Airline ticket prices have reflected the increase in the cost of airplane fuel that has been rising over the past few years. For all the nomads with nagging wanderlust, this expensive shift has caused many of us to work odd jobs (I’ve had jobs removing staples, drink vendor in the stands at sports games and even selling spa promotions on the street) in order to fulfil the high prices asked of us. However, it isn’t just that tickets are more expensive, but airlines are now holding back on what’s included in your ticket. Have you ever heard of carry-on baggage fees? Yes they exist, and are sometimes even more expensive than check-in baggage. Even your anticipated treat of peanuts will now run you $4.00!
As much as we wish we could say that we’re going to boycott flying, it simply isn’t realistic to take a boat from London to Australia, or to take the bus all the way from Wisconsin to Chile- even though both are technically possible. Here are ten tips that can help you navigate the tricky ticket websites and help you have the cheapest and most enjoyable airline experience possible.
1. Change your browser settings to private or use an incognito window that keeps your browser history secret from the website. Many companies have been known to track whether you’ve been to their site before and will raise the prices each time you visit singularly based on the fact that you’ve been through their site before.
2. Websites like Kayak and Skyscanner won’t find and apply promo codes for you, and it always seems like promos are never around when you need them, but try heading to the airline’s home website and scout around for any hidden promos that could help drop the price of your ticket. Many promos will only be available for use between certain dates but you might still be able to save big.
3. Some websites like FareDepot do not let you choose your seat, which is something you may not always realize until you have boarded the plane and are looking for your seat, only to realize that you didn’t get the chance to select your favoured window seat. However, this lack of choice does make your ticket slightly cheaper.
4. If you do purchase your ticket through a site that lets you choose you seat, be aware of the pros and cons of each seat. If you prefer the aerial views, don’t mind being cramped up in the corner and are comfortable asking the rest of your row to move while you go to the bathroom, then a window seat is for you. If you are know that you are a frequent visitor to the lavatory during flights, and need a little leeway for your legs, an aisle seat is best, but make sure you bring your travel neck pillow since you won’t have a window to lean on and do your best to orient your shoulders away from the aisle when you sleep or you’ll receive an abrupt awakening when the refreshment cart comes through.
5. Studies indicate that the best time to buy flight tickets is on a Tuesday at 3:00 pm. On the larger timeline, studies say that tickets are allegedly cheapest six weeks before our departure date. If you are looking at tickets during peak seasons, definitely make sure to buy as early as you can. The last two weeks before the departure date is when tickets cost the most so be prepared. If you are traveling internationally, check out tickets at least three to six months ahead for the best deals. If you weren’t an early bird, you might have some luck at the last minute! Airlines are often looking to fill flights and will heavily discount tickets right before the departure. Be sure to subscribe to weekly newsletters that often contain special deals. Also be sure to check out LastMinuteTravel.com!
6. To buy or not to buy? Never buy the first airfare that you see. Just as when you are buying a car, or a house, you want to shop around to see what the going rates are, what compromises make the costs cheaper and which dealers have the best price. Starting with websites like Travelocity.com and CheapTickets.com can help give you an idea of what’s out there, but don’t forget to check airlines home websites, which take out the middleman, and the extra fees that come with it. Another useful tool is a fare history graph, which is offered by Kayak.com, that can help you predict whether your tickets will increase or decrease in the coming weeks.
7. Whether its spring break, winter or summer holiday or wedding season (typically fall and spring)- traveling during these peak seasons will undoubtedly result in higher ticket prices. If you can’t change the timing of your trip, try searching for airfares from different airports, as well as changing around the dates that you leave and return. Tickets departing on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays are usually cheapest as well. If you are looking to fly during summer or winter break, when you have at least a few weeks off, try shifting around the dates by whole weeks, as there can be a significant difference in price week to week.
8. International websites like ratestogo.com, booking.com or hop2.com tend to have cheaper rates than the bigger airfare search websites, but if you start with a cheaper airline, you’re bound to find a better price. These discount airlines can be difficult to find as you sort through the more major airlines, but airlines like JetBlue, Spirit, AirTran and AirAsia are a good place to check for cheap fares. Something else to be aware of is that you might not find certain airlines, like Southwest, on search pages and you will have to go directly to their page.
9. These days, airlines are joining forces and many flights have multiple codes. Sometimes it may say that a certain airline is hosting the flight, but when you show up for check in you will be directed to another check in desk. If you have preferred airlines, its best to go through their home website to make sure that you are on that airline.
10. Be sure to see what baggage allowances are included in your ticket because some tickets that seem extremely cheap may be that way because of all the add on fees for baggage, meals and even choosing your seat. (Airasia and Frontier have tons of add-on fees. Airasia even charges extra for check-in service at the airport, but it is still one of the cheapest airlines to get around Asia) When purchasing tickets, be sure to check what is included in your ticket because usually the price is discounted at the time of purchase compared to paying for it when you are already at the airport or on the plane.