TTT*: Airfare searching

January 15, 2008 at 2:08 pm 2 comments

I’m usually looking for airfare for a particular date range, so keep that in mind when you’re reading this.  If you’re more flexible, that can save you loads of money.

As a general rule, I don’t buy my tickets the first day I search.  Heck, I won’t usually even buy ’em the fourth or fifth day I search.  I get a feel for what flights are available that I’m interested in.  Then I watch them until I spot a good deal or until I can’t stand to wait any longer.

For example, I knew we’d be going to Las Vegas for New Year’s in February 2007, so I started watching the fares then.  I’d been to Vegas several times before, so I knew to expect to find a fare somewhere in the $200-300 range from RDU – maybe a bit more since it’s a holiday.  A sale popped up for $180 one day in May, so I jumped on that bad boy.

We’re going on a cruise in Europe this summer, and we booked our cabin back in June 2007 (a lot of times certain cabin categories sell out FAST on these European cruises; I knew from researching this particular cruise that we needed to book as far in advance as possible).  Even though the flights weren’t showing up, I started searching to get a feel for what the airfare might be and what kind of connections we should be prepared for.  I basically picked out my flights 2-3 months ago on Expedia, and I’ve been watching them since then.  Some days they wouldn’t show up at all, and some days they’d be $200 each more expensive.  I’ve done a fair bit of reading about when to catch the best fares to Europe in the summer, and most sources agree that January-March are the best and that sooner is better.  I spotted the lowest price I’d been seeing on the flights I wanted again today, so I went ahead and booked.  I feel comfortable paying ~$1500 each, and I’d really hate to pay more.  (If you’re flying out of a big city, I hope you’d be paying less!)

I noticed two really interesting things:
(1) Fare prices often go down on Monday or Tuesday and then up on Thursday or Friday. 
(2) The big search engines (Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, etc.) aren’t necessarily finding the same flights.  I couldn’t find the exact flights I saw on Expedia anywhere else.  Travelocity found something similar but not identical (same price), and Orbitz was showing totally different combinations (same price).  Check multiple sites and be warned that the mega-search sites that seem to search a bunch of websites (Kayak, Sidestep, Farecast, etc.) don’t actually pull from everything.  None of those found my flights that I snagged through Expedia.

Something else to keep in mind: The search engines don’t actually search all the airlines.  For example, Southwest, JetBlue, AllegiantUSA3000, SkybusSpirit, don’t generally pop.  If you’re flying in/to Europe, Zoom, FlyGlobeSpan, and Ryanair don’t pop.

I’ll keep watching the fares for my Europe flights to see if a better deal pops up so I’ll know whether to wait longer next time.  I’ll let you know what I discover.

TTT: Travel Tip Tuesday

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Entry filed under: Planes, trains, autos, boats, Travel Tips.

Destination Friday: London, part 2 Gelato in Vegas

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