There is so much misinformation circling the internet about how to find a cheap flight that it’s easy for first-time travelers and frequent flyers alike to become overwhelmed by the prospect of hunting for a flight deal. When I first started booking airline tickets on a regular basis, I tested every strategy out there in hopes of stumbling across one magic solution that would reduce all my future flight costs in one click.
Through trial and error, I realized that great deals exist and are accessible to everyday people, but there’s no magic site or travel hack. Finding a valid airline ticket at a steal price requires a combination of opportunity, timing, flexibility and a willingness to put your money where your mouse is.
To help you navigate the flood of information, here are some common misconceptions about booking flights that are costing you big bucks.
1) The best day and time to book is “X”
You may have heard that the best day to buy a flight is Tuesday, or that the best time to book is six weeks out from a trip. All that is conjecture. At the end of the day, the best time to buy is when a deal pops up, and not a second later. Don’t wait to share it with your friends or verify that you have the time off from work. Book first, ask questions later. Which leads me to my second point…
2) You can never get a refund
Even non-refundable flights have a 24-hour refund window. If you book then change your mind, you can cancel the entire thing like it never happened. Also, some airlines will work with you to reimburse the cost of any subsequent price drop after you purchase, and all will refund your fare if there’s a delay or change in itinerary attributable to the airline.
3) You need a credit card to earn points/miles
Many people are discouraged from travel hacking because they think the only way to earn bulk miles is by opening a credit card. Granted, credit cards are a great way to exponentially grow your miles, but they’re not essential. You can log miles for flights taken on partner airlines and earn points online by shopping through partner links or completing surveys.
4) Roundtrip fares are the best deals
Roundtrip fares have long been preferred in the booking process, but I’m an advocate of one-way flights. You get more value for point redemptions when booking award travel, can customize you itinerary to add intentional connections, and they give you the flexibility to book your trip piecemeal, making your own travel lay-a-way plan.
5) You should be loyal to one airline
This may be a good tactic if you’re aiming for elite status or first class upgrades, but deal hunters are looking for the best price overall. It’s better to cast a wide net, across multiple search engines and websites to ensure you get rates for airlines that don’t show up in all results, like Southwest and Allegiant.
6) You can’t fly comfortably on a budget
Budget airlines are often synonymous with discomfort, with seats that are unable to recline, minuscule tray tables and a general lack of in-flight entertainment. Not all airlines are create equal, however. JetBlue and Norwegian are two examples of budget carriers that won’t make you feel like you’re flying for cheap. You can also score first class tickets on the cheap with sale alerts or bidding for upgrades.
7) Error fares are for suckers
A lot of people see error fares and steer clear, thinking it will be a waste of their time. While it’s true that there’s always a chance the airline won’t honor the ticket, your money will be refunded in the event it can’t be honored so you have nothing to lose. Just hold off on making any binding reservations at your destination until after you know for sure.
Till next time, safe travels!
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