Strategies for getting the cheapest possible airfares
July 27, 2009 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Travelbugfilter: What are some of your tips, tricks, and strategies for getting the best airfares for both domestic and international travel?

I have recently rediscovered the joys of travel and would like to get out more on the weekends (domestic) or 2-3 week international trips. Although I mostly travel last minute, I am willing to be more organized if I can save considerably on fares. I usually try Kayak or Southwest but have no real ideas beyond that. Even though I am no longer a student I still have my STA card (but have never found good fares there).
Do you have some sort of routine/strategy/tricks to get the best possible fare? Do you check certain websites in order? Is booking directly from an airline better in some cases? Are travel agents (especially ones that are country specific e.g. India) better for some countries than others? Are there good lists to worth signing up for?
posted by special-k to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
I do know that the lowest airfares tend to be released on Tuesdays. Most Kayak/TravelZoo/etc emails come out late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, perhaps after they've had time to aggregate. If you check yourself at the airlines' sites on Tuesday morning, you may find the best fares there.
posted by olinerd at 12:14 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Travelzoo has good deals from time to time, but for the real deal, Flyertalker is on top of all the good deals. Get on that forum.
posted by stratastar at 12:14 PM on July 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Airfarewatchdog is pretty useful for me for certain deals, but when I'm tracking certain fares, I will just check them across as many sites as possible for as long as possible, and read as many forums related to traveling to that place. Depending on the country you're going to, booking strategies can vary wildly.

When traveling to Peru, for instance,'s Lima office can give you price discounts of ~50% from anything close to what you'd get on Kayak/Expedia/Priceline, etc.

On a recent trip to China/Taiwan, the best price I could get was actually from a ticket agent that catered primarily to Taiwanese clients. Don't know how she did it, but she saved me some money.

Look around on tripadvisor or lonelyplanet to get help on the cheap.
posted by gushn at 12:28 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

People had really good tips for me here.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 12:28 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

You should look into signing up for the free Flyertalk community, which is full of people who fly, oh, 250,000 miles a year, and have so many rewards/points/miles that they go around the world, for free, in first class, often enough for there to be a huge section of the site dedicated to "trip reports" of their lavish travels. Though you may not be in their league, you will learn all about the industry. They are, for the most part, friendly - not AskMe friendly, but friendly. :) Be as specific as possible with questions, though.
posted by mdonley at 12:37 PM on July 27, 2009

Caveat: this answer involves twitter.

JetBlue has been posting $9 fares on twitter. They may not be to the most exciting of destinations (Long Beach!!) but they are definitely cheap. The catch is that there are a very limited number of seats, so you have to be fast.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:47 PM on July 27, 2009

Speaking of FlyerTalk, I monitor the RSS feed for the FlyerTalk mileage run forum, here. This way you get in on the ground floor of deals, rather than seeing them after they are sold out or the loophole is closed. The only downside is that their motivations are slightly different than a leisure traveler: they are prioritizing miles per dollar above all else. So a long cheap trip to somewhere no one would go to is "better" than a short cheap trip. (It really does work though, I got a ridiculous ticket to Australia earlier this year because V Australia made a pricing mistake for a few days.)
posted by smackfu at 12:48 PM on July 27, 2009

For international travel, you want to try and get in touch with a travel agent who specializes in serving the people from that country. They often book blocks of seats or are able to resell tickets for up to 50% off what you find on the Web.

Whenever I need to go back to the homeland, I call a travel agent I was referred to in Chicago. If you look around, you should be able to get some names of people. At that point, it's a matter of whether or not the seats are available when you want them.
posted by reenum at 1:06 PM on July 27, 2009

I haven't purchased this (yet), but you might be interested in Chris Guillebeau's Unconventional Guide to Discount Airfare. Chris is on a mission to travel to every country in the world in a span of 5 years.

He does offer a money back guarantee:
If the Unconventional Guide to Discount Airfare doesn’t rock your world, you get your money back. There is no time limit to the guarantee.
If nothing else, check out his blog for some interesting articles about his travels.
posted by k1ng at 12:12 PM on July 29, 2009

Visit and sign up for their Weekly Top 20 email.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:09 AM on July 31, 2009

A couple of related links I have bookmarked, haven't read them though: How to Get Cheap Flights Cheap Flights - Cheap or FREE flights, whenever & wherever you go
posted by renovatio1 at 7:12 PM on August 1, 2009

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