One of the most common questions I get is: When should I buy my airline ticket? I think some people are hoping I will give them a free ticket – WRONG. Others would like me do their ticket hunting for them – once again, WRONG. This post is for those who legitimately want to know when they should buy their tickets, and are willing to do the legwork for a low fare.
Planning a trip on a budget literally takes me hours and hours (and did I mention HOURS?) of online bargain hunting, cost analyzing, and well, dreaming. Sure I could plan a trip in one night, but it wouldn’t be in my budget.
Most people don’t overspend their budget on an airline ticket. In fact, most people overspend their budget with EVERYTHING else on the trip. Why? The airline ticket is bought in advance and is pretty set. If you can’t afford it, you don’t go on your trip. BUT, once your tickets are bought, excuses like, “We’ll never go back here” creep into your vocabulary.
Moral of the story: Planning a budget conscious trip, isn’t just about finding a good deal on an airline ticket.
TIP$ to know before you purchase an airline ticket:
* The best time to buy: 6-8 weeks out and on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. (Even more specifically at 3 pm EST). Except if you are traveling over the holidays, then purchase as soon as possible. Know that ticket prices change SEVERAL times a day.
* The cheapest day to fly is Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday (I prefer Tuesday and Wednesdays – less crowds), and generally the first flight in the morning. Sundays and Fridays are usually the most expensive.
* Not all airlines are on discount websites like Expedia or Travelocity anymore, so check an airline’s actual website to compare prices as well. If the prices match, go with the actual airline's website to avoid service/booking fees.
* Every time you search the internet for a ticket, clear the cookies on your computer. These are tracked and will up prices with each website visit or refresh.
* Shop for one passenger first, in order to save on trips with two or more passengers on the same itinerary. Use two different browsers and get both transactions to the credit card page. Then, pay for one immediately after the other. Why? Say there are two seats available for $100 each, 3 seats available for $300 each, and you have 3 people in your group. The website will not allow you to purchase the two seats at $100, because it does not have enough seats to fullfill your ticket request. Instead, it will bump you up to the next higher level. This means that even though 2 of the 3 people in your group could actually fly at a cheaper price, you won't even be given the chance.
* Sign up for a email alert when airline tickets drop in price. For example, Airfarewatchdog.com, Bestfares.com, Farecompare.com, Yapta.com, etc. Or even via Twitter: Farecompare.com/twitter.
* Bing.com/travel has a great price predictor and fare history for the route and dates desired. I'm not sure how acurate it is, but it is still a good resource when ticket hunting.
* European travel: By experience I have learned that London Heathrow has VERY high taxes on tickets leaving the country (not entering). Always check the other large airports in Europe for significant differences in pricing. If it is quite a bit different, depending on location, consider looking into getting around by train or a discount air carrier.
* Discount Air Carriers: Am I a fan? YES! Here is a nice long list of carriers that are considered “discount.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_low-cost_airlines. My favorite discount carriers include: Easyjet.com, Ryanair.com, aerlingus.com, Spirit.com and Southwest.com. When booking with a low cost carrier, make sure to take miscellaneous fees into consideration. THIS is how they make their money. These fees go far beyond simply checking a bag. You can be charged for carry-on bags, extra checked bags, overweight (which I’ve personally seen starting as low as 41 lbs), carrying on purchases made in the airport, changing seats, requesting certain seats, booking fees, fees to print your boarding pass at the airport, all snacks and drinks (including soda), etc. In summary, discount carriers can be a GREAT deal, if you print your boarding pass at home, sit where they tell you, travel with minimal luggage, and don’t order anything on board. Read the fine print and you’ll save money in the long run