Looking for travel deals way ahead of time
November 22, 2010 9:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to keep track of cheap tickets for a dream international flight in end July 2011. However, almost all the sites I looked at say I'm searching way too early and have no information for me. When is the best time to look, and are there any websites that will email me with details once a good price or deal shows up? (I vaguely remember hearing of such a thing but can't remember the URL)

If it helps, I'm looking for a flight from Australia to the US, with a stay of about 3 months. It doesn't have to be direct.

I think the 3-month gap is also affecting my chances of searching for good flights. Should I just look for one-ways at first?
posted by divabat to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried speaking to a travel agent? Even though I'm generally a do-it-yourself person, I've found agents can sometimes make available things you couldn't find/get you deals you couldn't get by yourself on the intarwebs.

Also, you don't want a one-way on that route--it's WAAAY expensive to do it that way. I've flown one-way between Australia and Canada a couple of times, and it was 1000CAD (Canada to Australia) and 1300AUD (Australia to Canada). A relative has just bought a Canada-Australia round trip for I think about 1500CAD. It just doesn't compare. And you can get flights with up to a year gap, so your three months shouldn't really be a problem. (I've bought such tickets only through travel agents, though, as I've also had bad luck finding them online.)
posted by equivocator at 10:04 PM on November 22, 2010

I generally use Kayak, though I'm not sure if they have their fare chart for international flights (it shows historic and average lows/highs).

Don't do the one-way thing, it's almost always more expensive than booking a roundtrip ticket.

If you've been searching much earlier than this month, you may have been running into the advance booking window, which is that you can usually see flights within the next 330 days. If your exact return date is more than 11 months from now, that could be why you're getting errors from some sites.
posted by polexa at 10:21 PM on November 22, 2010

Lifehacker had a post about the cheapest time to search for flights.
posted by bardophile at 11:13 PM on November 22, 2010

I've used Yapta to track flight prices before. And I'm seconding the suggestion to ask travel agents, because some of them have access to very cheap consolidator fares. You could try looking for reliable agents that handle your route on the Flyertalk forums, where people will vouch for agents they've successfully dealt with before.
posted by swimmingly at 11:18 PM on November 22, 2010

Seconding Kayak for keeping you posted on the prices - their Buzz feature is great for this, and it does do international flights. You can set up multiple email alerts in Buzz, so your best bet might be to set one up for various combinations of departure cities, departure months, etc.

Also, if you're looking to stay for as long as three months, one-way flights could actually be the same price or cheaper (at least, for US/Europe - not sure about Australia/US*). Although you might run into the difficulty that the probably-ideal lead time for buying the outbound ticket is a couple of months ahead of the one for buying the returning ticket, which could get a bit suspenseful.

Anyway, good luck! And don't get discouraged if the prices are all ridiculous at this point - I know it's knuckle-biting this far ahead, but the tickets will get a lot closer to reasonable once you're within a few months of your departure date.

*Crap, I just noticed equivocator's comment above. Ok, scratch the one-way flight part of the advice, then.
posted by Cimrmanova at 6:01 AM on November 23, 2010

Whilst not specifically addressing your question (at present it only covers flights for about the next four months) check out Adioso.

It's a natural language search site that is so much quicker and nicer to use than all the select-drop-down-option, tab-to-next-field, fill-in-detail, tab-to-open-calendar…- type sites that are out there.

You can be specific: "Melbourne to Los Angeles this Wednesday"

Or much more open ended: "Melbourne to overseas next month under $300"

There is the option to filter results afterwards, but the initial search is so easy and flexible that it usually isn't necessary.

And it also displays a great graph showing cost of travel each day, so you can work out when the cheap flights are available without leaving the page, rather than endlessly searching through databases as other sites require you to do.

Disclaimer: I personally know one of the founders of the site. But I'd champion it regardless, because it's so much better than any other flight sites I have come across.
posted by puffmoike at 7:28 AM on November 23, 2010

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