Airline competition has always been intense, but there are more and more resources available today that allow travelers to quickly compare fares without relying on travel agents. Here are a few of the strategies savvy travelers use.
First, start with the major airfare search engines to get a base idea of the lowest rates for your trip. http://www.qixo.com, http://www.orbitz.com, and quickfares.bestfares.com will do the job. Next, you’ll need to cover the individual airlines that aren’t covered by these engines. Southwest is one of these, so check http://www.southwest.com.
Your next step should be to check the airlines website for the lowest fare that you’ve found from the search engines. Before you do, make sure the fare that you’ve gotten includes all taxes and other fees. Often you can save a little by going direct to the airlines website.
Your ability to find the cheapest fares will depend greatly on your degree of flexibility in departure and return dates, and amount of time ahead of the trip that you start looking. With the number of routes being reduced by the airlines in order to fly at high as capacity as possible, it’s even more important to plan in advance these days.
If you do have some flexibility, Orbitz will allow you to select a flexible date option which will enable you to scan for the best prices up to 3 days before or after a specified date.
If you have maximum flexibility then simply wait for a good deal. Orbitz, Southwest, and others will notify you when sales run on destinations you are interested in. Check a few of the websites for the airlines that you’ve found deals on up to this point to see if they offer any type of notification service on sales. http://www.bestfares.com is a good resource to check for sales also.
The next strategy is to see if any special deals are available for a group that you can be associated with. Seniors, students, single women, etc. often have websites that offer discounted fares.
One last approach that’s worth a try is to bid on priceline.com. Use the lowest fare that your search has found, then place your bid 30% below it. There are more hints and resources at http://www.really-cheap-flight.info