I know all those travel booking sites promise you the best prices… and they are a good place to start.
However, if you are following my advice on obtaining frequent flier status with an airline, you may need to weigh the savings against the loss of points counting toward status.
Also you may find a better flight (departure time, number of stops) on the airline site itself than you find on any of the aggregator sites. Not every airline releases all their seats to those resale sites. They make more money selling flights direct to their customers, especially their frequent travelers, because they’re not allocating a fee to the ‘retailer’. So price it both ways (on the resale site and on the airline’s site).
The best way to get the lowest possible airline fares is to book 7 weeks out. That’s the magic number. Don’t ask me why. I’ve tested it repeatedly and if you book further out (say, 12 weeks) or too close to the departure date (3 weeks)… you will begin to see a pattern. If you book flights for a business professional, or book them for yourself… and saving money is a major factor, this is what you do. Plan ahead. Just not THAT far ahead. 7 weeks… not 6, not 8. [see me shrugging]
Another tip when flying places that don’t have a major hub (think Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris, London, Chicago, New York, Singapore) is to consider booking the segments yourself. For example, I could try to book a flight from Los Angeles to Lisbon. The prices will generally run me around $1200 USD (all prices in USD unless otherwise noted), and there will be at least one stop, possibly two. On the other hand, if I book (7 weeks out), a round trip from Los Angeles to London (LHR – Heathrow) I can get a major deal of $600-$700. Add a round trip from London to Lisbon for another $200, and I’ve saved myself $200-$300 – per person. It adds up.
When trying to reach cities with even smaller airports like say… Palm Springs, CA USA… consider flying to Los Angeles (LAX) and renting a car or taking a Tesla Loop shuttle to Palm Springs. In other words, you don’t have to fly directly to your final destination. You might spend four hours waiting for the next flight, and spend another $400-600 on the airline ticket price when you could have rented a car for a week for $280 and driven 2 hours there, and 2 hours back… while enjoying the freedom of driving wherever you feel like going without paying for a driver. It seems a bit complicated, but you have to factor in how much you love spending big dollars on mediocre wine at an airport vs. the chance to see the countryside, and the actual distances between the larger airport and the smaller regional airport. Cars also give you the chance to stop when and where you please, take pictures, and visit special attractions along the way.
This is especially true for holiday trips when sight seeing and exploration are more important than how fast you get to your destination. So flying into Paris’ Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport and taking the train to Barcelona Spain might be more enjoyable than a direct flight from CDG to BCN. Of course you have to get back to Paris and one way tickets are universally more expensive than half a round trip so you have to drive or take the train back.
Which brings me to item number 3. A round trip ticket on one airline may be cheaper than a one way ticket on another. Or possibly even on the same airline. So price both options.
Try these tips the next time you need to get away from it all. Let me know if they work for you… or if they don’t. Do you have a killer trick that works on a certain airline? Educate us! Drop a comment in the box below.