How to Find the Absolutely Cheapest Airfare - Page 2

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 (John Foxx/Thinkstock)

Compare prices online
Several great websites exist for the purpose of making sure you’ll be flying cheap no matter where or when you go. Kayak is one of the best, as it can open several windows to show you what other sites (like Expedia and Priceline) are offering. Once you know the baseline prices for the mainstream airlines, check the websites of the airlines themselves, as occasionally sale prices will show up here and not on the comparison sites. Finally, check the websites of discount airlines like Southwest, JetBlue, and RyanAir (for flights within Europe), which sometimes are not listed on the comparison websites.

Sign up for airfare tracking
To find out when the best time to buy your airline ticket is (right now! as opposed to in a few days), do your search with Bing Travel, Orbitz, AirfareWatchdog, FareCompare, or Yapta. These sites can predict if fares on your route and departure dates will go up, stay the same, or drop, giving you a better idea of the best time to buy.

Do the math
Just because an airline has branded itself as a “discount airline” doesn’t mean its true—check for yourself. Some “discount” airlines may have a lower base fare, but the devil is in the details. Be sure to check on fees for booking (even when booking online, some airlines add a booking fee); checked bags and carry-ons (and their weight and size restrictions); and seat selection (some discount airlines do not assign seat numbers and make customers pay for the privilege of reserving a specific seat in advance). Once you include these add-on fees, you may no longer be flying cheap and could save money with another carrier.

Join frequent-flyer clubs
Sign up for the frequent-flyer programs on all airlines that fly to your destination. Signing up is free and the miles do add up, especially if you fly the same route often. However, when it does come time to use your miles, you’ll likely encounter blackout dates and even fees to cash in your miles. You can also apply for credit and debit cards that offer mileage rewards on specific airlines or for travel in general.

Consult a travel agent
Yes, you can still get good deals from a travel agent. Some travel agents have access to wholesale ticket blocks, which cost quite a bit less than anything you can find online.

Go ahead, just ask
Work all your memberships: Ask your airline if they have discounts for AARP members, AAA members, Costco members, seniors, students, members of the military or their families, and so on. You might be pleasantly surprised by what hidden discounts you’ll be able to find.

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