The next time you plan your vacation trip to, say, Mexico or Kenya or fly to a relative's wedding, think about a few things before buying your ticket. Being methodical and strategic when booking a flight can save you money – sometimes lots of it, especially if you are the big-traveler type who is always gone and hops from one plane to another and eats breakfast at, say, London Heathrow Airport and lunch at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
When it comes to airline tickets, money-saving tips run the imaginative gamut, from nonpeak season booking and airline booking to rewards programs and online booking. Other tips touch on things like date and flight flexibility.
Don't Book Airline Tickets During the Peak Season
The concept of peak season varies by region and country, but suffice it to say that the summer months and the year-end interval constitute busy periods both for airlines and airport facilities managers – think of those taking care of everything from security to bag checking to logistics. So avoid these hectic periods and, instead, try to book your flight somewhere in March – of course, not too close to Spring Break – May, September or October, if possible.
Stick To Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Travel specialists say flights are cheaper when booked Tuesdays and Wednesdays because both days represent less hectic periods – which makes sense, come to think of it. Business travelers connecting two or more regional or transcontinental locales would want to depart Sunday nights or Monday mornings and come back home Thursday or Friday nights, just in time for the family dinner. So, you're better off booking your flight on these two days.
Flexibility in flight booking – and in everything else, for that matter – will earn you respect, admiration and travel agents' willingness to help you. If they see that you are open to all options and don't mind leaving Wednesday at 10:00 p.m. or Tuesday at 2:35 a.m. or taking an aisle or window seat, they might reward your flexibility with a free or heavily discounted ticket or other perks, such as ticket upgrade and free bag checking, that only they know exist.
Use the Internet More – As an Ally
The Internet is an ally in your search for a cheaper yet convenient airline ticket. So use it and browse the collection of sites that provide data information, gathering everything from flights to travel guides to holiday rentals to car rental to hotel availability. I like to search flight websites like Momondo to find and compare flights, and I like the easy-to-understand look-and-feel of the site. Kayak and Farecompare are two other travel data aggregators I've used for many years, and liked.
Book Directly With the Airline
I noticed that it is invariably cheaper to book directly with the airline than to go through the mishmash of real-life and Web-based agencies that are integral to the international-transportation industry. So, for example, use Momondo to get the best price and date for your flight, identify the airline, go to its website and book your flight there. Alternatively, you can just log into the airline's website or call its customer service department to learn more about ticket availabilities.
Take Advantage of Rewards Programs
I've used travel rewards cards for years to minimize my travel expenses and enjoy a few perks at the airport. There are many rewards programs out there, so start by talking to your credit card company to see what options it has. Then, you can go online and read reviews about the best cards currently on the market. The way a rewards program works, you spend money and gather points or rewards dollars. For example, your credit card company may say that each dollar you spend on specific items equals 1 point. If you accumulate 10,000 points over two years, and your favorite airline says your ticket is worth 6,000 points, you would get the ticket free and your remaining rewards points would be 4,000.
Saving money on airline tickets requires preparation and a methodical approach that touch on things like rewards program, flight flexibility and strategic scheduling. To spare some cash, book online - preferably with the airline – and use the Internet more effectively.