Buying Airfare

Airfare can be the most expensive component of your trip. Whether you’re buying one ticket or six (as in my case) price is important. Other factors are important too. John constantly reminds me that it’s worth paying a little more for a better traveling experience.

Here are some of my favorite online resources for reviewing and buying economy-service airfare:

Travel agents: They do this all day, and have contracts that will surprise you. They can help you with price, routing, upgrades, cancellations, and meal requests. If you’ve written off travel agents, you are missing out on expertise and savings.

Routehappy: I love the way this site can calculate flight happiness. It factors in cost, flight time, layovers, type of plane, entertainment features, and food options and kicks out an overall happy score. Avoid frowny-faced flights.

Kayak: I like the “flexible date” features on the site, especially when I have some flexibility with dates and I’m shopping for the best price. (Note: this feature doesn’t work with Multi-city itineraries.) I also like the “Explore” feature. If I’m not sure where I want to go, but want to peek at flight options and price, I click on the map and start imagining the vacation options.

Expedia and Priceline: These are the mother ships. When you’re booking other travel features like hotels, rental cars, or vacation packages online, their rewards system could be appealing.

Orbitz: This made it to my list of favorites after today’s purchase! I’d been checking flight options on several search engines. Then, I thought, “Oh, I better compare it to Orbitz before I purchase.” They offered our family a better flight schedule at nearly $500 (total) less than every other option I was considering. Sold! Plus, their reward program is simple and easy to redeem.

Some of these sites compare other booking engines: Kayak, Expedia, Priceline, Airfare.com, Webjet.com, Bookit.com, and CheapOair, as well as direct carriers. Be prepared for a bazillion new browser windows to pop up if you select the compare feature.

I recommend always comparing at least three different sources. Check the direct flights on the airline’s site as well. Before making your purchase, make sure you know what is included in the advertised rate: taxes, applicable entry/exit fees, baggage fees (carry on and/or checked luggage), meals, etc.

General rule: if you’ve found a price that is reasonable, you should probably go ahead and purchase your tickets. Airfare prices change quickly, based on supply and demand. You don’t want to kick yourself because you waited and paid more. Save yourself some heartache; avoid checking on rates for tickets you have already purchased. Just in case the prices are lower.

Once you hit that purchase button, be prepared for a surge of excitement. It’s the HOLY-WOW-I’M-REALLY-GOING feeling!

We would love to hear your favorite ways to buy airfare in the comments below!

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