens!
Tip #4: Just Another Manic Wednesday
Wednesday is considered the magic day for booking cheap tickets. The most expensive days to travel (and to book hotels) are Friday and Sunday, although we’ve had some luck with Sundays in the past for both international and domestic travel.
Tip#5: A Slight Contradiction to Tip #4
The reason Wednesday is a magic day is not based on superstition, but cold hard facts. It is a fact that for whatever reason, airlines set cheap tickets on Tuesday at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. So technically, anytime after 3pm on Tuesday is a good time to start looking for airfare. Here is another super duper insider tip: Act quickly on Tuesday and Wednesday because many of these discounted airfare prices are pulled on Thursdays to give the impression that cheap flights aren’t available, thereby getting people to pay much more for flights they buy over the weekend. So, basically whatever you do, do not be chump. Don’t buy your tickets on the weekend. Wait until Tuesday (3 p.m. EST) or Wednesday.