February 9, 2012

Have you ever needed to book a flight and didn’t even know where to begin? My husband travels a lot, so I usually get to find the best flight for his trip. I also like to find the best price. Here are the tips and tricks I use when searching for a flight.

Start With Your Destination

I always start at Kayak.com to discover what airlines fly to my destination. It’s a great site without being too overwhelming. When I look at Kayak, I can get a general idea of what the ticket will cost. It is then my goal to find a cheaper flight. Kayak will also let you set a price alert. You can select your flight and a desired price. If the flight becomes cheaper, Kayak will email you.

Check For Smaller Airlines

Next I visit Flightstats.com. This website lets you check the status of a flight, but also provides you with a way to search for smaller airlines. I start by picking the desired route and today’s flights. From there, Flightstats lists all the airlines that fly into your destination. Many times, websites like Kayak and Expedia do not show you the fares for smaller airlines, but they often have cheaper prices.

Look For Alternate Airports

My next step is to see if there is another airport near my destination. For example Tampa International Airport and St Pete/Clearwater Airport  are just 14 miles apart. If you are willing to fly into a smaller airport, like Midway instead of O’Hare in Chicago, you can often get a better fare.

Go Straight to the Source

After checking what airlines fly to your destination, you can visit each website to check the fares. Sometimes they are lower than the travel websites.

Compare Extra Fees

Since airlines have started to charge for extras, it is a good idea to make sure you know how much all those fees will cost. Will you have to pay for luggage? What about carry-on luggage or a seat assignment? We know that most airlines now charge for food and drinks so that should not be a factor. But these extra fees can add up fast. Make sure you factor all the fees into the total price (and a round trip requires you to double those costs)

Check Flexible Dates

If your dates of travel are little flexible you can sometimes save a lot of money. Most websites will allow you to search the price of your flight 3 days before and after your “desired date”. I have saved over $100 on a flight because I was able to travel a day earlier than my original plan.

Join Frequent Flyer Programs

Even if you do not fly that often, you should join the Frequent Flyer programs. The miles will add up quickly. I have also noticed that airlines will now let you use your miles to “buy” one-way tickets. You can also earn miles by shopping online or when renting a car or booking a hotel room. You will also be alerted of any sales the airline may be having. Even if you are not a Frequent Flier member, join the email newsletter of airlines you maybe interested in flying. Some airlines include coupon codes in these emails.

These are some of my tips. I know they have saved me a lot of money when I need to book a flight. Please share your tips – I know we would all love to save money when we travel.