Looking for the best airfare? 5 steps to find the best airfare in 5 minutes

by Janis on August 3, 2010

kayakEvery Tuesday is Travel Tip Day

Today: 5 steps to find the best airfare in 5 minutes

Finding the best airfare online seems quick and simple to us, but we do it weekly.  For those who are looking for the best airfare online – whether for a- once-a-year family vacation, or a once-a-month-business trip – here are some quick  steps to ensure that you  find the best airfare option  for your needs. 

Here are 5 steps for finding the best airfare in 5 minutes:

1.       Note a couple of things before you start.  Before going online to search for airfare, write down  information to speed your search:  1) the airports you want to fly between, and if you will consider alternate airports.  For example, if you are going to San Francisco, will you also consider flights to Oakland (pretty close), or even San Jose or Sacramento (further away).  2) The dates and times you want to travel, noting both when you want to leave and when the time you need to arrive by; 3) how flexible you are on arrival time and day – will you consider alternate days if cheaper?  Will you be willing to take a 9 hour 2-connection flight for $400 rather than a 4 hour non-stop flight that costs $200 more? 4) If you have preferred airlines, find and note your frequent flier numbers for each.   Having this information  together makes online searches much quicker.

2.       Visit a travel search engine.  We use Kayak.com.   Enter your desired flight parameters. Kayak searches most airline and other travel websites, and shows the best fares.  Note if you are flexible on travel times and if you prefer non-stop on the initial input page. While sidestep is searching, open another tab on your web browser, and proceed to step 3.

3.       Check with an online travel company.  We use Travelocity. There may be lower fares here  if your routing combines flights on different airlines.  Input your search parameters, and while that search is underway, open a third tab and go to step 4.

4.       Check the website of your local low-cost carrier. Many low-cost airlines – such as Southwest — do not participate in the GDS systems, which means their fares only show on the airline’s own website.  If Southwest flies out of your city, do a quick search on its simple online booking system. Another  note about Southwest:  checking the first two bags is free while many other airlines charge.  If you are checking bags, add any fees into the cost for an equal comparison.

5.       Compare tabs to find best flights between Kayak.com, Travelocity.com and Southwest.com (skip the last step if you are flying somewhere like Richmond or Des Moines where Southwest doesn’t fly.) Once you’ve found the best airfare/flights to meet your needs identified in step one, note the airline, the flight numbers and the departure details. (If may be easiest to print the page.)  Don’t buy yet – there’s one last step.  Go to the airline’s website, enter the same information, and check if the airline’s site price is equal or possibly lower. If equal or lower, book on the airlines’ site. If not, book on the site with the best fare.

You’ve covered all of the quick bases to finding the best airfare.  Congratulations!

Do you have a favorite method of finding the best airfare?  Please share in comments.  

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