Airfare Shopping Tips

While I have traveled a fair amount for my employer, I will now be flying home to NC on my own dime on a regular basis.

This calls for a different routine to purchase flights as I want to keep the total trip cost as low as possible and want to make sure I am getting the best deal possible. I have already purchased a couple of tickets so far and have learned a great deal so far.

  • SideStep is now the 1st place I go to get a baseline cost for a trip. Unfortunately you won't be certain you are getting the best price unless you check out every site possible, but SideStep gives you the biggest bang for your time and scours most of the travel sites I would go to anyway.
  • Once I find a flight that is a possibility I always go to the carriers web sites (such as AA, Delta, Southwest, etc) to see if I can get the same flight for cheaper. 3rd party sites tend to reveal the better flight prices compared to the carrier web sites, but the 3rd party sites tend to have booking fees. If you find a flight, go to the airline's web site you can usually get the same flight for the same price without the booking fees.
  • SeatGuru is a must have site to help you pick out the right seat on your flight. I highly recommend checking it out while you book your flight to make sure you are not stuck in a bad seat.
  • FareCompare helps you get a baseline price for a seat of a flight over time and sometimes gives you insight if fares are going up or down (by looking at the price charts)
  • FareCast - A beta site that is of no use to me yet because it only looks at flights from Boston, MA or Seattle, WA. However it looks like it has great potential - they will look at the data available and suggest to you where you should buy your ticket now or wait because the ticket price is trending down or up. Hopefully they will be expanding to other cities soon.

Anyone have other suggestions to add?

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Comments (6)

DATE: 6:56 PM
Hi I sure do. I was listening to clark howard and he said you should do the following:1) You go to and find the best rate the airlines are offering- as a baseline2) You then go to and you will make a bid at 75.00 lower than whatever the cheapest rate is.Apparently it works, as I mention on my website, I'm behind you in my quest for a million and I'm lucky to get to fly so I don't have a ton of experience. Hope that helps you.1mil

DATE: 7:03 PM
Good point - I failed to mention priceline, but thats because I can't use them in my situation. I am flying home for the weekend to to use priceline I could end up with a 10pm flight on Saturday and a 6am flight on Sunday - I can't risk ending up with that kind of flight. I have to be able to get a Friday evening flight and a Sunday evening return trip - unfortunately that limits my ability to get even lower fares.

DATE: 11:59 PM
I just tried using Priceline for my trip to London and they would not even offer 5% below the lowest market fare. I used to use Priceline, but they just don't give deals like they used to.

DATE: 1:41 AM
Interesting. Well, Clark Howard apparently flies a bunch but perhaps his "secrets" work primarily in the U.S. or maybe for certain routes. Also, I wonder if you can find people selling vouchers or extra tickets on Ebay....may be a consideration. Honestly though, unless time was of the essence or the price comparable, I would take a train or bus. I sort of like the adventure of it.

DATE: 9:59 AM
Great advice, I too can usually not aford the time issues with Price Line.The websites you mentioned seem really helpful and I look forward to trying them.Have you tried booking buddy?How does it compare for baseline pricing?Also, your advice about checking the actual airline at the last minute is dead on. Not only can you avoid the $5 expedia booking fee, but also, some airlines like United sometimes offer a $5 discount if you book online with them.Regards,

DATE: 4:14 PM
I haven't figured out bookingbuddy - all it seems to do is send you to other web sites, i like sidestep because it condenses all the different sites into 1 is another one that is just like sidestep

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A personal finance weblog of my journey to reach my goal of $2 million + the value of my primary residence.
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