What Everyone Should Know About Buying Airline Tickets

A lot of time and effort goes into planning the perfect vacation. It’s not a matter of clicking a few buttons and automatically finding the best deals. Purchasing a plane ticket can be a rather tedious process with all the available airlines, air/hotel packages, and varying departure and arrival times. Starting out can be a bit overwhelming, but not impossible. Search engines, waiting for specific times of the year, discounts, and cheap airline options are all essentials of outlining your travels in the most efficient and pain free way possible.

If you plan using the following tips listed below, you will most definitely cut down on any wasted time and mistakes.

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Search Engines to Use

The first part of finding the ideal flights for your vacation is knowing where to look. Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz, and Travelocity are probably the most commonly known search engines to use, however, the truth is that every search engine site has advantages and disadvantages. Different search engines target specific types of flights better than others.

  • Interested in the cheapest available flight without regard to dates or layover times? There are some ideal search engines to use if all that matters to you is price. Check Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz, and Travelocity first, but then take a look at some of the less traditional sites like Routehappy and Momondo for a better deal. Chances are that one of them will have a lower price.
  • Want cheap but aren’t interested in mind-numbing 12 or even 5 hour layovers? The search engine Hipmunk includes an “agony” setting on their search that prioritizes the flights into affordable but short layovers.
  • Booking a domestic flight on short notice and feeling flexible? Priceline has a bidding system where you can post low bids on available flights airlines want to fill, so sometimes you could get 15-30 percent off your flight. While it’s rare to get such a deal, it is an option, but you should know that you may choose the day of your flight, however you cannot pick the departure time and might have to endure long layovers.
  • Have flexible days and want to see the differences in prices a week before or after you intended to vacation? Most of the traditional websites have outdated and confusing systems to find you different prices of flights leaving on other days. Expedia, Momondo, and Google Flight Explorer have updated and visually clear listing of flights.

You might have to play around with the search engines to find what you want, but if nothing else remember this: Use incognito mode on the web page you are searching for flights. Search engines will track your searches using cookies and show you increased prices for flights to the places you want to go if you leave the original page and come back later.

Best Times to Buy

The ideal time of the year to buy airline tickets is not an exact science. Every flight will be different for the most part. Booking international flights versus domestic flights involves a typically different approach as well.

Many studies have been conducted to determine what days are best, but the most conclusive result from those studies reveals one important reminder: Don’t book flights on Fridays. Since many people work during the week and fly on the weekends, booking on Friday can lead to paying almost 11 percent more for a flight. Avoid booking too close to holidays as well since many people might wait to see if they are going to get the time off in order to travel.

When it comes to the best times to buy though, booking 53-55 days from the planned departure day seems to yield the best prices. Since the data is inexact, here are other wider ranges to buy cheaper tickets for domestic flights:

  • 112-21 days before departure is ideal for most domestic flights since there will still be quite a few options and deals are available and then gone from one day to the next.
  • 196-113 days before departure is better for those who simply need to plan ahead. It won’t cost much more for flight during this time period and you can rest easy knowing that you won’t be scrambling to pick the perfect dates and flight times.

International flights (other than to Central and South America) are typically very different from domestic flights and need to be purchased at an earlier time. Usually it is best to purchase tickets to Europe and Asia 120-160 days before while flights to the Middle East and Africa should be purchased around 215 days ahead, and lastly Caribbean and South Pacific trips will be cheaper almost a full year in advance.

Discounts on Airline Tickets

Other than scouring search engines for specific discounts for airline tickets, make sure that you always check the official website of the airline to see if they happen to have cheaper tickets posted. As you probably know, there are many available package deals with hotels and flights that are far more inexpensive as well.

Groupon also has available package deals for sometimes unfathomable prices. It works by offering package deals that often included all meals, transport to the airport, flights, hotels, and anything else you could imagine. While it doesn’t offer the flexibility of being able to plan the details of your trip, it has nearly unbeatable prices.

Check with the company you work with to see if they have any partner airlines that they can get you discounts with. It is more likely that they have deals with specific hotels, but still possible to get a cheaper flight going through them.

Cheapest Airline Tickets

The cost of your tickets is dependent on many parts, but what airline you take can certainly impact the cost of your flight. Some airlines like Spirit, Allegiant, and Frontier make you pay extra for even carry on items as well as checked bags, but the extra cost is usually reflected in the total flight cost. These airlines are a good option if you can avoid checked bags and pack light for your vacation. If you know you have a lot to pack though, consider flying with Southwest or JetBlue who have more lenient policies and will allow you to check 1-2 bags for free.

Wherever you’re planning to take your vacation, there are strategies to employ. Remember to not just pick the first deal that comes your way, but do a little bit of research before booking a flight. Smart shopping can go a long way toward getting you a better, cheaper flight.

Standret / Shutterstock.com

Standret / Shutterstock.com

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