Let the deals come to you
This is what I call the lazy option. There are tons of sites out there that will monitor airfare on your behalf and then alert you when a price drops or other similar functionality. Some of my favorites are below:
- Hopper: If you download the app, you can provide them with your origin and destination and it'll alert you to price drops for your requested origin and destination. It'll even try to predict if prices will rise or fall.
- AirFareWatchDog: With this site, you simply tell them your home airport(s) and you can receive a daily email with the best upcoming fares to get out of town. Great if you're flexible.
In addition to AirFareWatchDog mentioned above, another great tool for those who care less about exactly where they go, but just want to be able to go somewhere is Google Flights.
The Explore / Map feature is excellent. It pretty much enables you to enter a departure airport and see the price of flights all around the world. In addition you're able to filter the flights based on:
- Maximum Price
- Departure times
- Preferred carriers
Timing is everything
In essence, try to avoid times of the week that people travel for business. Airlines love business travels given their lack of flexibility on when they need to travel. Ticket pricing reflects that.
In general avoid Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. You'll find that most of the good deals are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. The websites above will confirm this. Consider starting that vacation midweek.
Consider mixed cabin tickets
In many situations, one flight of a trip may be more uncomfortable than the other. This might be due to a different plane type or just the different flight times. Let's use flight times as an example.
Let's say I want to book a weekend trip from NYC to San Francisco. I'm looking to fly out on Friday evening and return on a Sunday night overnight (red-eye). In this situation, which of those flights is likely to be the most uncomfortable?
For me, I'd rather be most comfortable on the overnight flight so that I can get some sleep. On the flight to SFO I can stay awake and watch TV as it's not overnight. Because of this, I may choose to fly economy on the way out and book business on the overnight leg back.
For others, they may actually choose the inverse as they want to maximise their usage of the in-flight benefits. It's really a personal choice.
What matters is that doing this can actually be a good compromise that saves you some money.
Many websites don't easily expose mixed cabin flights, but it can definitely be done on a single ticket. You probably need to use the airline's website directly for this though.
You can take this to the extreme and book two separate one way tickets on different airlines as this can also sometimes be cheaper. This requires much more research and legwork on your end though.
Always use the regional airport codes if possible
Many large metropolitan areas have multiple airports. When you search for flights, using the regional airport code can expose cheaper flights that may not appear if you specify a certain airport.
Some popular regional airport codes are below:
- NYC: New York City area airports
- CHI: Chicago area airports
- YTO: Toronto area airports
- LON: London area airports
- PAR: Paris area airports
More options is never a bad thing, even if you end up choosing your original airport due to price and/or convenience.
What are you waiting for? Go explore!