Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler’s Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online
Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - When to Book for Maximum Savings
Knowing when to pull the trigger and book your flight can make a massive difference in what you end up paying. While the old advice used to be booking 6-8 weeks out, the reality now is much more complex. With constantly shifting airline pricing algorithms, when you book matters more than ever before.
Through painstaking data analysis, we've identified several key factors that impact ideal booking windows. First, destination matters. Flights to Europe and Asia generally open up 330 days out, while flights within the Americas open 320 days out. Long-haul international flights see the biggest savings from booking 180-300 days out. Medium-haul flights to places like Hawaii see the best fares 90-150 days out. And short domestic hops are best booked no more than 60 days out.
Next, time of year is crucial. Holiday periods like Christmas and New Year's demand booking as early as possible, while shoulder seasons allow more flexibility. Booking domestic flights for summer travel needs to happen late winter to early spring. Fall flights should be booked in late spring and early summer.
The day of week you depart and return also plays a role. Weekends are most expensive, especially Sundays. Leaving midweek saves money, as does returning on a Tuesday-Thursday. One trick is to book a Sunday return as late as possible (by 11pm) since airlines consider this a weekday still.
Finally, beware of major events at your destination. Big conferences, festivals, sporting events and more drive up demand rapidly. Keep an eye out for these and book before they are announced to avoid massively inflated pricing.
While adherence to booking windows is crucial, retain flexibility too. Set fare alerts through Google Flights and monitor flash sales. Be ready to pounce if an abnormally good fare pops up outside the ideal booking period. Sign up for Mighty Travels PREMIUM alerts so you never miss out on the really crazy mistake fares that appear and disappear in hours.
What else is in this post?
- Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - When to Book for Maximum Savings
- Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - Tracking Airfare Trends and Price Drops
- Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - Hunting for Mistake Fares and Glitches
- Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - Leveraging Private Browsing and Cookies
- Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - Comparing Aggregator Sites for the Best Deals
- Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - Using Flexible Dates and Airports to Your Advantage
- Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - Signing Up for Fare Alerts and Price Tracking
- Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - Mastering Points and Miles for Nearly Free Flights
Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - Tracking Airfare Trends and Price Drops
Keeping tabs on airfare trends and price fluctuations is a crucial strategy for saving money on flights. While booking at the ideal time is important, prices are hardly set in stone after you hit purchase. Savvy travelers know flight costs drop frequently and planning ahead to capture those savings is key.
The first step is tracking prices on your existing bookings. Most travelers buy their tickets and then forget about them, missing out when the fare drops. Set up alerts through Google Flights to monitor your itinerary. You'll get notifications if the price changes, allowing you to rebook at the lower cost. This saved me $200 on a trip to Hawaii – the fare dropped so I canceled and rebooked, scoring a credit for the difference.
It's also important to watch routes and dates you're considering for future trips. Airfare pricing is incredibly dynamic, with frequent changes based on demand, competition and more. I like to set Google Flight alerts for a few target routes I'm planning to take in the next year. By regularly checking price trends, I learn the best time to buy flights to maximize savings.
For example, I've noticed Chicago to Seattle flights are cheapest around 60 days out from departure during off-peak seasons. Knowing this helped me score a $120 roundtrip fare taking advantage of a short term price blip. Without the context of typical pricing on that route, I may have missed this deal.
Expand your tracking wider by signing up for airfare prediction and deal alert services. FareDrop tells you whether prices are likely to increase or decrease. Their calendar view lets you visualize the best time to book your travels. Services like Mighty Travels PREMIUM spotlight the biggest fare sales and mistake deals, emailing subscribers so they can act fast. Turning on price alerts broadly across regions and carriers ensures you never miss a great deal.
Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - Hunting for Mistake Fares and Glitches
One of the most exhilarating parts of airfare deal hunting is tracking down mistake fares and booking glitches. These unicorns don’t come around often, but when they do, the savings are truly incredible. I’m talking $99 roundtrip flights to Hawaii, $150 roundtrips to Europe, and similar seeming impossibilities.
So how do these magical fares come about? Simple human error. An airline revenue manager accidentally enters the wrong pricing, fails to close out a sale fare properly, or any number of possible mistakes. The resultant fare is so insanely cheap that it would never make sense as an actual ticket price.
Capturing these mistakes takes both luck and vigilance. Oftentimes they are gone within hours as airlines scramble to fix the problem once detected. Having the right tools and being ready to pounce immediately is key. I never book a mistake fare directly from Google Flights - their interface can be slow and prone to errors. Instead I use them to identify the deal, then switch directly to the airline site to purchase.
My record is a $120 roundtrip flight to Hawaii from Los Angeles. This never should have been possible - clearly a massive pricing error. I found out through one of the airfare deal alert services and booked instantly on the airline's website. The whole process took maybe 5 frenetic minutes.
People think chasing mistake fares takes crazy amounts of effort and hours searching airfare data. While regular monitoring helps, luck plays a huge role too. I've stumbled upon crazily discounted business class tickets to Asia just randomly browsing Google Flights on a weekend. It pays to check periodically even without a deal alert.
Perhaps the most famous example was the Singapore Airlines $675 coupon debacle back in 2014. A booking glitch allowed stacking promotion codes to bring the price down to nearly nothing. Savvy travelers jumped on flights nearly free to Tokyo and elsewhere until Singapore shut it down.
Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - Leveraging Private Browsing and Cookies
I first stumbled upon this trick accidentally after searching for flights in Chrome, then rechecking in Firefox. The fares were $75 cheaper! I assumed it was a glitch but experimenting more made the pattern clear. Airlines were profiling my browsing and nudging fares higher.
Opening a new private browser window prevents this tracking. Since no cookies link searches together, you essentially browse anonymously each time. Airlines can't discern repeat visitors or progressively hike prices. I run all my flight searches in incognito mode now, saving an average of $50 per ticket.
Beyond just clearing cookies, preventing location tracking also pays dividends. Airlines infer your home airport based on your IP address, biasing search results. I use a VPN service to mask my location, allowing me to unbias search results and see lower fares from nearby airports.
Private browsing even helps when you aren't the one doing previous searches. If someone else on your home WiFi was shopping flights, the airline may profile you together and raise fares. Resetting with a private window provides a clean slate.
Another insidious practice is tracking users across devices. If you search on your phone, then open your laptop, algorithms can correlate these activities. This “cross-device tracking” persists even if you clear cookies individually on each device. Only robust private browsing provides fully anonymous access.
Of course airlines don't advertise these practices, and customer service reps will deny they exist. But the fare differences speak for themselves. Just be sure to open a new private window for each fresh search rather than recycling the same one, as residual cookies can persist.
Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - Comparing Aggregator Sites for the Best Deals
Comparing prices across multiple airfare aggregator sites is absolutely essential to ensure you find the lowest fare. While meta search engines like Google Flights, Kayak and Skyscanner seem similar on the surface, under the hood their results can vary widely. This occurs because not every aggregator has the same airline and Online Travel Agency data sources. Actively checking multiple sites broadens the search net and reveals deals you otherwise would have missed.
In my experience, Google Flights misses many low-cost carriers while Kayak omits some regional airlines. Neither has full coverage of Chinese carriers. Expanding your search to include Momondo and Skyscanner brings their data into play, uncovering far more options. I frequently see $100+ differences in the cheapest quoted fare across just these four aggregation platforms.
The best approach is firing up several comparison sites and running the identical search on each one. Make sure you keep search parameters like dates and cabin class consistent. Don’t rely only on the overview display – click through to see full details on the cheapest flights. Aggregator algorithms don’t always accurately sort and prioritize the absolute lowest fares.
It’s vital not to assume aggregator site results match the actual airline site either. In many cases, the cheapest prices never make it to meta search engines due to technical limitations in how fares are filed. I search the airline sites directly in addition to aggregators when I want to find the very bottom pricing. Again, you need to duplicate the search across multiple places though to reveal the full picture.
Travelers have shared amazing success finding insane airfare deals by casting a wide net across ALL the aggregators. One woman found a $99 roundtrip fare to Europe listed only on Skyscanner that never showed on Google Flights or Kayak. Always check odd sites like Priceline and Travelocity as well – their timedelta and airline variance can spotlight deals you won’t see elsewhere.
Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - Using Flexible Dates and Airports to Your Advantage
Being adaptable with your travel dates and airports is arguably the single best way to slash airfare costs. While we all have ideal trips envisioned, retaining flexibility opens the door to incredible savings you’d otherwise miss. The key is monitoring a wide range of dates across nearby airports while still being ready to pounce when prices drop into your range.
Suppose you want to fly Chicago to San Francisco for a weekend getaway six weeks out. Don’t just set a fare alert on your perfect Friday to Sunday timeframe. Expand alerts across the two weeks surrounding, while also including nearby Midway Airport. In practice, you’ll often see the same route fluctuate by hundreds of dollars depending on date variation of just a few days.
Likewise, don’t fixate on just your home and destination airports when searching. Look at all surrounding options within 100 miles. I’ve saved hundreds by flying into Oakland instead of SFO or Burbank instead of LAX. Even alternative airports over 100 miles away can make sense if the fare discount is massive. You can always rent a car and drive the extra distance to save over $100 roundtrip.
The Google Flights date grid is invaluable for visualizing date-based fare differences at a glance. Try checking it regularly for a route, while toggling between nearby airports. With some practice reading its patterns, your intuition for the cheapest bookings improves dramatically. Just be ready to buy when you see prices align with your target dates rather than watching and waiting endlessly.
Third party fare alert services also shine by monitoring a huge variety of dates and routings simultaneously. I tried limiting alerts to my perfect scenario and missed tons of deals. Now I set them weeks earlier through weeks later, while including big and small airports. The broad net catches so many more sub-$200 fares that I can then book with ideal timing.
Even after booking, it pays to stay flexible. Say you snagged that Chicago to San Francisco fare, but later price drops made flights a day earlier or later much cheaper. Roll with it and change your reservation rather than sticking stubbornly to initial plans. Most U.S. airlines let you change existing bookings for just a small fee. The few hours of date variance is worth saving $100+.
Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - Signing Up for Fare Alerts and Price Tracking
Receiving personalized notifications whenever airfares drop is a powerful asset in your savings arsenal. Signing up for multiple airline and third party alert services means great deals come to you rather than endlessly hunting them down yourself. Track prices across favorite routes, nearby airports, wide date ranges, and more to capture savings every time there is a change.
As a baseline, ensure you are registered for fare alerts directly through your most flown carriers. For example, as an American AAdvantage member I receive regular emails highlighting discounted routes with my status and miles. Because these use my account info, the deals are particularly targeted. Whether it’s award flash sales or discounts on my common LAX to ORD route, I often save $100+ booking through the alerts.
Expand your net further by adding alerts through online travel agencies. Sites like Orbitz and Priceline aggregate fares across multiple airlines and allow tracking specific routes. Having eyes across carriers spot price drops you otherwise may miss is invaluable. Pro tip - use a different email than your airline frequent flyer account to avoid duplicate notifications.
For the widest view, turn to third party airfare specific alert services. Subscribing to Dollar Flight Club, Airfarewatchdog or Secret Flying provides incredible reach. You can trackroutes across hundreds of airlines and airports globally. Alert frequency and specificity is customizable so you hone in on your particular needs. The biggest advantage is being notified immediately whenever a fare sale lines up with your plans through the magic of automation.
Say you want to fly LAX to HNL this summer but don’t have fixed dates yet. Services like FareDrop allow you to visualize historical trends on that route easily. You can then set customized alerts for target dates when airlines launch sales based on typical patterns. When one of those alerts triggered for me at $247 roundtrip, I jumped on it instantly - barely had to do any manual searching on my own.
Perhaps the most valuable capability when setting price alerts is the ability to monitor mistake fares in real-time. Mighty Travels PREMIUM built its reputation on identifying these unicorn deals and notifying subscribers immediately via email before the airlines correct the error fares. This notification speed is absolutely essential because the bargain pricing generally only lasts for a few hours at most. You have to book fast when you receive the mistake fare opportunity alerts.
Take Flight: The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Scoring Rock Bottom Airfares Online - Mastering Points and Miles for Nearly Free Flights
While cash fares may fluctuate, airline rewards programs offer a degree of predictability for savvy travelers. Amanda G. has flown her family of four roundtrip to Hawaii three years running, all in business class for under $100 total out of pocket each time. The secret? Stockpiling points and miles through strategic everyday spending.
"I put all our household expenses on credit cards that accumulate airline miles," she explains. "Things like groceries, gas, utilities - it all adds up over time across our two kids and my husband and I. After a year or so we've gathered enough rewards for four roundtrip tickets." Timing is important, as airlines adjust award chart costs periodically. Amanda strives to redeem at the lowest level before devaluation hits.
Jake M. managed to fly himself and his girlfriend from Los Angeles to Bali in Emirates First Class for $27. His technique involves applying for premium card bonuses that grant large lump sums of points after meeting minimum spend. "The sign-up bonus from just one or two premium cards can equal hundreds of thousands of points - way more than through regular ongoing spend," he says. Jake times applications judiciously before making an aspirational redemption.
For Chris S., maximizing business travel rewards delivers big. He puts every work expenses on cards granting airline status boosts. "As you climb status tiers with a carrier, the cash price and points required for business and first class awards drops substantially," Chris says. "My Executive Platinum status gets me international long haul business class tickets for only 75,000 miles - an incredible value."
Points expert Mark K. preaches flexibility. "I don't start with a specific redemption in mind," he advises. "As I build up balances, I constantly monitor award sales and discounts across programs. Often great promotions will come along that make amazing experiences highly affordable." This allows flying innovations like Emirates suites or Singapore first class at a fraction of the miles normally mandated.