Jay's Corner: How to Find a Cheap Airline Ticket to Anywhere.

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When we travel Jay is responsible for the booking of flights, hotels and rental cars. We get so many gasps when we mention how much we paid for our airline tickets so I'm having him write a series of posts for my blog with how to find the best price for these things.

Posts to look forward to:
Miles and miles – How to get them and what to do with them
Seats and baggage – You got a ticket, now what – Tips and tricks to the travel game

To bundle or not to bundle – Discount sites and the Pros and Cons

How to Find a Cheap Ticket to Anywhere.

$5 flight to Richmond, Virginia for the weekend. (used miles for purchase)

There is so much that goes on behind the scenes in air travel.  The first rule of cheap air fares is Flexibility.  How flexible can you be?  Dates, times, airlines and cities to fly from or to all play a role in the cost of your ticket.

Dates: Off season or just before or after high season you can save 33% to 50% off your airfare. If you were looking at going to Italy, Paris, or Europe in general the end of April to the middle of May is the best time for weather and airfares. Planes have limited numbers of cheap seats, the earlier you book the better your chances of grabbing one or two. 

Times:  Generally the cheapest fares are the very early 6:00 AM flight or the last flights of the day.  I like to plan my flights based on when they land so that we can get checked in somewhere between 12:00 PM and 2:00 PM.  You are paying for the whole day at the hotel so get there at check-in if possible but not too early. We once had to wait 8 hours after flying all night to Paris for our room to be ready, not a good start.   By planning your arrival out you can still have the whole day to get settled and do some light sightseeing, dinner and get situated to the time change if any and get a good night sleep.When I leave I like to catch the later flights out.  Again you have paid for the hotel, if you have a rental car you can take your bags with you and enjoy one last day before heading to the airport.  Most hotels will hold your bags after check out if you don’t have a car to keep your bags in till you need to head to the airport.

Airlines:  There are two ways to play this game.  If you travel a lot you will probably want to choose an airline and/or team.  Airlines give you benefits for choosing them over the others.  They are small little perks but well worth the few dollars it may cost occasionally to stick with them over some other airline.  Delta is our choice at the moment so most of my examples will be using them.  Other people who don’t travel much or don’t care about perks like free bags, express security lines, priority boarding, free upgrades to preferred seats and exit rows, upgrades to first class and priority luggage return will have greater opportunity for cheaper flights due to competition and levels of service. 

Cities and airports:  There are certain cities it is flat out cheaper to fly out of.  Chicago (ORD) is one of the best in the Midwest.  Fares might be a 25%-50% of what it cost to fly out of Cincinnati (CVG).  Dayton (DAY) can be $100 cheaper than CVG per ticket or Louisville (SDF) Of Course you have to figure the cost to get there, parking, hotels ect.  We will sometimes use our miles earned on other trips to re-position ourselves to the airport with the best deals for free.

Ok, great how about telling me how to get a great fare...?
If I know where I want to go and have an idea of when we want tickets I will use http://matrix.itasoftware.com/search.htm ITA Matrix website owned by Google.
This is really powerful but simple to use site.  Enter the airport code or city you want to fly out of and where you want to go.  Choose exact dates or calendar of lowest fares.  I choose calendar, the month and how many nights.  ITA will then search every flight combination of airlines, dates and times.  It will show a calendar of every day for 30 days that shows the cheapest flight of the day.  Pick your date and then is will display in an easy to read bar graph that shows price. You can’t buy the ticket on ITA Matrix but if you go to the airline or other travel sites that you use to buy your tickets you will know you are getting the lowest possible fare. Saving you time picking dates and trying different sites.

http://Kayak.com has some great tools too.  They also will email you deals, watch certain destinations for specials and more.  Kayak has a neat page called Explore. It is a map of the world and the lowest air fares to anywhere from your home city or any city you pick, any month, a budget, flight time and more.
So for fun I put in Cincinnati, December, no budget and no flight distance/time restraints:
Dublin, Ireland - $573 round trip
Rome, Italy - $633 round trip
San Francisco, California - $323 round trip
When you click on the city it gives you the days that it found those prices. Click deeper for flights and airlines.  Now what is really cool is when you find your flight and click purchase it takes you right to the airlines site populates all of the fields up to the point of where you have to put in your name and credit card.  If you are a frequent flier and have all of your info stored already you a just a few clicks away from being done. Be careful if you are looking to remain loyal to a certain airline. Most of the time you only get full credited miles if the ticket is directly purchased through the airline website itself or partner airline. Check with your Airline before proceeding and double check that your on the actual airline website.

If you ever find an airfare that is too good to be true, BUY IT.  Do not call the airlines, BOOK IT. Then you have 24 hours to decide if you want to keep it.  If not you can cancel without being charged on most airlines.  Airlines make mistakes, airlines have fare wars, who knows why it is priced the way it is but jump on it and use the savings to get a nicer hotel, tour or dinner at a nice restaurant.

All of the amazing places we have been due to cheap airfare. 

For the ladies.... Travel Like a Jet Setter on a Coach Class Budget----> http://angieknowsthetruth.blogspot.com/2013/08/how-to-travel-like-jetsetter-on-coach.html


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