Travel newbie trying to book a holiday trip, what is the best way?
September 16, 2010 6:15 PM   Subscribe

How to get the best price on airline tickets when you are flexible on when and how you go?

I am a teacher and am trying to book Christmas break tickets to visit my mother in Florida. I have never booked my own tickets before (my only trips so far have been for things like weddings that other people booked or where I was traveling in a group and had no say) so I am not sure how to get the best deal. It seems the prices very so much, per day and even over the same day. I am a little overwhelmed.

I have to be in Florida by December 29 for a family event, but other than that, my plans are very flexible. I am free from December 17 onward, and other than this event on the 29th, I can do whatever I want:

- So if it is cheaper to go on the 18th instead of the 19th, or the 21st instead of the 20th or whatever, I don't care. Dates are very flexible within the timeframe of December 17-January 1.

- I can stay 8 days, 9 days, 10 days, it does not matter. I want to enjoy a nice holiday but I will be staying with family so accommodation is not an issue and its availability will not affect my trip.

- I can also fly to either Ft. Lauderdale OR to Miami. I have been told people can come and meet me at either of these places. My parents will be in some sort of condo suburb near both of these cities.

- I have no problems with making many connections or having a long travel day. My sole requirement is paying the lowest price I can.

- My passport was just renewed over the summer and I do not plan to check bags (I will take a backpack and pack lightly). So I should be fairly open to whatever connections or airport things.

So...Toronto to Florida, Christmas break. Very flexible plans as long as I am there on the day of December 29. Given how many variables there are to play with (length of stay, city to fly to, date of departure and return) how can I book this as easily as possible for the lowest price?
posted by JoannaC to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
As a starting point, I recommend searching on Their system has a number of search variables.
posted by hansbrough at 6:21 PM on September 16, 2010

Even better, try Matrix. It's the search engine behind kayak and others.
posted by lollusc at 6:39 PM on September 16, 2010

Or Tripadvisor.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:39 PM on September 16, 2010

Sorry, that second link should have been to this lifehacker description of matrix.
posted by lollusc at 6:40 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, kayak/matrix is a good place to look. Search often so you know the typical fares and can pounce on any lower ones. Check fares to lots of other airports and consider if it would be cheaper to fly into one and take the bus from there.
posted by soelo at 6:41 PM on September 16, 2010 is another good site to check. You can be very flexible with your travel dates/locations, and you should be able to see the whole month's lowest fares.
posted by bluestocking at 7:06 PM on September 16, 2010

I found this article to be very helpful when I was planning for a trip over the summer.
posted by Ryogen at 7:42 PM on September 16, 2010

I haven't used it to book an actual flight, but the dude who made reddit is now working on a site called Hipmunk that seems to make searches easy and presents the results in an easy-to-digest format. If nothing else, I like the "sort by agony" feature.
posted by IvyMike at 8:03 PM on September 16, 2010

Interesting, IvyMike, but your link go to instead, which just shows links to various travel sites. This is Hipmunk.
posted by Rash at 12:15 PM on September 17, 2010

I like using Travelocity and when they ask you dates, click the tab that says "Flexible Dates".

It will give you a fare and then a calendar that shows the conditions and travel dates required for that fare.

I periodically check it and sometimes find amazing deals, like $144 from Amarillo to New York (requires a 1 week stay) in November. Normally this fare is $288 for non-peak travel.
posted by abdulf at 1:47 PM on September 17, 2010

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