How to search Priceline

by Roger Wade

November 12th, 2007

This how-to guide will show you the quickest way to search for airfares on Priceline so you know you are getting the best deal possible with the minimum amount of hassle. We’ll also offer tips along the way so that when you get your results you’ll know you are seeing the lowest fares.

Priceline became famous with their unique name your own price  feature, and while that is still available, they have added a powerful fare search tool to their site so you can compare exact flights with one another, avoiding the many risks of buying plane tickets without knowing the details.

Step 1: Click this link to open up Priceline in a new window so you can follow along while reading our guide.

Step 2: Enter your starting city and your destination city.

If you know the 3-letter airport codes you can often save a step along the way. Many city names match more than one international airport. If this is the case another screen will come up asking you to confirm your choice later in the process.

Tip: Many cities with more than one major airport still have a 3-letter code city code similar to an airport code that enables you to search flights to all airports in a city in one search. Here are some of the more common ones:

Chicago = CHI Miami/Ft. Lauderdale = MFW Paris = PAR
London = LON New York City = NYC Toronto = YTO
Los Angeles = LAX Rome = ROM Washington DC = WAS

Step 3: Enter your desired departure and return dates.

You won’t need a calendar handy because once you click in the field to enter a date a handy calendar will pop up so you can choose a date without having to wonder which day of the week it is. You can move ahead to the next month using the arrow on the right of the calendar.

Tip: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are usually the cheapest days to fly. If you begin your search by using a combination of these days you can quickly find the absolute lowest price first, then change to your ideal dates so you can compare that price to the lowest possible price.

Step 4: Choose the number of adult tickets you want and click on the green search now!€ button twice (for some reason Priceline requires two clicks to move on).

As long as Priceline recognizes both cities or airport codes you entered, the site will begin the search process. It usually cycles through a few screens while it’s searching, but within 10 seconds or so it will be showing your search results!

Step 5: Examine the best fare prices

First, start by checking the large light blue box near the top of the page. This grid summarizes the lowest fares Priceline has found on the top line, and then the lowest price with the fewest number of stops on the second line. In other words, if the lowest prices are for flights with one stop, they will show the lowest prices for non-stop flights on the line below.

The first column will show the lowest prices from all airlines, and then to the right they list each airline with flights available from lowest to highest.

Step 6: Check for More Ways To Save 

Priceline looks deceptively simple at first, but here is a powerful feature that can really be handy. A little down the right column, in a yellow-framed box that looks like an advertisement, you’ll see Priceline’s More Ways To Save.€

There are four possible new offers to look for, but usually you’ll only get 2 or 3 options:

Tip: The first two on this list are usually worth ignoring.

¢ Name Your Own Price  On some routes Priceline recommends their original reverse-auction pricing plan, promising to save you up to 40%. This system has its drawbacks and isn’t well suited to most people.

¢ Package and Save  Priceline always offers a package including your flight and a hotel stay in your destination, with a promise to save you up to $325,€ regardless of where you are going and how long you are staying. (You can check these package prices if you like, but we usually prefer to shop for hotels deals separately, for several key reasons.)

Now the good ones:

¢ Fly on Alternate Dates Priceline automatically searches for alternate departure and return dates to see if savings are possible. The system always leaves the trip length the same, and if a lower price is available leaving a day before or a day later, it will show how much you can save using these alternate dates.

¢ Depart from and Arrive at a Nearby Airport€ If nearby airports on either end of your trip offer cheaper roundtrip prices, this option will display along with the airline, the set of airports, and the savings from your original quote by using these airports.

Step 7: Once you’ve found the best price/date/airport combination, examine the list of flights below carefully.

Priceline automatically sorts your search results by only displaying the departing flights, organized with the lowest prices on top. This works well for most people, but there are several other options you might prefer:

¢ You can sort the departing flights by Trip Duration, Departure Time, or Arrival Time. Just click on the appropriate tab above the first flight.

¢ You can also view the results as complete Round-Trip Flights. Just above the More Ways To Save  box you’ll see a dropdown box below the words Now Viewing:€ Click on that and you can change it back and forth between individual legs and round-trips.

Tip: Look closely at the Trip Duration  time under the date in the center column. This is a total of your flight times plus airport layovers if you have at least one stop. It’s not uncommon for a slightly more expensive flight down the list to have a much shorter total duration. Is it worth it to pay $20 more to save 4 or 5 hours on the length of your journey?

Step 8: Choose your flights

If you choose your departing flight first you’ll then be shown a list of return flights and the price of that complete round trip. After choosing your return flight you’ll be taken to a confirmation screen.

If you choose a complete round-trip you’ll be taken directly to the confirmation screen.

Step 9: Confirm your itinerary and charges.

Priceline displays all the details of your flights at the top of the screen, followed by a few optional extras including: Trip Protection (an insurance policy in case something goes wrong), car rental, airport parking, and attractions in your destination city.

Step 10: Lower on that same screen you enter your personal information and preferences.

Here you need to enter the names of each passenger traveling, and you can also enter a frequent flyer number for this airline if you have one, as well as a special meal preference and a seating preference. Except for the passenger names, the rest is optional.

If you’ve chosen another option such as rental cars, you’ll be asked to enter the appropriate names in a section below.

Step 11: Click the yellow Next€ box at the bottom of the screen.

You’ll be taken to a final confirmation screen where you can review your flights one last time, as well as a summary of charges.

Step 12: Enter your credit card information in the form below.

If you already have created a Priceline profile you can click on the link to sign in. If not, just enter your payment information.

You can automatically create a Priceline profile just below that by selecting a special sign-in question and typing the answer twice. If you plan on using Priceline again in the future this secure profile process will save you a bit of time.

Step 13: Click the yellow Buy My Tickets Now€ button at the bottom and you are done!

After you click that button you’ll be asked to confirm the charges one last time before the purchase goes through. You’ll then see confirmation information, and the electronic ticket information will soon be e-mailed to the address you provided under the credit card information.

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