Take some time to research flight costs -- it can make a big difference to the pocket money you’ve got left over to enjoy your trip. Rising fuel prices, airport improvement fees and taxes all contribute to keeping rates on certain routes sky-high. But there are some important saving tips that can help you reach your destination with a little more pocket money.
- Check out discount websites such as Expedia, Travelocity, Hotwire, Priceline, Booking.com or Kayak. These websites compare the best fares on several different airlines and provide the best quote.
- Priceline has an additional quirk that can help you get an even better deal -- simply name the price you’re willing to pay. Priceline decides whether to accept your offer.
- Airfare Watchdog (airfarewatchdog.com) is geared to last-minute travellers. The site depends on real people scouring airline websites in search of seat sales. They grab promo codes and discount offers and pass them on to Airfare Watchdog users.
Do your homework
You shouldn’t rely solely on these fare aggregators and discount websites in your hunt, however. Take the time to do your own independent research.
- Check the websites of airlines that fly the route you’re looking for and compare it with the discount websites. In some instances, you’ll find cheaper deals offered only by the airlines themselves.
- If the airline is offering the same fare as the discount site, it’s better to book directly. This makes cancellation and rebooking much easier.
- Compare one-way fares against return prices. Sometimes the return fare can be exactly double the price of a one-way ticket. Booking a couple of one-ways will offer more flexibility.
- If you’re considering a discount airline, find out how their amenities compare. You may not think a little legroom and meal service makes a difference now, but if you’re on a long flight, they make a big difference.
Timing is everything
- Don’t book too early, don’t book too late. According to many travel websites, booking 18 to 28 days before your desired departure date offers the best deals on airfares. Even more specific, the advice is to make the booking on a Tuesday afternoon. “That's when the maximum number of cheapest seats are in the marketplace," says Rick Seaney of FareCompare.com.
- Fly early in the morning or on red-eye flights to get the best prices.
- Avoid weekends. We all want Friday and Sunday evening flights, but if you can be flexible, it can make a big difference.
- Look for options with multiple airlines, stopovers and alternative airports a short drive from your destination. For example, flying in and out of Buffalo is cheaper than using Toronto’s Pearson airport, which has some of the highest airport fees in North America.
Tip: Watch for hidden fees
Beware of additional costs for rebooking and cancellations when you’re booking with multiple airlines or with stopovers. The hassle may not be worth the additional savings for you. If you’re tempted to save a few bucks with a stopover, remember to take into account the cost of paying separate fees (like baggage fees) for each flight.
Thankfully, there are fewer hidden costs today. In Canada, airlines and travel websites are required to include all fees and taxes in advertised prices.
Should you use a travel agent if you’re price-conscious?
You can certainly still get great deals from a travel agent. Even if the travel agent’s cost is a little more, consider this: if you book yourself, who will you call if you miss a flight, if you have to make a change, if you have an issue with the airline? When you book through a travel agent, you’ll get help if things go wrong.