So you are in the market for cheap airline tickets, but not sure where to start and how to find the best travel deals. The reality is that in order to find the cheapest flight fares and schedules you need to know when and where to look and how to search. Yes, it is that easy, and all you need to know is several tricks. First of all, do you need a domestic or an international travel ticket?
Domestic Air Travel
These can be US domestic flight or flights within Europe, or within any country or other continent. If you are looking great flight deals, you need to know WHERE to look for low airfares. If you are looking for flights within the US, you may contact local US airlines or travel agencies or look up flights on the online travel search engine.
Airlines compete among each other and they can give great flight deals (just know WHEN to look). Travel agencies might also find you great deals. Here is the truth… lately several airlines and several large and well known travel agencies started having some issues and several airline banned those huge agencies from selling their airline tickets. Therefore, small and specialized agencies still do have very good contracts with major airlines of the world. So, my advise is to look who has the best flight deal, not at the size of the agency or the popularity. At the end of the day, it matters how much you pay for the ticket and that you have a confirmed seat.
Most smaller travel agencies have online only booking so they can save YOU money by eliminating staff salaries. Most of the time travel agencies use the same fares as airlines offer (unless negotiated better rates), but usually with 0 commission. Since agencies need to survive, they are forced to add a small service fee on the top of the ticket price. If you do not mind that, call your travel agent or best of all go online and check flights yourself. If you are traveling within Europe, you might want to contact a travel agent or search online travel agents’ websites first. In Europe local travel agencies and agencies outside Europe that specialize in international travel will have low fares because they use very low so called consolidator fares. This is nothing else, but negotiated contracts with airlines to sell special very low priced airline tickets.
Whether you live in the US or other country, you travel internationally if you leave your country of residence.
What concerns transatlantic, transpacific or other between countries international travel, your best bet is a travel agency. The consolidators will offer you the best fare deals and will find you the best schedules. Depending on personal preferences, some might prefer talking to a travel agent, while others would want to do their own fare search online at their own pace. There is no right or wrong choice here. As long as you find a flight and a fare that works for you, you succeed. HOW to find a travel agency or a good travel website Always work with the travel agent or travel website that specializes in your travel destination or region. For example, if you need to fly from the US to Europe, search for ‘flights to Europe’ or so. Usually online search will give you best results. Check several websites or call several travel agents and compare the deals.
NOTE, you might know lots of huge agencies like Travelocity, Orbitz, etc. They might seem attractive to you because they are big and well known. But they will not always give you the best flight, hotel or cruise deals. They might be good for US domestic travel, but not always for international travel.
HOW and WHEN to search for best fares
Where you need a flight, hotel or a cruise, you need to know how to find the best fares and when to look for those. Let’s say that you found a travel agent or travel website that specialized in your travel destination.
5 tips on How to Find your Best Travel Deal:
Be Flexible. In order to find lowest price, you might need to be flexible on travel dates, arrival/departure times, airlines, and sometimes destinations. In short, there are different price levels for every flight and the only difference is the price and number of seats an airline assigns to that price level. Therefore, all depends on when you buy a ticket, how popular is the destination, travel season (peak or low), and how full the flight gets.
Book domestic travel tickets as early as you can (this applied to some international travel as well). Most domestic airlines have best fares with 21, 14, and 7 day advance purchase. This means that you may find lower fares when booking (= purchasing) a flight this many days before the flight.
‘Play’ with the search. This means that you need to be creative when searching for flights. Check flights couple days or weeks (if possible) earlier and later, check various airlines, different connections (an airline might have several hubs or fly with 1 or several connections), search based on price and try searching based on schedule (you’ll see different results).
Check travel package deals. If the purpose of your travel is vacation, instead of booking flights, hotel, and car rental separately, check on travel package rates. Sometimes your total package rate is lower that if you book everything separately.
Use miles or points when possible. Apply for airline/ hotel/ car rental, etc. frequent traveler programs. They are FREE, and you can get lots of benefits. For example, I cannot remember the last time I paid for a hotel room when Hilton Hotel is in my destination. Check out hiltonhhonors.com website. Go to the airline, car rental, or hotel websites and sign up. The only disadvantage of using miles and points is that you need to book your travel early as there is limited number of seats for miles or points on the plane and they go fast.
If you cannot decide whether to use an airline or a travel agent, here are some suggestions.
AIRLINE vs. TRAVEL AGENT/AGENCY WEBSITE
Advantages of booking a ticket with an airline:
you are talking directly to the carrier, the entity responsible for a flight
it may take much less time to deal with the airline directly (if an agent knows his/her job)
airline customers representatives are usually open 24/7
Advantages of using travel agents or travel websites:
lower negotiated (consolidator) fares
more flight options; travel agents/travel websites search all possible airlines, not just one
low fares available 24/7 given that an agency has a online booking system
Please send in your comments on how you find your best deals, and I shall be happy to share them with the rest of the world. Good luck!