Spend Less $ on Flights
How to find the best prices on airfare
Airline ticket pricing fluctuates dramatically and the results often appear crazy and random. In reality, airline pricing is the result of sophisticated pricing algorithms. If you understand these parameters and know how to use the internet's powerful tools you can find the best price. Airline ticket pricing is determined by supply and demand. Being flexible on airline, dates, time and airports can save you thousands of dollars.
We view international travel differently from domestic travel because cost and comfort are more important on long haul flights. With domestic travel we typically use Travel Search Engines (TSE), like Kayak, Skiplagged and Google Flights to book our flights. With long international flights we prefer flying business class so we can stretch out and sleep. Business class tickets are pricey so we work harder to find the best value. We do our homework up front using the same TSE tools as for domestic flights. In the end, we usually book our transcon flights with Paul Ouvarov at Insider Fares (See the "Just Call Paul" section below).
Are you the type of person who enjoys trip planning? If "NO", by all means give this job to someone else. If "YES" read on! For many, trip research, finding deals or out of the way places and reading about what others do, is an enjoyable part of the journey. However, finding flights at good prices (especially international) is complicated, confusing and time consuming. Over the years, we've developed a formula for getting through the process with a minimum of frustration. In short, when we buy tickets, we want the best deal possible.
We are all different and have a unique list of what is important to "us." A wise friend shared - "Do you want your trip to start when you leave home or when you arrive at your destination?" In other words, what do YOU value. Planning a trip is about trade offs. You trade money for convenience, time and comfort. You need to decide what YOU want. Do you want minimum flight hassle? Do you want to enjoy the private airport lounge prior to departure? Do you want a seat that turns into a bed (beware! all biz class is not the same) while en route? How much do you value personal space for multiple hours? How many layovers can you tolerate? How do you buy a premier seat for the least amount of money....... Self awareness is the first step. Next.....
Do your Homework
There is no substitute for digging in and doing homework. It takes a little effort, but it pays off with a trip that meets your needs and brings you joy. We live in the US so most of our air travel is within the US or international travel from the US. Our recommendations are for these types of travel. Below are the steps we take in order to travel for the least amount of money. These steps are helpful from domestic coach to international premier class tickets.
Using air or credit card miles is the obvious first step. Advance planning and flexible dates give you more options and sometimes you find the perfect flight for less miles than you expect. During "High Season" - the time of year when a place has most tourists or visitors, expect to use maximum miles. However, if you have lots of miles always check your air/credit card programs because sometimes you might find a sweet deal.
Which airline or credit card club is best? We offer no opinion because these programs frequently change. There are even websites that track which credit cards offer the best deals and some people hop from card to card hoping to rack up thousands of air miles. You will have to do look else where for tips on this.
Travel Search Engines (TSE)
Here is a Kayak search from San Francisco to Singapore. It's easy to manage the options of ticket class, flexible dates, non-stop or multiple layovers. If you do not want to purchase tickets on their site, write down the flight specifics and contact the carrier directly. If your trip is months away, most TSE's also allow you to set up an "alert" or fare watch and you will receive emails regarding prices.
What is it?
Skiplagged is a TSE that finds pricing anomalies with multi-leg tickets.
How does it work? It turns out that sometimes ticket pricing for a full trip is less than ticket pricing for part of a trip. For example, if you book a ticket from New York to just Chicago it may be much more than a ticket from New York to LA that stops in Chicago.
Imagine you buy a ticket from New York to Los Angeles with a stop over in Chicago. When you land in Chicago, a friend who lives there calls and says she has 2 front row tickets to tonight's showing of Hamilton. You don't need to get to LA for 2 days so off the plane you go. You actually would have saved money over buying a ticket from New York direct to Chicago. Skiplagged works like this.
Skiplagged finds these pricing anomalies. You get an itinerary that goes from New York to LA, and you just get off the plane when it stops in Chicago.
Skiplagged claims to offer, "Ridiculous travel deals you can't find anywhere else. Our flights are so cheap, United sued us... but we won. Find flights the airlines don't want you to see. We're exposing loopholes in airfare pricing." We regularly "skiplagg" domestic flights.
Please be aware of the tips below.
Tip - Skiplagged only offers Economy seats.
Tip - Carry on only! If you check your luggage and deplane at the stop over, your baggage goes to the final destination.
Tip - No air mile credit! The website warns customers that if the carrier discovers you purchased "a hidden-city ticket," you run the risk of losing all your air miles.
Tip - Bring your passport! Plan ahead, if your end destination is Vancouver BC, and layover is Seattle, this is an international flight!
Tip - Buy only 1 way tickets to reduce anxiety if you are worried the carrier won't honor your return ticket.
Tip - Read Skiplagged's FAQs for further clarification.
Still want to give it a try? Test drive a domestic flight before an international flight! We have Skiplagged for over 20 domestic and 1 international flights and never had a problem saving lots of money. You do not purchase tickets on the Skiplagged site. Skiplagg redirects you purchase directly from the carrier.
Skiplagged now offers hotel deals. We plan to try this very soon!
Deep into The Matrix
If you really want to delve deep into the world of airline ticket pricing, check out Google's Matrix - ITA Software. It is easy to spend hours entering every possible variable to find the most economical price, most direct flight and everything else!
Travel expert Johnny Jet provides a detailed description of using Google flights and the Matrix-ITA tools. In our experience Google Flights is easier to use and often provides good results. But if you want to tweak more parameters then the Matrix is a more powerful tool.
Using the Matrix system is a 3 step process.
Step 1: Flight Parameters.
Say you want a round trip from Milwaukee to Brussels. You set a desired range of your trip endpoints. You set the number of stops. You set date of travel or a date range. Maybe you are OK with driving 200 miles on either side. The software looks for flights from airports within the search parameters.
Learning to navigate the site takes time, so be patient, otherwise the experience will likely cause frustration. In our experience there are still results that don't make sense sometimes. Our advice is to not dwell on that or try and figure out why. Simply change some parameters and try a new search.
Step 2: Choose the Date
One of the very powerful attributes of Matrix is the ability to easily see how fares change on different days. If you click the "see calendar of lowest fares" option when inputing your search, you are presented with a calendar with fares. You may want to do a couple searches with different search parameters to optimize this step. If your search turns up strange search results change the parameters.
Pick a date and move on to the next step.
Step 3: Choose the Flight
After a few seconds you will be presented with a list of airlines and flights that meet your search criteria. Pick your flight and book it. Or better yet, move on to the next step of calling Paul. There is an excellent chance that Paul will beat whatever pricing you have found, especially if you are looking for business class tickets.
"Just Call Paul" - the Premier International Airline Consolidator
OK. So who is Paul and why do we call him?
We are not 20 any more. We are not even 30. The idea of sitting in a coach seat for a 12 hour flight is not palatable. So for long flights, we fly business class. But business is expensive. That is where Paul comes in.
For big trips, we do all the research described above with mileage clubs, carriers and TSEs and then we call Paul. 99% of the time, he finds a better deal! Paul Ouvarov is an international ticket consolidator who quickly figures out what we are looking for and within a matter of hours, provides options and ideas we didn't know possible. And, yes, he has incredible prices!
- Consolidated airfare is not available to the general public. Airlines contract consolidators whom in turn resell the discount airfare rates to travel agents. Consolidators do not cater to the general public as it is not allowed by airline contracts to avoid direct competition. If that was to happen, they would literally sell same tickets as airlines (dates, class or service) but at a lower rate.
- One can accumulate miles, but not every time. Certain conditions must be met in order to accumulate and get the lowest possible rate at the same time (advance purchase requirement, certain number of days, minimum stay, Saturday night stay etc).
You can reach Paul Ouvarov - Direct: 415-517-8514 or 866-359-0123 ex 105 Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Mention the Promo Code - travelisbeautiful and Paul will give you white glove service!
Planning trips and saving money is not that complicated if you follow these steps. Plan ahead and do your homework. When you find the perfect flight, buy it before some one else does. Let us know if you find this helpful and please share any tips you have in the comments section!