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Back in the day, before the onset of this thing called "the internet", people would go to their travel agent for their flight tickets.

As you may already know by now, I am a self-confessed travel junkie.  I scrimp and save and scrimp so more just so I can get travelin’.

Back in the day, before the onset of this thing called “the internet”, people would go to their travel agent for their flight tickets.  These days, people are using the internet much more to book their travel.  There are a few ways in which your flight can be booked on the internet:

The Big Boys:  Travelocity, Orbitz, and Expedia

Sites such as Travelocity, Orbitz, and Expedia make it easy to look for flights and search for the best connections and deals.  These guys are the ‘big boys’ of online booking engines.  They add on a small booking fee (kind of like an online travel agent-bot) for their services.

The thing about Travelocity, Orbitz, and Expedia is that they are owned by travel agents or even by airlines.  For example, Orbitz is owned by American, Continental, Delta, Northwest and United Airlines.  Which means that you might not get a complete aggregation of the airlines that are running that flight.

That being said, I find that I almost always end up using Orbitz for any packages or flights within North America because the often have promo codes that work.  These promo codes help me save anywhere from $50 to $125 for flight and hotel packages.  Sites that have reliable promo codes for Travelocity, Orbitz, and Expedia are:

The Aggregator: Kayak

I love Kayak.com.  They even have an iPhone/ iTouch App from Kayak.com.  Kayak aggregates flight data and compiles it for you, then they let you link to the site offering the cheap flight.  For example, they may even link to Expedia or Cathay Pacific, depending on where it has found the cheaper flight.  The good thing is that Kayak doesn’t charge a fee.  They count on affiliate hotel offerings and advertising instead.  Kayak lets you search for open jaw flights (multi-stop itineraries).The drawback is that Kayak usually doesn’t include the budget airlines, like WestJet (for Canada) and Southwest Airlines, Jetblue, or Allegiant Air (for US).  I find that Kayak is often quite good for international flights…I ran a search and went to two different “in-person” travel agencies and they couldn’t beat the price I found on Kayak.

Other notable “Aggregators” are:

  • Vayama (based in Nevada- it has a cool interactive map that shows where you’re traveling to)
  • Sky Scanner (compiles >600 airlines, based out of Edinborough and Poland)
  • Momondo (started in 2006 and based in Denmark)
  • Jet Abroad (based out of Sydney, Australia- but can convert AUD into currency of choice- this compiler has >400 airlines and has a lot of smaller budget Asian airlines that you wouldn’t find on Kayak)

HUGE TIP ALERT: Make sure that when you’re browsing the same flight path multiple times throughout multiple days, that you DELETE your cookies. Otherwise, you’ll find that the flight you’re looking at is more expensive (about $50-$100 more).  The “compiler” can see that you’re interested in that flight and raises the price. You’ll find that after you reset and delete your cookies, the price goes back to ‘normal’ and you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Go Straight to The Source: Airlines

Another way to save some money is to go directly to the airlines (if you’re feeling ambitious), especially if your flight request is pretty simple and the flight path doesn’t look like you’re skipping pebbles on the globe or anything.  Sometimes you can find deals directly on the airlines website, cheaper than posted on Kayak or the online booking engines.  Oftentimes, the airlines save their best deals for their own website.

Sign Up for Deals:

Every Wednesday, I get an email of the hottest last minute deals available (flights, flight packages, hotel stays etc.) from:

  • Travel Zoo – They send the Top 20 Deals every Wednesday (you can pick your region and they’ll send you deals for your city)
  • Travel Alerts (only for Canada)

I also sign up for airlines email notifications, I can be the first to know if there is a  West Jet sale or Air Canada seat sale (they often run their seat sales at the same time, coincidentally enough =P )

Be Old School: Hit up your Local Travel Agent

I like to do my research online and double check at a travel agent.  I went to Flight Centre and found that they weren’t really the cheapest, though they claim to beat any advertisers price.  Travel Cuts is a good bet if you are a student or a young adult.  Sometimes travel agents have access to really really cheap fares, that you know, only travel agents know about.  I had a colleague who scored a return trip to Japan from Vancouver for $700 including taxes from her travel agent.

And the Winner Goes to….

The trick is to use a multi-pronged attack with all the methods mentioned above.  Do your research, check around, to make sure you absolutely have the best deal (though don’t wait too late because flight prices tend to go up as you get closer to the date).

Readers, do you have any tips not mentioned above on how to save money on airfare?  What’s your fave method?

Article comments

JF says:

you should look at Hopper

susan says:

Hi Again Guys, Enjoy reading your emails. I don’t know if you have mentioned credit card churning in any of your blogs, as I thought for sure that would be here. Done correctly, it is the a great way to go, does not impact your credit like some think, and will in fact raise your score if done correctly. And it is the Best way, and cheap to reap airline points. Have a great day.

Master Nerd says:

Google Flights, Sky Scanner, and Hipmunk are great for finding deals. Between the three of those you should be able to find flights from all but the most obscure airlines. Wikipedia has more comprehensive listings of airlines for nearly any destination, so if you’re flying in Europe or Asia, you can find some budget airlines that aren’t advertised on the big sites.

Kyle says:

Good to know MN

CreditDonkey says:

FlyerTalk is also a good resource point to discuss cheap airfare. Make sure you sign up for southwest emails since they sometime do short-term promotions (e.g.: 48 hour sales).

ricky says:

Fantastic tips, as I’m just in the process of planning my first 4-week travelling journey to Thailand!
Thanks again

Maher says:

Hey YoungAndThrifty!
A really good travel site is http://FareCompare.com

Here is also a good article to Cheap Travel strategies! 🙂

I just discovered your site today, thank you! 🙂

young says:

@Maher- cool- thanks so much for sharing the article for Cheap Travel Strategies! I KNEW that there was one day a week where the flights are cheaper, and knew it was midweek but forgot exactly when. Now we know it’s 3pm EST on Tuesday!

I love to rough it on my own in a country. The weeks leading up to travel, I do an insane amount of research on the “things to do.” I then make my own itinerary. If there is something that would be better with a tour guide, then I’ll book once I’m there or through the website. But for the most part, I like to do things my way and have my own schedule. That way, I can squeeze in lots of naps!
.-= Investing Newbie

young says:

@Investing Newbie Yes- napping is ESSENTIAL for traveling (or less cranky traveling that is, lol). It’s really quite fun to “do it yourself” and I find travel more satisfying that way, too!

Little House says:

I really like Kayak. I can search multiple sites at once and see all of the flight prices, then choose the best price and time table. I’d have to say that is my favorite flight website. Thanks for the other links, I’ve never come across Travel Zoo.
.-= Little House

young says:

@littlehouse I like kayak too! Did you hear the news about flightnetwork.com? They were selling flights that didn’t exist! A couple from Vancouver lost out on $2300 🙁

Hey Thrifty, first time commentor here, but fellow yakezie.

I had no idea about the cookie trick. Now you can rest assured my paranoia is on high alert and i’ll be deleting cookies before every search.

I aslo like farecast (now absorbed by bing) in that they graph out prices based on historical data and try to give you a prediction of whether it’s a good time to buy.
.-= Car Negotiation Coach

young says:

@Amanda Thanks! I’m an avid traveler too and love to share my secrets with my readers! I love hearing about couples meeting while traveling too (how romantique!)

@Car Negotiation- LOL I think they only track cookies after a couple hours of searching, so it does help to clear the cookies after every day or session. Yes, farecast is pretty good! Thanks for commenting!

Amanda L. Grossman says:

Hello Young and Thrifty!

Great tips–especially the one about the cookies, and the promo codes for Orbitz and such. I had no idea, and am an avid traveler (my husband and I met in Japan!). Thanks for the article.