Tips for online flight booking
Flight booking is more complicated than ever, mainly due to the many available options and the numerous flight providers at your service. From discount sites and last-minute announcements to fare search engines and little-known flight passes, the average traveler can get lost in the virtual flight booking world.
The key to booking a flight easily, effectively and for a great price is to make use of the tools that are available, especially online sites and services. Whether you're after an international or a domestic flight, the more connections you have to flight information, the better your chances of booking a flight that meshes with your itinerary and satisfies your budget.
The Benefits of Flight Booking Online
If you begin your planning early, online flight booking can save you a considerable amount of footwork. The information you need is just a few clicks away, and you can complete the process without ever leaving your desk chair. Fares fluctuate, but you can revisit the sites as often as you like to try and catch a flight at its lowest price, plus you can sign up for alerts from certain airline sites that will bring the deals right to your inbox!
But there are some potential drawbacks to booking flight reservations online. For instance, those who book flights online can get trapped into thinking that they have fewer options than they do, and if you're shopping for a last minute deal you may have quite a challenge on your hands. However, these are relatively minimal obstacles to overcome, and if you search and compare wisely you'll have no trouble finding and booking a flight online. On the other hand, if you have a substantial trip in mind with many stops en route, you may want to work with a travel agent, or else devote some time and energy to find the best approach.
Flight Booking Strategies
You're not the only one who is looking for the best deal on a flight, so you need to use a few tactics to improve your chances of finding the deal before others do. Here are some ways to land that great deal:
- Travel on weekdays. In general, it's cheaper to travel Monday through Thursday than to arrive or depart on Friday through Sunday. Keep in mind that most business travelers are in the air on Mondays and Fridays, while family vacationers tend to travel on the weekends in an effort to avoid taking extra work or school days off. If at all possible, consider booking your flight on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, as fares can drop considerably (in some cases, over 50 percent) during the middle of the week.
- Use fare comparison tools. There are plenty of these search tools out there, and not all are created equal. You can search faster and more comprehensively with a comparison shopping engine, which collects both airline and agency sites for you to view. Check out Expedia and Travelocity for exclusive discounts, or if you want to get really serious about finding and booking discounted flights online, consider a software like Sidestep, Qixo or Farechase that can return a larger pool of available deals.
- Check out auction sites. If you're trying to book a last-minute trip and aren't too concerned with the details, you could get a great discount on auction sites like Hotwire.com or Priceline.com. All you need to do is plug in what you're willing to pay for the offer, and these sites will auction off available seats to the highest bidder. The downside is that you likely won't be able to choose your airline or your time of departure, plus there could be more restrictions on these flights than you expected. In any case, you could wind up paying far less for your journey if you go through an auction site, and the excitement of bidding and winning is always a welcome bonus!
- Be flexible with flight times. If you don't mind leaving at a less popular (which often means less convenient) time of the day, you can score a good price. When using an online fare search tool, look for an option that will turn up flights at any time of the day, or else manually compare different airlines and their departure times.
Although online flight booking seems to be taking over more traditional methods, there are some cases where speaking to a travel expert can help. For example, if you are planning to take a year and travel around the world, there are special RTW (Round the World) ticket packages that can result in enormous savings and far less stress than booking individual tickets. You can also find air passes, similar to bus or train passes, that are geared towards a travel plan with frequent or several stops in a specific region. If you're unsure of how to get these types of tickets, speak with a professional. But don't underestimate your ability to find a great price on fares: those who put in the time to discover what could be out there often come across a great deal before they know it.