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Finding the best airfare prices

Plane in flight (courtesy )Leo('s photostream at flickr's Creative Commons)

I often find some of the best travel advice in personal finance magazines like Money and Kiplinger’s.

In the August 2007 issue of Money, there’s a helpful article about “capturing a fare deal” when booking air travel. 

It includes a tip from one of my favorites, George Hobica at Airfarewatchdog, about the best times to find the largest selection of airfares (Saturday morning 7-9 am.) 

He also recommends looking for domestic fares weekdays noon-2 pm, 2:30-4:30 pm and 10 pm-midnight. For international fares, try weekdays 7:30-9:30 am and weekday late afternoons.

Now you have another reason to poke around airline sites during your work hours. 🙂

I’ve gotten away from using Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz since they now tend to tack on service charges.  Instead, I surf over to Kayak (some prefer similar sites like Mobissimo and SideStep) and plug in my search info.  Kayak checks a whole bunch of individual company and travel sites with one click. 

When they come up with a combination that I like and select,  I’m redirected from Kayak to the individual airline’s Web site, where I don’t have to pay extra charges.

I use Kayak to search for hotels as well (they can’t, however, help me keep track of all of those “frequent hotel guest” programs that I register for, but then never get the card or membership packet.)

More and more, it pays to skip the middleman sites because the individual airline and hotel Web sites offer up goodies that you can only get on their company sites, as an incentive for you to shop directly with them.

The Money article continues with other tidbits; I felt pretty good that I already follow most of the suggestions:

**  Be flexible with your travel dates and times if possible (some times, days and dates are less crowded.)

**  Consider nearby airports, but factor in the aggravation/gas cost of driving there, plus garage and hotel bills that may negate your savings.

**  Check budget airlines, although I always seem to find the best prices on Southwest, for example, for flights that are very early in the morning or late at night, which means exhaustion or a hotel bill — not always worth the savings to me.

Thanks, Money.

If you find a good airfare one day, but return later to find it no longer listed, clear the cookies from your computer.  It may “magically” re-appear when you are seen as a “new” person to the airline (or hotel) Web site. 

I’d love to have a Web or marketing guru explain to me why sites do this. I hate clearing all of my cookies because then I have to log into all of my fave sites/forums again, and remember all of my usernames and passwords.  To avoid that, I search for prices on my family desktop and then later dig up the same fare on my laptop, since it won’t have the cookie that they’ve put on my desktop.  What a pain.

For more good guidance, click here for links to Kiplinger’s magazine articles that are travel-related, including great values in overseas trips.

Technorati tags:  travel, budget travel, family travel, cheap airfare