Tips for finding lower fares

by Roger Wade

May 10th, 2006

Feeling your way around different online airfare searchers is a great way to get started on finding the best deal for your trip. However, as you’ve probably learned before, the airline and travel industries are nothing if not quirky. So as you try to put together your trip and find the best deal, here are some tips to keep in mind, to help you lower that fare even more:

Be as flexible as possible.
On the day you want to fly out, a higher fare is offered than on the day before. Can you fly out on the earlier, lower-fare day instead? Having a little flexibility up-front as you plan can go miles in saving you money. If your plans are more rigid, see if there is anything you can adjust as far as time or arrival airport (flying red-eye, or landing in a secondary airport near your destination often result in lower fares).

Start looking at fares in advance.
Know your sister is getting married next June? Start checking out the online bookers and see what fares come up for your itinerary. Talk to your travel agent, ask questions, get an idea of what fares may be averaging around that time. You don’t have to book now, of course – but if you test the waters beforehand, you’ll be in a better position to get a better deal when you are ready to book.

Keep track of changes over time.
Airlines sometimes have “fare wars”, or world events or changes in the industry drop fares. Subscribe to travel newsletters to keep up with how fares are fluctuating nowadays, or just every few weeks hop on to your preferred booking site, punch in your itinerary and dates, and see if there have been any major changes. If you’ve already booked, but find a lower fare than what you purchased, contact the airline and ask them about adjusting your fare or receiving a flight Exchange Coupon (an MCO, or Miscellaneous Charges Order) good for future travel (this usually takes a little persistence, as airlines aren’t always forthcoming with these coupons – but persist. It’s worth it).

Book your reservation early.
Once you have a good feel for a fare, and find a low one that matches your needs, book it. Remember, too, that many discount fares require you to book 7, 14, or 21 days before your trip, depending on the fare, and the best international fares often require you to book 30 days in advance. Booking earlier increases your chances of getting the best deal.

Stay over a Saturday night.
The famous Saturday rule, requiring a stay of at least one Saturday night, can help with ticket costs. For longer visits, of course, this isn’t a problem, but if you are only planning to be somewhere only for a couple of days, say on a business trip, a Saturday is less likely. But be creative: perhaps you can include a personal day (or two) on that trip, letting you stay over a Saturday and have a little R&R (catch up with an old high school chum, or just relax in the hotel hot tub) – then you can fly back not only refreshed, but with a few more bucks in your wallet (or department’s budget) as well.

Fly on weekdays.
Lowest fares are usually found on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday flights. Monday and Friday flights are usually higher-priced (if you’re wondering why, just remember that Monday and Friday are around the weekend, so often higher in demand for departures and returns). However, Saturday flights sometimes have discount airfare, but the rule is weekends are more expensive than weekdays.

You’re ready to search and book your trip. Great! Once you have your tickets, the next part is getting to the airport, getting through baggage, security, delays, and all the other not-fun parts of a trip – that can also ruin one. But problems don’t have to derail your trip. Read on so that you can better handle whatever problems may try to come your way.

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