For me this is the worst part of travelling, the flying. But first I have to book flights which is fun, but can also cause me to pull my hair out.
It is something we do ourselves thru one of the many travel search sites found on line.
Note I do not think this option is for everyone. You need to be very comfortable with the internet and doing searches and know somewhat about routing and itinerary. I have heard horror stories of people booking the wrong city ie. wanting to go to Sydney Australia, but booked Sydney, Nova Scotia (very different location). Other friends only saw the first page of the search for a flight and booked one of those flight only to find out later that on the next page was a much better flight for a few dollars more.
Yes even I have made errors. One trip I booked our return flight for the day before we docked. Yup I mixed up the days and it required a call to the airline and a small fee to change the dates. Do you have a horror story?
So if any of the above worry you please, please, call a good travel agent, their knowledge will save you a lot of headaches in the end.
Okay back to booking our flights.
We normally search for flights daily, yes daily. Airlines change routing, prices hourly (actually probably more often than that). Now with airlines being able to get instant responses as to what people are searching for and what is popular they can easily charge more for flights that seem popular in searches and less for those that are not being searched for in the hopes of filling up that plane.
We use many different sites. Kayak.com is our favorite but we also search travelocity, priceline and a few others, and don't forget about booking directly with the airline's site too. What you need to remember too is not all airlines are represented in these mass search sites. So with that you need to do some more digging or searching on line. I have even gone to airport websites and searched their daily flights to see who and where flights are going. This was very helpful when flying to Rio de Janeiro, we were able to determine that it was better for us to fly from the US to Brazil, then connect to a smaller carrier to Rio for a huge savings.
Yesterday we were searching for flights to LAX for our November trip, and then flights to Fort Lauderdale for our January trip. We had been searching for awhile and knew approximately how much we could expect to pay and since both trips had good routing and prices we booked.
For November the search actually came up that it was better for us to fly two one way flights, one with Westjet (free bags) and the return with Alaskan. We even looked at options to fly into Long Beach instead of LAX, but this time it looks like LAX has the better times for us. Also even though there was a great flight at 11:35 out of LAX, we knew that could be too tight. It would be hard to get off the ship, take transfer to the airport in LA week day traffic and then check in and get thru security. Also noting that this will be the Wednesday before the US Thanksgiving and is typically a crazy day to travel. So with all that we decided to book a 13:30 flight instead and have more peace of mind.
For our January trip, after searching for fares one or two days prior also, it came up with over a $100 savings if we flew in the day prior. We talked about it and decided it was worth flying in a day earlier and starting the holiday off right.
Another thing about our January trip is the routing, since we are flying into many hubs that could be affected by weather it is key for us to get out on the first flight and head South. We hate the option of flying all the way to Toronto/Montreal/Detroit/Chicago and who knows what kind of weather they are having. Heck we have been hit hard in Atlanta a few times, even needing de-icing there when we never needed it in Vancouver - go figure.
With booking this far in advance for January we have experienced subtle changes to flights by the airlines in the past, United especially does this. So we often have to periodically check the itinerary to ensure they haven't made any major change. Note if they do make a major change often you can call them and see if there is something better.
So here are my tips when booking your own flights:
- Search daily for your flights to see what is out there and the price. Make note of prices/flights so you can track.
- Many sites will show you a history of the price for that itinerary so you can decide if it is a good time to buy or not.
- Make sure you look at other airports in the area. Sometimes flying into a different airport gives you better flights and less time for transfers.
- If you are going on a cruise I can't stress enough the need to fly in the day prior. Save yourself the stress and worry and start your vacation right.
- Search the web for which airlines fly the routing you are looking at cause not all travel search sites show all airlines.
- Double, triple check that you have the right city code/destination when flying so you don't end up in a city with the same name.
- After you have booked, print out your itinerary and place with your travel documents and then check periodically your flight itinerary with the airline to ensure that no changes have been made. Even if you have set up for them to send you an email if there is a change, they don't always do this (personal experience here) so it is up to you to be aware.
- Book seats if you can but note they change aircraft, especially if you book far enough out and then your seat reservation will be dropped, so check to see if this has happened and rebook those seats.
- If you do make an error when booking you normally (but check for your country) have 24 hours to make a change. This law is relatively new and applies to the US.