|San Francisco International Terminal at night (From Wikipedia)|
Getting to Abalone Bay Vacation Home at Sea Ranch from afar may mean finding a flight into San Francisco International Airport. But how do you book that flight to meet your travel requirements? A New York Times article by Seth Kugel, designed a useful (though not definitive) guide with air travel tips for websites that work best and offers eight tips based on your specific travel needs — whether looking for the cheapest flights, the shortest flights or the most immediate, a flight from outside of North America.
Air travel tips
- Cheap seats: compare flights using traditional booking sites, then compare your results to the newer sites such as Momondo. Then, before you book, check the airline’s own website to make sure it’s not even cheaper there. (And don’t forget that Southwest — by its own choice — doesn’t show up on most sites.)
- Cheap — Without the agony: Sites like Hipmunk, provides a default setting that orders the flights by “agony,” dropping flights with long layovers or sky-high prices down the list.
- Booking a Domestic Route on Short Notice: I have been tempted to try Priceline’s opaque bidding system to book a a hotel but the not knowing what my results could be has made me reluctant to try. Seth Kugel notes it works well, saving him 30 to 50 percent on hotels by placing an absurdly low bid and allowing the site to charge his card before it told him exactly for which hotel he was paying. Savings are less and more rare on flights, but do exist, particularly on domestic flights booked just a few days in advance.
- Flexible dates and destinations: With the exception of Expedia, big sites offer cheaper flights if you’re willing to fly one to three days earlier or later.and are able to navigate their navigation grids. More intuitive are Momondo, Google Flight Explorer, and GetGoing, which will also give you a discount if you give it two destinations you like and let it pick one. With newcomer Adioso, start by typing in your starting point and destination, and mold preferences from there. That won’t work for Thanksgiving visits to family, though, and the results can be hit or miss. (The company is promising lots of improvements in 2014.)
- Commitment Issues: Options Away, will hold your reservation for between a day and a few weeks for a fee. Two problemsnoted by Kugel: It only works on domestic flights within a limited list of cities, and its base rates are not always competitive.
- Complex, Multi-Leg Route: Kugel recommends Vayama for multi-leg, international searches but it did have occasional failed attempts. Meanwhile Expedia and Orbitz worked well. Avoid Hipmunk and Momondo as their flights disappeared when he booked them; and Kayak simply had way too many options that required multiple clicks to wade through page after page of near-identical offerings to find something different (and their filters barely helped).
- Trip Starts and Ends Outside North America or Europe: To find sites that are in English is a challenge. Googling or asking foreign friends is a good start; they might lead you to sites like Brazil’s Submarino Viagens (alas, not in English) and China’s Ctrip (sometimes buggy).
- Booking it all now: The traditional sites work well for booking flight, hotel, and car rental. However if you are just booking a flights, and wish a site that takes little time the clear winner there is Google Flights (a different offering from Google Flight Explorer), with shockingly instantaneous results — you’d almost think they’d invented the modern search engine.
- Best online experience: Kugel recommends– “Hipmunk’s graphic displays of flights and layovers; Kayak’s input simplicity; Momondo’s clear presentation of great information about options. Losers here were Cheapoair, for frequently kicking me off to a results page before I had completed my search and Travelocity, which has an unpleasant interface. One strike against Momondo: I was often directed to European booking sites, which charged me in euros, forcing me to seek out conversion rates and making me nervous about whether my own card would give me the same rate. (Some cards, though not mine, also charge for international transactions.)
Other air travel tips recommendations and notes
Other helpful air travel tips hints and recommendations include:
- Book Southwest Airlines whenever possible- no fees for changing flights- Kugel also notes Southwest — by its own choice — doesn’t show up on most sites.
- If earning miles is a concern, booking through travel websites, e.g., Orbitz, may mean fewer or no airline miles – in fact, according to their terms and conditions, Delta awards no miles at all for travel booked through Priceline. Orbitz still saves money because it was an airfare and hotel package.
- Fareboom. This tool allows you to search multiple airports, nearby cities and departure and arrival days (plus or minus 1-3 on either end). After a few minutes, the search clearly lays out an array of options and lets you filter out the most expensive days and airports. You can then sort the results by best value (best connections for the money), shortest time, airline (I filter out Aeroflot because of their poor safety record and United because of their poor customer service). After I find optimal days and airports, I’ll usually go to Expedia and see what I get (sometimes better pricing). Before booking, I’ll go to the airline website to see if I find anything better (if you apply for an airline credit card you’ll often save $50-$100 with a minimum purchase), finally booking either with Expedia, Fareboom or the airline. After I find optimal days and airports, I’ll usually go to Expedia and see what I get (sometimes better pricing). Before booking, I’ll go to the airline website to see if I find anything better (if you apply for an airline credit card you’ll often save $50-$100 with a minimum purchase), finally booking either with Expedia, Fareboom or the airline. Grounded by Fare Comparisons? 5 Tips to Help Your Travel Dreams Take Flight http://www.gold-boat.com/grounded-boat/#.Utlf_Citsy4.
- Bootsnall.com offers multi-one way, world round trips … great prices, solid customer experience and well thought out user interface
- Heads up on Kayak and Vayama. We have used them twice for international booking and both times they cancelled our flights and never informed us.
- To try to find a flight when outside the U.S.:
- Clear History
- Under Preferences, Privacy. Remove All Website Data
- Empty the Cache or Reset your Browser
- Now you are “outside the U.S.” It makes a big difference in the search results.
Do you have any special tips on finding that best fare for your set of circumstances? If so be sure to share here.
Coming up in the next blog post: Are you are seeking a decent meal as you wait for your flight or to carry with you on board your flight? Learn the best places to dine in airports.