As more and more travel agents are forced to hang fresh ‘For Lease’ signs in their windows, the Internet has taken up the mantle of helping aspirational aeronautic enthusiasts shop, compare, and purchase tickets for their next airborne adventure. But with so many different travel and hotel sites claiming to offer the best deals on airfare, how can you know which offers the best combination of discounts and ease of use?
Read on to find out more in our guide to finding the cheapest airlines accommodations online.
Best Sites to Use
Of all the services that clamor for your attention and patronage when you’re trying to get a good deal on a seat in first class, Kayak is the one that probably rings the most familiar bell (and for good reason, too). The site has experienced a meteoric rise in users since its debut, mostly due to its impressive pedigree of employees who come from the old guard of online airfare, including former Orbitz CEO Steve Hafner.
Kayak is a solid, reliable website that aggregates searches from all the major online travel destinations into one place to make it simple to quickly and efficiently rifle through all the competition at once. The list of available portals includes Priceline, Expedia, and CheapO air, and you can specifically customize whether you want just the flight, the flight plus a hotel, or the whole package including tickets to local attractions and a rental car.
Of all three options listed here Kayak is easily the most popular, and it’s a great place to start if you’re looking to set up an all-inclusive package for big family outings rather than just a lone flight itself. As you’ll find out later, the price difference between booking full vacations and quick trips in the air can add up to a lot of extra savings (that is, if you know the right places to look).
As with many of their other online services (Google Maps, Gmail, Google Shopping), the Mountain View-based Internet search monolith has taken the hard part out of getting what you need from the Internet, and streamlined the process so it saves you as much money as possible.
Google Flights is great for a number of reasons, not least of which is its “graphing” platform which will show you a detailed list of what prices for a flight look like depending on the day you fly in or out. Slide the date down the calendar and you might see the price drop, try and schedule your takeoff for the middle of a day on a Saturday, and the price jumps dramatically.
If there’s one thing we could ask for that the site doesn’t have, it would be some sort of indicator that revealed exactly why a flight got cheaper or more expensive to allow for finer tuning when on the hunt for the best possible price.
If the name of this airfare portal sounds familiar to you; it should.
The website Skiplagged.com first made headlines earlier this year when United Airlines threatened to sue its 22-year-old creator, Aktarer Zaman, over claims that his airfare shopper was taking advantage of illegal loopholes in order to get customers the lowest price on the flight of their choosing. What loopholes, you might ask?
Well, Skiplagged works like this: First, an algorithm takes a constant tally of all the flights that are being scheduled over the next six months. Next it looks for connections in particular cities that airlines might use to pack their planes with more people, or save on fuel costs when getting their passengers from point A to Point B. By purchasing a one-way ticket, Skiplagged saves you money by just letting you ride the rails from the first city to the next and get off the plane when it stops for its connection in the city you want to get to.
Keep in mind, however, that what makes SkipLagged work is circumventing the whole bag check system through unspent layovers. If you have a large family and plan to be checking a lot of bags, Skiplagged won’t work because by the time you get to your hotel in LA your luggage could already be halfway to Hong Kong. If you’re travelling light, alone, or just packing slim for a business trip however, Skiplagged offers the perfect combination of ingenuity and technology to give everyone the opportunity to see some of the world’s most beautiful destinations for just a fraction of what they’d normally expect to pay.
The case against Zaman has since been thrown out, allowing Skiplagged to operate in the open and give customers the absolute best price they can get on the Internet for a flight that might otherwise cost two to five times as much from a regular vendor.
Tips and Tricks
Buy at the Right Moment, Fly at the Wrong One
Although this is still a topic that’s debated among professionals on the web who pride themselves on having the “insider info” on these types of things, many people believe that categorically, no matter where you live or who you fly with, Tuesday is the best day to buy a plane ticket. In our personal testing, we found on average there was a saving of around 5-10 percent when buying a ticket on a Tuesday as opposed to any other day of the week.
As to why this price drop happens on that day in particular, we can’t say for sure, but according to data collected from 11,000 flights by CheapAir.com you should also try and make sure that Tuesday is exactly 49 days ahead of your planned trip. After combing through the data, the site concluded that 49 days was the sweet spot for airlines to book you on their planes, not too far outside of their scheduling, but also not so close that they have to make special adjustments to get you a seat on the trip you want.
Lastly, you can never go wrong with an early wake-up call. Traditionally airfare will cost a bit more if you try to fly during the normal hours when everyone else is awake and alert enough to tolerate the security line at the TSA checkpoint. On the other hand, if you buy your ticket either very early in the morning or late at night, the competition for those slots is lower, which means the airlines will knock them down to a discount to get the plane as full as they can before it takes off.
Clear Your Cookies
Another trick which might just sound like we’re being paranoid is to always search for any tickets you plan on buying in an incognito window. Why? Well, it’s been known among the inner circle of tenacious travelers for awhile that airfare sites (Kayak and Google included) will shimmy around the price of a ticket depending on the number of times you’ve searched for it in your browser.
By keeping tabs on your cookies, the booking software can make it seem like seats are running out or the timeslot you want is hotly contested, and that if you don’t buy right now, the deal may not last another day.
Use Your Smartphone to Board
Another helpful tool you can use once you’re already at the airport with a bag slung across your back is your smartphone. While it may not get you a better discount on your ticket immediately, it will make the process of getting your bags checked and your family boarded much faster and easier than ever before.
Plus, most of the apps available from major airlines will feature all sorts of loyalty programs which can pass on rewards or discounts each time you fly, as well as send you notifications when flights get suspiciously cheap for an alert you set up prior. Plan on flying across the country sometime next year, but don’t have a hard date ready yet? Just set your parameters in your account, and as soon as a ticket under the price you select pops up in the system, the app will text you with the perfect offer.
This also works for mailing lists on the site of your preferred airline, and the signups can be found on each of their respective websites.
There are a lot of things about flying that aren’t as fun as they could be, but thanks to these tips, tricks, and loophole-loving websites, getting the best price on your trip is a simple way to remove some of the extra strain from your worldwide travelling experience.