Finding the cheapest airfare is as much an art as a science. There are nuances aplenty in this hourly-changing industry. The large travel search sites like Travelocity and Orbitz are no longer your one-stop-shop, though don’t think you should avoid them. Those larger sites should still be part of your overall strategy. You can find specials there that the faster moving and harder working little guys haven’t uncovered yet.
My general strategy for finding the best airfare is a multi-step process. It’s a filter down approach starting with the big airfare search engines, especially when I’m researching destinations. If you know when you’re going but not where (like our honeymoon couples, often), then this is a great place to start. You can fairly reliably find out which destinations are running discounts for your dates by doing an Orbitz, Travelocity, Kayak or Sidestep type search, or any of the like. They are all very different; try them out and tell me your favorite! Try Farecast too - Farecast may take this segment by storm if they can work out the kinks. Add a day or two of flexibility to your search to see how much you can save (we began our honeymoon to South-East Asia on a Tuesday, rather than Sunday or Monday, and saved hundreds). Then check the airlines that you may not find in these searches, the Southwest’s and the Jet Blue’s of the world. Jet Blue is starting to appear in most of these searches finally, so check out the one you’re using. Southwest remains adamantly independent. You can often find specials directly through all the airlines’ websites too. Then look for deals through budget sites, like Travelzoo. I’ve used Travelzoo several times for their great hotel specials. Airfarewatchdog is unreal for truly last minute deals. They have some super insider tips too. I’m not opposed to using travel agents for airfare, but you need to find a hungry one that will check several times each day, which is the frequency with which airlines change their fares.
I know that many of you have little golden nuggets to share. What are your tested strategies that can really pay off? Visit us at Smart Honeymoon and drop me an email. If you had 20 minutes to book a flight, who would you use? What was your best “score”? I once paid $6 o/w to fly from Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia (June, 2006). The only way to get that was to walk into the Air Malaysia office in Sandakan.