Booking Your Flight
“Let’s be honest, travel agents can be great. But you know what’s even better? Being your own travel agent and being good at it. So let’s run through a few money saving guidelines for purchasing flights online. You’ll thank me later.”
Rule #1 Compare and Contrast
Unless you’re a ticket purchasing prodigy or are related to a pilot your best chance of scoring a cost effective flight is through a comprehensive flight search engine (also known as an ‘aggregator’ in the biz). While you are at it check out several. My favorite flight search engines are as follows:
This search engine leaves few stones unturned. It isn’t owned by an airline so skyscanner gives you a great scope of airfares including flights from budget airlines. They also allow for wide search parameters. You can compare airfare trends for the entire month or search from whatever airport you fancy to “everywhere”. Choose the “everywhere” destination option and they will list for you a variety of worldwide destinations. It’s a fun tool for the daydreamer or flexible world traveler.
For years I was a huge fan of kayak.com particularly for domestic flights and as a recommendation for travelers looking for business or first class seats. But all that changed when Google acquired ATI Software back in 2010. Now that Google owns the company that powers all the other websites’ flight searches they are hard to beat for prices as well as search speed. I’m not a big fan of the interface but Google Flight Search still gets a enthusiastic golf clap for results.
Momondo doesn’t rank high in my book for flexibility but if you know your dates and destination they compare a vast number of sites. It uses automated internet search crawlers that seek out the best airfares. They even pick up the small and local flights often overlooked by other search engines. Momondo has diversified greatly since it’s creation in 2006. Today it’s a one stop shop for car rentals, hotels and even travel guides.
Rule #2 Buy Tickets More than 21 Days Before Departure
You are most likely to snag a cheap ticket if book more than a few weeks in advance. The rule I go by–which is backed by numerous economists with way too much time on their hands–is to buy domestic flights at least 21 days in advance and international flights at least 30 days in advance. Book your flights even earlier than that during holidays to beat the rush. Lastly, keep in mind that buying tickets too far in advance can work against you. I recommend purchasing tickets no further out than four months.
Rule #3 Purchase Your Tickets Midweek
Most savvy travelers are aware that airlines usually publish their cheap fares and sales at the beginning of the week. These competitive prices are due to lower midweek ticket booking, as weekends seem to be when most people have the time and energy to plan their travels and make big purchases. Take advantage of these trends and look for your flight on a Monday or Tuesday.
Rule #4 Thou Shalt Fly Midweek
It’s well known that midweek days (Tuesday through Thursday) are the cheapest days to fly. They are generally less sought after as most vacationing worker bees are trying to squeeze in an extra day by returning Monday or flying out Friday. In fact momondo.com conducted a survey that points to Tuesday as being the most cost effective departure day. So fly out on a Tuesday and return the following Thursday to give yourself a solid 7 days in paradise with two buffer days for traveling. I’m sure you’ve earned it.