- Booking travel can be easier and cheaper with some tricks of the trade.
- Clearing your computer cookies can help.
- Consider all of your expenses.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
If you’re looking to take a trip, you probably know that one of the biggest hassles of travel planning is putting together a budget – and finding affordable airfare.
Travel agents, booking experts, and concierge services work hard to establish relationships and have specific strategies and secrets they use to score reasonably priced tickets. However, the professionals aren’t the only ones who can save major money on flights. Read on for five DIY pro tips you can put to use on your own, whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure.
Find a consolidator fare
Travel agents score good deals by booking consolidator fares, which are discounted seats on less popular flights. According to Travel + Leisure, “Airlines now see consolidator fares as a reliable way to sell a percentage of fares, and negotiate annual contracts, establish revenue targets, and tightly control sales through a specific kind of booking class. The rates are also known as ‘private’ or ‘bulk’ fares.”
While working with a travel agent who has established relationships is your best bet for scoring a consolidator airline fare, you can also find them on sites like Travelocity. Multiple travel agents affirmed to INSIDER that this is often an easier feat while buying tickets to Europe, as fewer consolidator fares are available on domestic flights nowadays.
Search for deals during the beginning of the week
Travel data shows that you’re likely to find better savings if you search for flights toward the beginning of the week. This happens because while fares are mostly controlled by software, humans push sales in certain directions. “Buying trends can even cause flash sales,” an agent from a boutique travel company in NYC told INSIDER. “The beginning of every week, in advance, is your best bet for searching for lower-priced tickets.”
Book sooner, rather than later
A recent report from travel site Hipmunk shows that the sweet spot for booking summer airfare is 21-28 days out from the date you hope to travel. Prices are likely to be higher outside of this window.
Liana Corwin, a consumer travel expert with the flight booking app Hopper, told INSIDER, “This month, we project a 6.8% increase in domestic round-trip flight prices to $US236 in line with expectations due to typical seasonal demand. Prices will continue to rise through June, then begin to fall from July through October. As a general rule of thumb, it’s always better to start tracking prices early in order to get a good deal.”
Weigh out all the costs
Travel agents know that the base price of a ticket rarely covers the total cost to fly, and they do the legwork to find customers the best overall value when it comes to ticket prices.
You can do the same by adequately researching add-ons, like baggage fees, overweight charges, WiFi, and more. Travel agents also pay close attention to fees, especially around “Use it or lose it” tickets.
Restrictions can quickly become extra expensive if you miss a flight, need to change a flight, or cancel a leg of your journey. “Pay specific attention to notes about upgrading with frequent flier miles,” one seasoned agent cautioned INSIDER. “With certain fare classes, you may not always be able to use them – or even pay to upgrade to another fare class.”
Search on the airline’s website directly
Freddie Julius, the CEO of Tourist England, told INSIDER that he suggests looking on an airline’s website, rather than a price comparison site, for the cheapest connecting flights.
“Airlines sometimes offer connecting flights involving a codeshare agreement that doesn’t show up when searching on flight comparison websites,” he noted.
Consider booking a travel package
Travel agents can often score better prices for customers who book a full package. Some cruise lines, for example, offer specially priced airfare for travellers.
Will you book a hotel or car rental in addition to your flight? If so, search for packages rather than booking separately. While hotels are known for hiding deep discounts within inclusive deals, you can score big on discounted airfare too.
Try your hand at ‘open jaw strategy’
Not planning to check bags on your flight? Karl Backlund of private travel agency Marchay told INSIDER about “open jaw strategy,” an agent booking tactic that plays on the fact that airlines occasionally discount routes with stops vs. direct flights.
“If you need to book a flight from New York to San Francisco, open jaw strategy would mean routing yourself from New York to San Francisco to LA, but leaving the San Francisco to Los Angeles portion unused,” he explained.
This tactic may not work for the most risk-averse travellers. “If you use this strategy in the middle of an itinerary, the sequential legs after the unused flight may be canceled by the airlines (not necessarily but not unlikely), so the unused portion should always be your last leg,” Backlund noted. “Pay attention to that.”
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