8 Tips for Scoring Cheap Flights

in Travel Deals, Trip Planning

I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely planning on doing some frugal travel in 2011. There’s nothing worse than shelling out most of your travel budget on flights (I prefer to have a bit of cash to enjoy all the my destination has to offer. If you’re also planning to  travel in 2011, here are some tips for finding inexpensive flights. It may take a bit more effort than just booking the first flight you come across to your destination, but the money you save will be worth it in the end.

  1. Plan travel far in advance. When possible, plan your trips as far in advance as you can. This will allow you more time to monitor airline trends and nab tickets when prices are at their lowest.
  2. Be flexible with dates. If you can depart on a Thursday and return on a Monday, odds are you’ll find better deals than if you are trying to fly on the weekend. On a related note—hold off on making hotel reservations until your flights have been secured.
  3. Consider all of your options. Searching flights using a flight aggregator is a good way to do some initial research and price comparison, but be sure to check the individual airline’s websites themselves. Many major airlines guarantee the best flight prices on their own sites. Moreover, some aggregator sites charge additional fees that can be avoided if you book directly with the airline. Always check airlines known for their low rates like Southwest and Jet Blue. If you are part of a fidelity program (airline miles) at one of these airlines, research blackout dates and see if you have accrued enough miles to fly to your destination (or at least part way there) for free.
  4. Keep the big transportation picture in mind. Think about the non-airline related transportation details of your visit. If you arrive at 10:00am instead of 4:30am, perhaps a friend or relative could pick you up at the airport instead of having to pay for a cab. Or consider the times that public transportation or hotel shuttles run. Be sure to think through all of these details before settling on a flight—this will save you money in the long run. cheap flights photo

5.     Consider breaking up your itinerary based on flight prices. Depending on where you are going, piecing  together flights from multiple carriers may be cheaper than booking a direct flight. For example, if you are flying from New York to Paris, try to find the cheapest flight you can from New York to Amsterdam (a major European hub) and another cheap flight (perhaps on another carrier) from Amsterdam to Paris.

6.     Sign up for airline email alerts. Most airlines offer the possibility to sign up for destination specific deals on flights. Sites like farecompare.com also offer these types of alerts.

7.     Consider a travel flight/hotel/car package. If you are planning on booking a hotel or renting a car at your destination as well, you can save money by booking them all together as a package. See sites like Expedia and Orbitz for options.

8.     Use a travel agent (or travel savvy friend). I know, this sounds strange. But think about it: travel agents are trained to find the best deals on airfare and vacation packages. If all of this research sounds like too much of a time commitment (or too complicated), consider using a travel agent to do the heavy lifting for you. Another option would be to delegate the research and booking duties to a travel savvy friend or travel partner.

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