In this exact moment I am at the airport, waiting for my gate and flight to Oakland to be called. I feel strangely unprepared for this trip, but I think it’s because it came so suddenly. As I had some small ambitions of doing a travel-blog rather then a lifestyle blog (although that somewhat failed, I’m too much of a story teller I suppose) I decided I would write a post about how I go about searching for plane tickets. So:
How do I search for plane tickets? With a great deal of frustration. I will start burying my head in my hands after ten minutes of looking around, when everything is a bit more expensive than I hoped. So this time I actually did a really good job – I think. I managed to get tickets, including a checked luggage for just about 9300NOK that will take me from Oslo – Oakland, LA to Liberia, Costa Rica, then from San Jose, Costa Rica to Havana, Cuba, and finally from Havana and back to Oslo. Considering I booked the flight to the US two weeks before departure, I am quite pleased with this. So this is what I did: I spent a whole day just looking up flights, considering how my trip could shape up to bring the cost of the flights down.
1. I was flexible with dates. I always use flexible dates when looking up flights, especially Skyscanner is brilliant for this, because you can also look up the cheapest month to travel. If you are that flexible, then cheap flights will always be easy to find. You can even be flexible with your destination on skyscanner – I partly chose Costa Rica because it was one of the cheaper destinations from/to Cuba.
2. I was flexible with the destinations. I looked up tickets from a country, not from specific airports. This way, I could fly between the cheapest stretches. I will construct my itinerary in the place afterwards, based off the dates I have and the two cities I am travelling between.
3. I was flexible with the order of the itinerary. Initially I was going to go to Cuba as my second destination, but swapped it around because there are still problems with flying between America and Cuba (I think – wasn’t really able to figure this one out). To sidestep that issue I went to Costa Rica in between.
4. I looked at various websites, comparing dates and options. My favourite is www.skyscanner.net, but for this trip I was surprised to find that www.kayak.com actually had better prices on a few destinations. Other options here are http://www.travelocity.com and www.orbits.com. I have also found great deals on www.studentuniverse.com, but this doesn’t access all airports. A few times I also looked directly at airlines’ websites, for example when flying to the US I simply looked up the route on www.norwegian.no – they usually offer the best one-way prices between Europe and the US if you live close to an airport where Norwegian airline is based.
5. I also made sure to always check the external booking websites I use against www.trustpilot.com. I have made the mistake of buying a ticket through an unreliable travel agency before, and appeared at the airport to fly away only to be told my ticket has been cancelled by the agency, so the airline cannot help me. I was not given any notice, nor did I get my money back. Therefore, prepare to let go of good deals found on sites like skyscanner if the travel agency doesn’t get good rates on trustpilot.
6. A few times, if I spent too long weighing my options, deals will disappear. What I do then is I check the website of the airline for the flight. I did this twice when booking this trip, once I found the cheap flight I had intended to buy and bought it from the airline’s website, which is always safer and therefore preferable, and another time I had to look for another option.
7. I always search my flights in a private window. I’ve read that airlines and sites like this can read the information you’re searching for and will bump up your price. I’m not sure if this is true, but would not be the slightest surprised if it is. I take no chances, and just open a separate window in private for all my flight-searching.
There are a lot of other tips out there, like breaking up the journey if you need to change flights into two separate purchases, booking in the middle of the week instead of in the weekend, booking two months before a domestic flight and six months on an international flight – I don’t follow all this, because I actually hate planning things. All of these posts from other writers make it seem like an art, and I have been to lazy so far to learn all the tricks. They also don’t always work, I booked my USA flight two weeks before take-off, and it was a bargain.
Do you have other tips you use for finding good deals? Have you mastered the art of finding cheap flights, and if so: does it really work?