If you see a great deal, take it. It might not be there tomorrow.
You can save big bucks by varying your arrival or departure by a day or two.
Be open to using alternative airports.
Go for a package deal -- airfare, hotels, car rentals, etc.
Surf around online.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to sift through dozens of airline newsletters for deals, you can sign up for fare alerts. Nearly every online travel site these days, including Travelocity.com, Kayak.com, Orbitz.com and Expedia.com offers its own version. Some airlines, including American, Southwest and WestJet, a Canadian airline, offer their own deal-alert software, which must be downloaded onto your desktop.
There is also a new Web site, Compete4yourseat.com, which encourages travel agents, who often negotiate contracts with airlines, to find you a low fare. Travelers fill out a Trip Request form on the home page and click Go. Once your request is bid on by a travel agent, you receive an e-mail message and can log in to view the deal.
BUY A PACKAGE DEAL
Travelers can often get a better deal with a vacation package instead of buying their airfare and hotel separately. That’s because airlines and hotels are often more willing to offer deeper discounts when airfare prices are wrapped into a package. That way, their competitors can’t see how much they’re slashing rates.
“Certain hotels allow me to provide greater discounts if creating a package, said Jay Rein, president of Travelworm.com, an online travel agency that specializes in casino, resort and other leisure destinations. “Its sort of like when you go to Best Buy. You can buy individual stereo components or a big box with the receiver and speakers for one low price.”
Orbitz.com estimates that travelers can save an average of $228 by booking a five-night air-and-hotel package instead of buying those components separately. For example, a flight to Cancún from Chicago and a three-night stay at the InterContinental Presidente Cancún Resort costs $885 a person on Orbitz.com as a package. The same trip booked separately costs $1,130 a person.
SEARCH FOR FLIGHTS AT ALTERNATIVE AIRPORTS
Depending on the distance from your home to the airport, using smaller, regional airports can sometimes mean savings. For example, a recent Orbitz search for a flight from Midway Airport in Chicago to Orlando, Fla., turned up a ticket on AirTran Airways for $223 round trip, for a June weekend getaway. The lowest price for the same trip from O’Hare International Airport was $321 on United.
You can often save by adjusting your travel dates by a day or two. Travel sites like Travelocity.com and Zuji.com offer flexible date searches that show the lowest airfare for your route as much as four months out.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
To help evaluate prices, Kayak.com offers a trend chart (after a search), which shows whether prices for a particular flight have been going up, down or holding steady. Farecompare.com displays the lowest published fare over the next 11 months for flights to more than 200,000 destinations If the prices are bouncing around by $100 or more a few times a month or more, make sure you buy on a downswing. Farecompare.com shows a 30-day history bar chart so you can quickly check volatility.
Another site, Farecast.com, predicts whether prices will go up or down in the next week.