Traveling Cheap or How to Find a Good Deal on Airfares

Author: Tim Chen
Published: February 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm

With an overabundance of travel booking site, aggregators and search engines, hunting down the best airfare deal can seem an overwhelming task. Sure, plenty of tools are available, but few people have  mastered the nuanced art of snagging cheap flights. But with a little knowledge and persistence, anyone can become an effective budget traveler.

Here are our best tips for finding great deals on airfare.

1. Be web-savvy. Think you know the best web-browsing techniques for saving on travel? Maybe you've gotten good with practice, but are you truly exhausting your resources?  We recommend a three-step process to navigating its treacherous waters.

  • Get a general idea of pricing. To do this, use travel search engines like Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia. Punch in your desired dates and destinations, and you'll get a quick average going price for your route.
  • Perform mass searches. Use aggregators like Kayak and SideStep to sift through multiple search engines and airport websites simultaneously. In a very short period of time, you'll be able to compare an enormous number of flights and ticket prices. Aggregators provide a crucial service because they scan through airline websites and pull up options booking sites might not offer.
  • Visit the airline's website directly. Take your best three deals and look them up on their corresponding airline's site. You may be able to shave a few dollars by simply booking directly with the airline. And remember, airlines like to charge booking fees for making reservations over the phone. Keep your transactions online to mitigate costs.

    2. Research and understand ancillary fees. Even if you manage to find dirt-cheap airfare, you can still end up paying and arm and a leg in additional fees. Baggage fees are the most obvious and the most ruthless antagonists. If you can, fly with Southwest--the only US airline to offer two free checked bags per ticket. If you require any additional services (from bringing aboard a pet to printing your boarding pass at the airport), expect to pay more. For a comprehensive look at fees across domestic airlines, check out TravelNerd's airline fee comparison tool.

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    Article Author: Tim Chen

    Tim Chen is founder, CEO, and chief credit card nerd at NerdWallet, the web's best site for unbiased and uncensored credit card information.

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