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How To Find Cheap Airfare

By Steve Gillman

To find cheap airfare, you need to do a little research. Start with the well-known sites, like Expedia, Travelocity, Cheap Tickets, Hotwire or Priceline. The travel agencies just can't compete with the discount sites any longer. You can also find cheap airfare by using the search engines. Type in something like "cheap plane tickets" and the destination.

I just checked fares from Tucson, Arizona to Traverse City, Michigan on the five sites mentioned above. Tickets ranged from $704 to $432 for the cheapest at each site (and up to $500 more for the most expensive). It isn't important which was cheapest (oh, okay, it was Expedia). It isn't important because you never know from day to day which sites will find the cheapest flights. It changes all the time

When you search, always check at least three places. It would mean a savings of $272 in the above example. Flight durations were within minutes of each other, by the way, and the food is probably equally bad on all the flights.

Find Cheap Airfare With Flexibility

Sometimes it's cheaper to buy two tickets. The lowest rate from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Tucson, Arizona is $451 roundtrip as I write this. Las Vegas to Tucson is $161, however, and there are $199 specials to Vegas from Grand Rapids. Is saving $91 worth booking two flights? Your call (It saved us over $1000 when we went to South America). Careful on the timing, though. You probably won't get a refund if you miss the connection.

More flexibility is the way to find cheap airfare. Check different departure and return dates. Click on "2 or more connecting flights," and mark "anytime" for departure. Even if you don't want to leave at midnight, the savings might change your mind, so try all the options. When the savings aren't enough, you can always book first class, direct flights, or whatever you prefer.

Purchasing ahead of time gets you cheaper airfare. Less than a week away tends to be expensive, although you never can tell in the mysterious realm of airfare pricing. At times the "last minute specials" are the best thing going.

Place a bid to find cheap airfare. Priceline still has a "Name Your Own Price" feature. You make your bid, and the airlines say yes or no, according to whether they have empty seats to fill. The way to use this is to first search for the cheapest tickets you can find online, then go and bid lower than that. If the bid is rejected, return to the website where you found the best deal and book it.

Package deals, where you pay for plane tickets and your hotel room, can sometimes save you money. Personally, I haven't had much luck with these, but it can't hurt to look at them.

Really Cheap Airfare

I once took a bus from Michigan to Miami, and flew from there to Ecuador. At the time saving hundreds of dollars was worth 38 hours on a bus. Usually this won't save you much on domestic flights. For example, at the moment, taking a bus from Traverse City to Detroit, then flying to Los Angeles, would only save about $70 (allowing for cab fare to the airport) compared with flying directly.

Other options are beyond the scope of this article. For example, courier flights can be a great deal if you don't mind letting a company use your baggage allowance (you get carry-on only). Then there are the stand-by deals, last minute deals and other ways to find cheap airfare.

About The Author

Steve Gillman hit the road at sixteen, and traveled the U.S. and Mexico alone at 17. Now 40, he travels with his wife Ana, whom he met in Ecuador. For travel stories, tips and a free e-book, visit:


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