The Internet has been the most significant revolution in the travel industry since the advent of commercial air travel. Consumers, once at the mercy of airlines and travel agents, now have the ability to plan their own travel arrangements, compare prices, research destinations, read countless first-hand reviews, and even bid for airline tickets and hotel accommodations on auction sites. The impact on travel costs has been dramatic. The old travel industry adage that no two travelers on any given flight had paid the same price for their tickets has been rendered largely obsolete, as greater consumer access to information has had a general leveling impact on ticket prices. Using inflation-adjusted figures, air travel is now cheaper than it has ever been. Nevertheless, many travelers still pay more for their travel needs than the need to. Here are a few tips and tricks that will help you find the greatest possible airfare bargains.
1. The day and time of purchase can have a significant impact on ticket prices. Every night at midnight, airlines reload their reservation databases with available seats that had been reserved but were not paid for. For that reason, it is best to conduct your search in the wee hours of the morning. This is one of the reasons that, in the past, travel agents had access to better airfares than the general public. Today, however, you can search for these tickets yourself on any of the major travel sites (Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire, etc.)
2. As with all service industries, convenience usually costs more. For example, a weekend getaway may be significantly cheaper if you are willing to fly on Saturday and return on Monday than if you needed to leave on Friday and return on Sunday.
3. A little flexibility can save you a lot of money. This is true with regard to travel dates and airports.
4. Frequent flyer programs can be an excellent way to save money, but redeeming your miles requires a little extra diligence. Most airlines set aside only a small percentage of their available seats for travelers redeeming miles, and they are usually available for reservation 330 days before the departure date. For these reasons, it is always advantageous to book reward program travel far in advance, and to be as flexible as possible about your travel plans. Also, many airlines charge more for telephone reservations for reward program travel, so it’s always best to book these arrangements online if possible.
5. It is often advantageous to reserve and purchase tickets at least 21 days before your departure; however, there are exceptions. The emergence of last-minute reservation discounters has made spontaneous far more economical than in the past. In many cases, ticket prices are comparable to advance-notice prices.
6. Shop around. Because different travel-related websites have different relationships with air carriers, it’s always best to check more than one site before purchasing. Just because one site had the best fare for your last trip doesn’t mean that same will be true for the next one.
With a little effort and web-surfing, you truly can save a lot on airfare by booking online. I hope that these tips will assist you, and happy trails!