5 Tricks to saving money on your next flight, including not buying online
Savvy travelers are always trying to stay one step ahead of the airlines by utilizing different tools and tricks to find the best prices on airfare. That’s why you’ll find that advice can change from year to year. Last month, we told you how Sunday is now the best day to purchase airline tickets online, rather than Saturday as it had been in the previous year.
Travelers’ sentiments worldwide also can impact how much you pay for a plane ticket. While worldwide travel was up 7% in 2017 compared to the previous year, travel to the USA was actually down by 4%. It’s a trend likely to continue in 2018; fewer foreign visitors want to come to the USA right now. While that’s not good news from the U.S. economy, it can be good news for you as a consumer.
First, it means that flights to the USA aren’t full. And remember, a foreign visitor’s inbound flight to the USA is your return flight from somewhere else. So when airlines can’t sell all their seats, you’ll find them discounting. Secondly, popular USA destinations for foreigners won’t see as many visitors this year. Think New York City, Las Vegas, and our national parks. While U.S. airlines aren’t likely to discount domestic flights, you will see a savings on hotels and other types of lodging.
So let’s take a look at the most up-to-date ways to save money on your next flight.
1/Do your research on the best sites
Guidebook publisher Frommer’s did a recent study to see which of the aggregate websites found the lowest price most of the time. Once again this year, the winner was Momondo followed by Skyscanner. But beware, often those bargain basement prices will be basic economy (domestic) or hand baggage only (HBO) (international) - meaning you won’t be allowed to check a bag, unless you pay extra.
KidTripster Tip: Southwest Airlines will never show up on aggregate websites, so remember to check those fares on the airline’s website directly.
While we at KidTripster suggest researching on aggregate websites, we also suggest that you check the price on the airline’s own site once you determine the lowest rate. If the fare is the same or within a few dollars, we recommend buying the ticket from the airline directly. If you end up having to change the flight, it’s far easier to deal with the airline than an online travel agent.
Or maybe you don’t buy online at all… (keep reading)
KidTripster Tip: Before booking a flight on Norwegian Air, read our tips here.
KidTripster Tip: One reason to fly Turkish? The lounge in Istanbul. In our opinion, it's the best in the world! See here.
Also look for a “fifth freedom” flight. What’s that, you ask? It’s when an airline from one country has the right to fly between two other countries. Those routes are often cheaper. For example, you can buy a ticket on Cathay Pacific from New York City to Vancouver, Canada; the plane then flies on to Hong Kong. Or you can fly from São Paulo to Buenos Aires on Turkish Airlines.
KidTripster Tip: If you’re trying to purchase an international ticket with your awards mileage on an American carrier and no award seats are available, try one of the carrier’s partner airlines. Some partners, like Korean Air for example, release more award space on particular routes.
Photo courtesy: WOW Air
3/Buy your tickets on the foreign airline's home site
Ok, follow me on this one. I recently needed to fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas, Chile on LATAM, a Chilean airline. When I checked the rate on LATAM’s website for Americans - the website that pops up when it sees that I’m checking fares from inside the USA - it priced two tickets at $516.40. I then went the LATAM’s home website in Chile - the one that’s in Spanish - and priced the same two tickets. The result was $204.98 in Chilean pesos, which on that day equated to $346.36. That’s a difference of $170.44.
So it’s worth your time to check any foreign airline’s home site. Yes, if you purchase the airline tickets, you’ll have to pay in that local currency. But if your credit card doesn’t charge you a currency conversion fee, also known as a foreign transaction fee, you’ll come out ahead.
KidTripster Tip: Make sure to check your credit card’s policy on those foreign transaction fees. If it charges a fee and you travel internationally a lot, get a different credit card.
KidTripster Tip: The foreign airline’s home site will likely be in the native language. So if you don’t read Spanish or Norwegian or Portuguese, keep two browsers open: one browser on the foreign site and the second browser on the English site, so that you can follow along.
4/Disguise yourself online
Have you ever been pricing airfare online and see one price but later come back to find the price has gone up? You could have been the victim of dynamic pricing. Dynamic pricing is the practice of setting the price for airfare based on a particular customer's perceived ability to pay. In other words, the more the airline thinks you want the ticket, the more that it will charge you for it.
To avoid this devious practice, clear the cookies and history on your computer. Or try using different browsers or even different computers to check prices.
5/Or maybe you don't book online at all
According to The Travel Detective, Peter Greenburg, only 52% of airlines’ inventory is online. So it’s worth your time to call the airlines directly to see if there are other seats or routing that you can’t see online. Depending on the savings, you’ll likely come out ahead, even if the airline charges you a convenience fee to book over the phone. Also travel agents sometimes have access to better priced seats than you do, so again it’s worth a call.
KidTripster Tip: Greenburg also says that sometimes airlines will only show availability in the economy section for center seats, in order to upsell you on a higher price category with aisle and window seats. Again, check with an airline representative to see what the true availability is.
KidTripster Tip: When you’re looking at online prices, make sure to advance the search results beyond page one. Sometimes, better fares on hiding on page two.
Editor Shellie Bailey-Shah has been known to stick her 6-foot, 2-inch-tall son in the middle seat, so that she can have the aisle. She claims to need more elbow room to type articles like this one while flying.