1. Have patience. It takes effort to get a good price on flights. Now don't be put off, as saving more than $ 100 on flights can mean having more money to spend on tours, hotel, restaurants, tours, etc. This means that if you want to travel in the spring, you should start checking prices in late fall or winter. Sometimes there are last minute deals, but more often than not you will find the best deals at least 21 days before your departure date.
In the early hours of the morning (around 9:00 a.m. and in the evening after 6:00 p.m.), I like to browse travel websites to see if deals are available that day. I also like to delete my browser history and cookies, as sometimes travel websites and airlines will remember your search, which could cause prices to go up.
My favorite website is Skyscanner. One of the great features of this website is that you can check what is the best price for the day for traveling worldwide from the airport of your choice. For example, I live in Toronto, so I'm going to enter flights from Toronto (YYZ) to Everywhere. This is a great feature as it will tell me where that day, what date, what month, etc. is the cheapest for me to fly anywhere in the world. (I recently used this site to help me get tickets for my trip to Seoul, South Korea in April. Other airlines charged between $ 1,000 and $ 1,500 + for flights to Seoul, but Delta had a promotion and I was able to get roundtrip flights for only $ 850 CAD / $ 770 USD with the exchange rate.)
Another cool feature of Skyscanner is that you can enter your destination and travel dates and sign up for "Price Alerts" so that they will send you an email if the price goes up or down for your travel dates specified. (My sister just used this feature to help her catch a flight to Edmonton, Alberta, to travel in May. Prices for one-way tickets were around $ 300 to $ 400 and she was able to get it for $ 269 CAD.)
Another website that I like to use is Expedia. Each day they will show travel deals available for the main national and international tourist destinations. They will also include special offers for "Flight + Hotel". This helps me get an idea of the average cost, for example, a 4 night trip to Las Vegas. Let's say the price of the flight and hotel in Vegas for 4 nights on the Strip is $ 500 to $ 600 per person from Toronto, I like to try to keep an eye on offers equal to or less than that price – that's how i know i save money and get the best price.
However, one thing about Expedia is that the advertised price is not always available. If I look at their flight offers for last minute getaways, I might see round trip tickets to Miami for $ 250 CAD (from Toronto), but once I click on the offer, it can say the price went up to $ 350 CAD instead. This is not always the case, but it does happen sometimes, which is something to keep in mind.
The other websites I like to use are: Kayak, Redtag, Sunwing, Bing Flight Predictor and Airfarewatchdog.
2. Check the airline's direct website. While these third-party travel websites can be excellent, the best non-advertised deals are sometimes found directly on the airline's website. I recommend that you subscribe to promotions by e-mail offered by your preferred airline. For example, since I live in Canada, I am enrolled in Air Canada travel promotions. This allows me to see the special offers available as soon as they are posted on the Air Canada website.
I really wanted to spend a weekend in New York with my sister last February to celebrate her 21st birthday. In addition to checking third party websites, I would also play with dates by entering the trip into Air Canada. They didn't advertise this offer, but I was able to find direct round-trip flights from YYZ to LGA for $ 199 CAD. It was a lot that I was so happy to discover via Air Canada. Sometimes the airline's website also offers promotional codes, so it's worth taking a look at.
3. Check departures / arrivals from other airports. It is not always convenient, but sometimes many large cities have more than one airport or have another airport nearby in another city. For residents of Toronto, we have Pearson Airport which offers domestic and international flights and Billy Bishop Airport which offers selected flights to Canada and the United States. There is also the option to cross the border and fly from Buffalo Airport. It is almost always cheaper to fly from Buffalo Airport than Pearson or Billy Bishop. But the downside is that most (if not all flights) are not direct and you will have to pay for parking, as most people leave their cars at the airport during their trip. Flying to Buffalo is always a last resort for me, as it's a 90-minute drive from Toronto (you have to factor in fuel costs) and depending on the length of your trip, the Parking charges can bring this discounted flight to or around the same cost as the flight would have been had it taken off from YYZ or YTZ. However, there are sometimes significant savings to be made in taking off from Buffalo, which will certainly be worth it. (When I took over corporate corporate travel during my previous job, last minute trips were frequent and if a group of 2 or more people was to travel to the States United States, the flight from Buffalo saved the company over $ 300- $ 600 + per plane ticket.)
This can also be said not only from the departure airport you choose, but also from the arrival airport. For example, when you fly to NYC, there are basically three airports where you can choose to arrive: LGA, JFK or EWR. Sometimes you can get a better price when arriving at one airport compared to the other. However, one thing to keep in mind is the trip from the airport to your hotel. If you take public transportation, you can get to Manhattan from LGA for as little as $ 2.50 by bus and subway. However, it's a bit more expensive to get to Manhattan from EWR because you have to take New Jersey in transit and then switch to the Manhattan transit system. If you take a taxi, the prices to go from each airport to Manhattan may vary. This is an important point to keep in mind and I recommend that you do your own research before traveling.
4. Follow airlines and third party travel websites on Twitter (social media) and join their mailing list. One of the great features of social media is that airlines can use it to advertise special travel promotions via certain social media. Sometimes an airline offers a special promotional code on its Twitter or Facebook page that is not advertised on other websites. West Jet offers Blue Tag Thursdays, which is a special promotion that is only offered on Thursday afternoons (except if they have another special race during this period). You can find it on their website or watch it on their Twitter or Facebook page. When they subscribe to mailing lists from third-party or airline websites, they sometimes send private promotional offers to their subscribers that give you secret access to their sale.
5. Don't be afraid to book your flight and hotel separately. Sometimes you can get a lot on sites like Expedia when you bundle your vacation and book flights and a hotel at the same time, but that's not always the case. If you see an exceptional offer on a flight, book it now, don't wait! You may be able to find a better price on the hotel later. I also recommend that if you actually see a lot on a flight, please book it now, rather than waiting until later the same day. Let's say you see a lot on a flight to San Francisco in the morning, but wait until you get home from work to buy the tickets, it may not work to your advantage.
I'll give you an example: I grew up in San Francisco and I was looking for flights to come back and visit (it was October 2012), but they cost around $ 600 and I wanted to wait for a better price. A few weeks later, Delta had a sale and offered flights from Toronto to San Francisco for CAD $ 437. It was an unbelievable price, given that all I saw was $ 600 and up in the previous weeks, so I didn't wait and buy the tickets immediately. I checked later this afternoon to see if the deal was still in effect and if the price had climbed to $ 600. I highly recommend booking when you see a price that you think is a lot, as it may disappear sooner than you think.
Sometimes, if you book multi-city flights, it may be more cost-effective to book them separately than to go with the same airline. For example, last summer (June 2013) I wanted to fly from Toronto to Las Vegas, then from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, and finally from Los Angeles to Toronto. I spent about a month and a half checking prices daily to get the best deal. I was finally able to get a sale from Air Canada for flights from Toronto to Las Vegas and from Los Angeles to Toronto. I waited for the reservation of the US domestic flight from Las Vegas to Los Angeles because Air Canada obviously did not offer it and the prices were around US $ 100 for this one way flight at the time. About a week later, I was on Southwest.com and saw that they had a "Getaway" offer for $ 49 USD for the flight I needed to LAS to LAX. It was a lot, so of course I booked right away. My multi-city plane ticket ultimately cost $ 515 in total. (YYZ to LAS and LAX to YYZ cost me $ 466 CAD and the southwest flight from LAS to LAX cost $ 49 USD).
6. Know what time of year and which days are the cheapest to fly. Traveling on Tuesday and Wednesday is generally cheaper than any other day of the week. (Generally, searching for mid-week flights also produces the best deals). From experience, I also find that Thursday and Saturday can sometimes offer the best price. Of course, this doesn't happen all the time and you will have to experiment with the dates, which is why Skyscanner is great for deciphering the cheapest day to go and return. The days that tend to be the most expensive are Monday, Friday, and sometimes Sunday. Airlines know that most business trips are from Monday to Friday, which is why it is usually more expensive to leave on Monday and return on Friday. However, business travelers started flying Sunday instead of Monday in the hope of getting a more affordable rate, but that doesn't always work. Getting the cheapest departure date of the week depends on the flexibility of your travel dates.
The time of year also helps. It is generally cheaper to travel to Europe in low season and mid season (late fall, winter and early spring). Last year (2013), my parents went to Paris in April with direct return flights with Air Transat from Toronto for $ 671 each. It is not the best price I have seen, but it was certainly the best offer at the time for round-trip non-stop flights. Traveling during the off or shoulder season is not always negative. Sometimes, due to bad weather, you may not want to travel during the off-season, but generally the low season is less crowded and offers better prices.
I find that right now (early spring), it's a little more expensive to get to Las Vegas (about $ 400- $ 500 CAD) because most people like to go there during the spring before the weather does get too hot during the summer months. (I compare this to the flight deals I saw last winter for around $ 350 CAD.) It is always wise to check what is happening during the dates you wish to travel to a particular destination. Sometimes a holiday or a large conference meeting could increase the rates. I always suggest setting the average price of flights to your preferred destination and then monitoring the price fluctuation.
7. Save money on your luggage. Most airlines now charge you $ 25 each way to check in your luggage. And they will charge you extra if your baggage exceeds the weight limit of the airline. You can avoid this by packing light and making sure your baggage does not exceed the limit (check with the airline to confirm the weight limit and checked baggage prices). Also, if you are going on a short trip, consider sharing checked baggage with your travel partner (s). This can save you $ 50 on travel costs, as it costs $ 25 each way to check in your luggage.
If you are going on an even shorter trip (weekend trip), remember to bring only hand luggage and forget the checked baggage. Most airlines allow you to bring a small amount of liquids on board the aircraft. If you are going for a quick weekend, you may be able to get away with a simple piece of hand luggage. I did this for my trip last month to New York. I went to my local dollar store and bought a small travel pouch containing clear plastic containers. This allowed me to bring shampoo, conditioner, facial cleanser, night / day cream, foundation, etc. This also included self-adhesive labels, so I knew what everything was. I realize that this is not practical for everyone, but for a 2-night trip, I much prefer to spend $ 1 for the travel bag to Dollarama then $ 50 for checked baggage. This also saves me from having to wait to retrieve my checked baggage when retrieving baggage.
8. Shop around for travel / health insurance. I always recommend taking out travel or (additional) insurance for your trip, but sometimes you don't get the best price when you select the insurance package offered by the airline when you book your flights. Usually, your work insurance will offer some type of travel or health coverage while on the go. Talk to HR if you're not sure. You can also take out insurance with your bank – this is where I tend to find the best prices. It will also pay off in the long run if you plan and travel multiple times during the year. (Rather than paying insurance every time you book a flight, you may be covered by your bank or other location for the year for a fixed amount.) If you are over 40 (or have a history) health problems), I recommend purchasing additional health coverage (even if you are already covered by work). Unfortunately, we can never predict what could happen while traveling, and if, God forbid, something happened, you will be glad you took out additional health insurance. It is something that is unique to each person, so I cannot tell you which is the best option, it is something that you need to discuss with HR, your bank and your family in order to see which is the best choice for you.
9. Avoid paying for seat selection (if you can). Some airlines ask for an additional fee to make a seat selection in advance, sometimes this is included in the price – if it is, it's perfect, but if you have to pay around $ 20 to make a seat selection in advance, I would pass. You can usually check in early (24 hours before flight departure) and choose your seat for free. You may be able to get the seats you want or not. It is a coincidence. If you don't have a preference on where to sit or are willing to take the risk, then avoid paying the extra fees for seat selection in advance.
10. Take advantage of travel reward programs. There is so much competition between airlines and credit cards today, so sign up for their travel reward programs. Talk to your bank and find out which travel reward credit card best suits your needs. Many of them allow you to collect points on your daily expenses so that you can redeem them for free flights. Some of these credit cards have stipulations, such that you can only book flights through your bank, or there are travel ban dates. However, due to the large amount of travel reward credit cards available today, they are improving and you can find one that does not contain any of these stipulations. This means that you can use your points to redeem flights anytime, anywhere. Sometimes these cards come with a small annual fee, but the rewards are worth it.
The same goes for airline loyalty programs. The more you travel with a single airline, the more loyalty points you earn. This works great for business travelers, because while their company is paying for their trips, they can accumulate loyalty points so that they can redeem them for their personal vacation trips. Some companies even allow employees to book their own flights and then submit receipts for reimbursement. This allows the employee to earn points on their travel reward credit card in addition to loyalty points.
I hope these tips will help you when booking your next vacation or trip. Please note that these tips have worked in my own experience, but may not work for everyone. The main thing to keep in mind is that the key to getting the best deal on your flights is to have patience and be flexible with your travel dates.