Airfare is one of the most fluid and unpredictable travel expenses. Flights can go up or down by hundreds of dollars within hours. It can be one of your largest travel expenses or one of your smallest. Savvy travelers have a number of tools at their disposal to get the best deal possible. Here are some of the top tips you can use to save big on your next flight.
earn Frequent Flyer Miles
Anytime you fly you should be either using or earning frequent flyer miles. Once you earn enough miles for a flight redeem it for a free flight minus taxes and fees.
Frequent flyer programs are free to sign up for. As a part of the frequent flyer program not only to you earn miles toward your next flight, you also get emails from the airline with the latest promotions.
travel reward credit cards
Using a good travel rewards credit card is essential to lowering your airfare costs. Use a travel reward card for your everyday expenses and rack up rewards miles for your next flight. Depending on the card program you can either transfer points directly to the airlines frequent flyer program or book the flight using the credit card and use the points as a statement credit.
Many credit cards have large signup bonuses. Meet a minimum spend requirement within a certain period of time and you earn bonus miles. You can see credit card bonuses as high as 100,000 points, more than enough to qualify for a round trip ticket to anywhere in the world.
Use Airfare Search tools to Find Lower Prices
The ITA Flight Matrix, Google Flights, and Skyscanner are all great airfare search sites. Want someone else to do the work for you? Sign up for airfare flight alerts from airefarewatchdog and get updates to your inbox on a regular basis for the flights you are interested in. You can also follow them on Twitter along with The Flight Deal and Secret Flying to get constant updates on new sales as well as mistake fares (insanely low prices the airlines put out by mistake due to a clerical error. They happen more frequently than you think.) A great smartphone app is Hopper. The app uses historical data to hypothesize when the best time to book a flight is. Kayak also has a price prediction tool.
Be Flexible in your Travel Dates
Not surprisingly the cheaper fares are on days when there are the fewest travelers (usually mid week.) Choose to travel during the off days and you can save big time on your flight.
look at layovers, stopovers, and open jaws
Oftentimes it will be cheaper to have a flight with a layover instead of a direct flight. Take what may sound like a drag and turn it into an opportunity to see another city on your trip. If you decide to stay more than 24 hours in the layover city it turns it becomes a stopover. Flights that include a stopover may be the same price or only slightly more allowing you to see two destinations in one trip cheaper than if you took separate trips.
An open jaw ticket is flying into one airport and out of another. For instance you can fly into Paris, catch the train to London and fly back home from London. This allows you to save time and money by not having to get back to your original location before coming home. Want to get three vacations for the price of one? Combine a stopover and an open jaw.
Research booking One Way Flights They might be Cheaper than a Round Trip Ticket
Budget airlines in particular have enticing offers to travelers with a one way trip to a destination. Of course they try to get you on the return flight. Look at returning on a different airline and you might get a good deal.
In some cases a one way flight is actually much more expensive than a round trip so be prepared to do some research to get the best overall rate.
Ask for a Refund If the Price Goes Down
Depending on the airline, you may or may not be able to get the cheaper rate if the price goes down after you book, but it never hurts to ask. Yapta.com will send you an alert if the price of your flight drops either before or after you book.
Check your flight in other currencies
International flights often have different prices listed for different countries on the same flight. Use Google Chrome to translate any text from another language and use a currency converter to see if you are indeed saving money. Be sure you book any flight from an international site using a credit card with no foreign transaction fee since this would qualify as an international purchase.