||Ready to be surprised?
Read the real insider secrets. These really shouldn’t be secrets because every air travel shopper show know them — I know shopping for airfare can be maddening — I was just back from a travel CEO conference and studies show that “you” the consumer shop 5-6 websites before you buy.
Let me take some of the mystery out of making the best air travel buying decision …
I have boiled down dozens of my tips from studying air travel and corresponding with thousands one-on-one, these tips will help you make the best buying decision.
There are an awful lot of unreliable “top 10″ lists floating around the internet these days that claim to tell you the “useful secrets” of air travel, or “things the airlines don’t want you to know.” Well, know this: most of these lists are not very well researched nor are they (many times) on the mark.
Oh, they’ll include a “good” tip now and then, but for the most part, these lists are riddled with errors. Where can you find the real story? From FareCompare.com, of course — without further ado here are our top ten tips (mostly U.S. domestic focused — those traveling internationally should also check out our list of international travel tips):
TOP 10 SECRETS OF AIR TRAVEL INSIDERS
1. Fly the Cheapest Days of the Week – The cheapest day to fly is Wednesday
- After Wednesday, the cheapest days to book departures/arrivals are Tuesday and Saturday. Airlines actually file cheaper airfares that are only good on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday
2. Fly Cheap Airlines – The proper term is, “lower-cost carriers” or “no-frills” (like there are any frills nowadays)
- Check with Southwest, AirTran, JetBlue, Virgin America, Skybus, Frontier, Allegiant, etc.; prices are usually cheaper (not always though) than the “majors” especially at the last minute. The reason? Most have a lower business cost structure and in theory pass that on to you — they do usually drive the price point lower in competitive markets but are not always the cheapest, so don’t forget their legacy brethren when shopping.
3. Fly Cheap Foreign Airlines – Especially, once you’re on foreign soil
- There are lots of cheap European airlines that fly all over the EU; an example is Dublin-based Ryanair. Fly to Ireland on the cheapest airline you can find, then use inexpensive Ryanair as your carrier throughout Europe. A pretty complete list of lower cost airlines can be found on Momondo. Warning: you will have to change airports in many cases, so not for the less fleet of foot or those taking their closet to Europe.
4. Fly First Class at Economy Class Prices – Buy discount Domestic U.S./Canada First Class Airfare
- You can find this information in a few places, but FareCompare.com (we track over 130,000 of them) has an easy “how to” section called “Discount First Class“. Sometimes these discounted first class fares are as cheap as coach, sometimes not. They will always be a great bargain compared to full first class.
5. Be Flexible – Ask For Vacation Days After You Find Cheap Flights
- If you are willing to be flexible (rather than shoe-horning yourself into a particular vacation week), you can save big. Try FareCompare’s Airfare Email Alerts and be notified hours before they show up on the actual airline site — being first to know gives you a better changes to get a great deal to your dream destination.
- Airlines have been studying consumer shopping and travel patterns for years and will charge you a premium at the days and times they know you want go — so don’t go with the flow, fly the cheapest days, fly to off the beaten path destinations or be prepared to pay the premium, just knowing that you know that they know will help you make a better buying decision
6. Fly the Big Hubs – Usually – A bigger airport can mean bigger savings.
- If you’re in a medium to small sized city, it may pay to drive to the nearest big-city and fly from there; if you’re in Los Angeles, LAX is usually cheaper than Burbank. Competition drives prices down — the more competition the better the prices
- WARNING: this isn’t true everywhere; if you live in Cincinnati, for example, it can be cheaper to fly out of Dayton or Columbus (Delta’s dominance in Cincinnati means little competition and higher prices).
- International Travel can be hundreds less at a gateway than a nearby regional airport (you have to connect their anyway) so save $1,000 for your family of four and make the drive instead of paying the small regional airport premium for that connecting commuter flight
7. You Can Save on Last Minute Emergency Flights – Always ask
- Traveling to a funeral? Check to see if the airlines have a “bereavement” rate. If they don’t, call and ask. Some airlines will work with you on this.
- Look for “package” deals: some airlines’ last minute deals include a hotel and car to your destination, which is cheaper than last minute airfare by itself. You do not have to stay in the motel or take the car (but call and cancel what you won’t use) — these package rates many time use negotiated rates that are no so great 14 days before travel but are really good at the last minute.
8. Yes, You Can Get Refunds – Sometimes – Persistence and patience pays off
9. Forget Rule 240. All the experts fall for this one
- Some “travel gurus” suggest “Rule 240″ will somehow force airlines to immediately get you on the next plane in the event of delays/cancellations; there is also a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to show you…
- The Truth: There is no Rule 240! It disappeared with deregulation in the 70′s. What we rely on now for our rights (such as they are) is an airline’s Contract or Conditions of Carriage; and most “guarantee” nothing, but offer some guidance on what an airline will “try ” to do for you. Here’s a list of the airlines’ contracts of carriage. They may be useful, so print them and take them on your trip.
- Best advice in the face of cancellations/delays? Be nice. The harried airline rep at the counter is having just as lousy a time as you are, and you’d be surprised how far some kind words can go. You don’t want them to get angry with you.
10. The Only 2-Websites You Need. Honest. FareCompare.com and a the final ticketing site (airline or online travel agency)
- FareCompare: use it to find airlines’ cheapest airfares; its exclusive software allows you to find the cheapest flights before any other site can.
- Ticketing Site: after you find your cheap tickets on FareCompare, we will take you to the best purchasing site (you should also check out Southwest, the only major airline that doesn’t provide airfare information to any outside website).