Get a parachute! (Just kidding…) 😎
I don’t know about you, but I have found that when planning a trip, one of the top stress-inducing periods is when I’m trying to find flights. Although less so with domestic vacations than international flights, I never really know whether I’m finding the best deal, and hate the feeling of potentially losing money on what can be the most expensive part of a trip.
Cookies are not for eating
Cookies may NOT be your friend when searching flights!
Essentially, a cookie is a data file created by a website and stored by your web browser. It’s where your preferences are stored (like login details, usernames and passwords) so you don’t have to fill these details in every time you visit a specific site. Following that line of thought, it can also store preferences such as destinations you’ve searched for, flight dates, number of passengers, etc.
It has been suggested that certain sites will show more expensive prices if they know your target searches. Whether that is true or not is largely debated, but the general rule of thumb is to search for flights in incongito mode or clear cookies before you search.
Flexibility is not just for yoga
The best way to get some of the best prices is to be flexible. Both on timing as well as destination. Although easier said than done, you can find ridiculously low deals if you’re open to low season traveling, or waiting for suprise or short-term promotions. Airlines will often drop seat prices if they aren’t filling up their planes, meaning that you could end up paying half as much as your neighbor. This also ties in wonderfully with some of the “watchdog” sites I’ll mention later, who keep an eye out for mistake fares and low promotions from certain airlines (i.e. $320 roundtrip from Denver to Brussels).
Not all search engines are created equal
I’ve moved beyond Kayak. There are most definitely search engines that will bring me better flight prices, and I’ve used each of these when searching for flights (sometimes all 3).
Momondo.com is the first engine I go to when checking flights. It’s a 3rd-party group out of Europe, and I feel I’ve gotten lucky (especially with my domestic flights), when I visit.
You can compare flights, rentals, and hotels with Skyscanner.com, with extra tools like email alerts (I appreciate those). They also have an interesting blog.
You know ’em, you love ’em. Google Flights. Great way to compare flights easily, and a nice search engine to have saved.
Let someone else do the hard work
There are a number of “watchdog” sites that do nothing but watch flights and airlines, waiting for sudden price drops, mistaken fares, and short 24-48 hour promotions that can make a big difference when planning your trip. Again, the key here is flexibility.
By connecting with these sites, either through email or Twitter, you can get these updates and take advantage of ‘sniping’ great deals.
Also a search engine, Airfarewatchdog.com is a great site to follow on Twitter and use to get notifications! By signing up for price drop notifications, I’ve picked up a few lucky finds with no work.
Scott’s Cheap Flights is only for international deals. I’ve seen roundtrip prices as low as the $200’s for Europe! Follow them on Twitter, or pay a small fee for their “Premium” service (their regular emails are free).
Flight prices can change dramatically, without any input from cookies. All of the engines I’ve mentioned update in real time, so you can feel confident that the prices you’re seeing are real. The industry is dynamic, so don’t freak out by sudden jumps that can happen at any point.
Rule of thumb: Start looking at flights at least 8 weeks out, but consider waiting to purchase until 7-6 weeks before your trip. For high season travel, good deals may be last minute.
Some of our favorites: