Booking Tips for Cheap Flights

Summer’s already in full swing, how many of you have summer travel plans already? I’ve been asked for help with tips to book cheap flights before (and this includes Tracy, our dear co-author here on FatPiggy). So I figured I’ll consolidate some of the tips here so that it’ll be easy to look up next time.

Tip #1 – Book Early

I know that sounds silly but it’s true and it’s also a double edge sword. If your travel dates are not flexible (especially during the holidays, it’s best to book early – as early as 6 months ahead). The problem with booking too early is that many airlines might not have flights planned out that far ahead yet and that means new flight plans, more seats and possibly cheaper airfare.

Tip #2 – The Seat Next to You Could be DOUBLE What You Pay 

If you ever try to ask how much the guy sitting next to you in Economy class paid for his seat, you could be in for a big surprise because it’s very likely that the price difference could be up to $500 (if not more!). Flight prices aren’t just divided into Coach vs Economy, there are multiple price categories and in each category, the airline is willing to offer X number of tickets at a certain price point. This is why when you’re searching on Expedia or Orbitz and you’ll see headlines like “4 tickets left at this price point!” because there really are only 4 more tickets left in the price category. And based on how well the flight sells and other stats, the airline can revisit the cheaper price categories just to fill up the flight.

So keep in mind that price categories sell out and when Orbitz tells you that “4 tickets left”, be prepared that once those are gone, you’re bumped up to the next least expensive category.

Here’s an interesting article that I found about why airfare fluctuates from CheapAir.com.

Tip #3 – Run Search for ONLY One Person 

Related to Tip #2, even when you’re booking for a family of 4 or 6 or 8, don’t run your searches for more than 1 adult. When you’re searching for 6 and there’s only 4 tickets left at the cheapest category, guess what? All 6 of you will be booking into the next price category. So instead split up your search and book separately. And of course you can arrange for the group to sit next to each other, that’s why you get to pick your own seats.

Tip #4 – Prices Change from Tuesday to Wednesday

Not sure how many of you get hit with this, (I run into this a LOT) you’ll be searching day and night figuring out which flight, which departure time and arrival time to choose and when you’re all ready to book, that same flight you were staring at for the past few days all of a sudden hiked up in price!  Airlines generally update their prices from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, so be on alert.

Tip #5 – Booking On Tuesday Night?  – Clear Your Browser Cache

I’ve read about rumors where airlines evaluate how much customer interest there is on a particular flight, if there’s enough interest, they flip the prices on you – right before your eyes.

True story, I was getting ready to book my flight with my friends, we’re all on the phone and filling out our address and credit card info and blip I refreshed my page and the flight price increased. Meanwhile my friends on the phone still see the lower price. So I closed my browser and re-logged in again with a different browser and run my search again and the price went back to the lower price. And of course I booked right away, not risking losing out on the better price again.

I’ve even read tips where people tell you to switch to a different computer all together just to avoid situations like this. So run your searches on one computer and book your flight on another.

Tip #6 – Use Your Frequent Flyer Rewards and Credit Card Perks

If you’ve ever flown before, the airline wants you back. Many of the airline frequent flyer programs offer enticing awards such as free flights or even huge discounts if you have enough miles with them. Unfortunately many of them expire your miles if you don’t use them within a certain period of time (I think Delta Airlines’ the only one with miles that never expire).  Your credit cards could give you flight perks too.

Tip #7 – Price Drops After You Book

Now that you’ve booked, what if the price drops?! Use Yapta or Kayak to keep track of price changes on your flight. Some airlines actually offer you a refund back if your flight price actually drops. I also like booking flights on Orbitz, because they also automatically keep track if someone else books the same flight at a lower price than I did. I’ve received a big fat check from them before.

Do you have any flight booking tips that you’ll like to share? Leave a comment below and we can keep this list going!

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