Now? Do we buy the tickets now?!
December 4, 2012 10:33 AM   Subscribe

We are going to Prague/Budapest in mid-to-late March. When should we buy tickets? (Now? Is it now?) And what's your favorite secret special travel site or best airline recommendation?

Details: The two of us are planning to travel to Prague and Budapest around March 14-24 or 15-25. We are flying out of DC. We aren't looking for Extreme Travel Deals, just the lowest reasonable price that doesn't involve crazy-long layovers or 15 legs. Questions:

Should we buy tickets right now, in the mythical post-3pm-on-a-Tuesday window of low prices, or wait a week or two? (Not interested in waiting until the last minute!)

We have been checking Hipmunk and Vayama, but there are an awful lot of options out there, and we don't want to miss anything -- what is your favorite site? Also right now, most of the tickets seem to be a bit over $900 -- do you have any tips or tricks or favorite airlines?

(I will probably ask another question in a few months about sights to see, but suggestions for lodgings or sights in each location welcome as well! )
posted by aaanastasia to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have found it to be almost universally true that the earlier you buy your tickets, the better price you get. Or you could just buy through orbitz or whoever has that "lowest price guarantee" thing and not have to worry about it.
posted by Grither at 10:34 AM on December 4, 2012

I've had great experiences using, which has terrific options for customization (e.g. search for all hotels on a map that shows you exactly how much each hotel will add to the total cost of your trip) while taking advantage of wholesaler travel deals.
posted by arco at 11:08 AM on December 4, 2012

The airlines don't really change the prices to reflect their perceived demand until at MOST 90 days out. From what I've seen it's more like 60 days out. The airline will generally post a higher price outside of that window (from what I've seen).

You should research what the "base" price is (in terms of taxes and fees). Clark Howard always breaks the prices down in those terms. Last I checked, the first ~$600 of a ticket's cost to Europe are all taxes/fees that the airline pays. I also like to check the fare trends on Kayak to see what the cheapest price has ever been.

Anectodal: I went to Romania in September. I checked prices about once a month since January. The prices stayed steady until exactly 2 months before the date that I wanted.

Good luck!
posted by verdeluz at 12:48 PM on December 4, 2012

I just checked and found $644 tickets from Dulles to Prague for your dates on Aeroflot. Could be more if you were flying into one city and out of another.

For hotels, I've yet to go wrong picking the highest rated hotel in my price range on TripAdvisor. I bet those cities would also have awesome AirBnB or other apartment rental options, which can be much more fun for getting to know a city if you don't care about hotel amenities.
posted by wsquared at 1:07 PM on December 4, 2012

Best answer: KLM/Air France have good prices to Budapest, usually. My experience is comparing them with other carriers that fly out of Canada, but they're always a couple hundred dollars cheaper than other available routes.

Hotel Palazzo Zichy in Budapest is everything the Trip Advisor reviews say it is, complete with an amazing - amazing! - buffet breakfast. We had to check the prices again to make sure I hadn't misconverted the Forint when booking and we were actually paying thousands of Euros rather than a few hundred for our three-night stay.
posted by urbanlenny at 2:00 PM on December 4, 2012

Best answer: No advice on when to buy the tickets, but 2nding Air France. On our recent November trip to Prague/Bratislava/Budapest, we flew Air France to Paris and then a shorter KLM leg to Vienna, and were picked up and driven into Bratislava. The leg room was outstanding (Mr Wintersonata is 6'8"), they gave us champagne and cognac in coach (!), the food was wonderful, the takeoff was timely, and we got to practice our high-school-level French. The tickets were the cheapest through Travelocity, and while I found the online check-in frustrating (because Delta directs you to Air France which directs you to Air Austria which doesn't allow online check-in, argh), we were able to just check in at the kiosks at the airport.

Mr Wintersonata's travel-savvy brother (who lives in Bratislava) had us stay at these two gems:

Budapest: Lord Apartments had spacious, beautifully furnished rooms with a full kitchen and a 24hr concierge for very affordable prices. They're a little out of the way of central Budapest, but walking around is half the fun. Our favorite restaurant was Zsakbamacska ("cat out of the bag" is the loose translation - look for the cat sitting in a soup pot). Friendly service, enormous portions, English-speaking severs.

Prague: Aparthotel Austria Suites: less swankily furnished, but with room-service mini breakfast (ham, cheese, bread, cereal, yogurt) every morning as well as a 24hr concierge. It's two blocks away from the Andel metro stop and a huuuuuuuuge shopping mall/movie theater/grocery store complex.

MeMail me when you post that follow-up question so I can recommend some more restaurants and stuff. :)
posted by wintersonata9 at 4:59 PM on December 4, 2012

Response by poster: Tickets purchased! No idea if we got the best deal, but it was the dates and times we wanted (unfortunately Dulles instead of DCA, but you win some you lose some!). Also, it is KLM on the way there and Air France the way back, which sounds very pleasant!
posted by aaanastasia at 12:41 PM on December 6, 2012

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