Cheap Flights 101


You know where you want to go and when. Mouse in hand, you approach the glaring, daunting screen of your computer. Task number one: Do a drive-by of the big search engines like Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, and Cheaptickets. Consider this as a fact-finding mission: a survey of these sites will give you a good idea on the average going rate for a retail ticket.

These search engines also offer a variety of search flexibility. Orbitz and Travelocity both allow you to search multiple dates—or even whole months—so you can compare rates and plan on traveling on the least expensive day.

Also keep in mind that ticket prices can vary drastically by airport. If you’re flying out of Boston, try Providence. San Francisco? Think Oakland. How about Charlotte? Consider Greensboro. Cheaptickets and Travelocity both have tools for searching multiple airports to come up with the best rate based on proximity, while Orbitz will automatically search all airports associated with a particular destination (for example, searches for Washington, D.C., yields results on Reagan, Dulles, and Baltimore-Washington airports).

A new breed of search engine has cropped up in the past few years: the aggregator site. Sites like Qixo, Kayak, and SideStep search a whole flock of search engines as well as airline sites themselves. Why go the extra step? Many of the budget airlines that have great inexpensive fares, like Southwest, don’t do business with consolidators like Travelocity, so by searching only those sites, you’re missing half the market. Our favorite is Mobissimo, which on multiple comparisons brought up the lowest fares most quickly.

Published: 15 Jun 2005 | Last Updated: 24 Oct 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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