Beat Your Budget: Finding Flights

By Tiffany Mast

Here at TravelBank we love to travel for business and pleasure. Since we travel often, we constantly find ourselves in search of affordable flights, sometimes at the very last minute. While the final decision comes down to price and convenience, it’s nice to know whether you are getting a good deal and staying within your budget. And I, personally, have developed a few tricks that help me beat my budget on even the most expensive flight routes.

Use Comparative Search Engines to Find Your Flight Options

This is your starting point. It’s a chance to get a realistic idea of what a flight is going to cost you. And of course, the more time you put in to researching, the more options and information you will get out of it. My favorite search engines are Skyscanner and Google’s ITA Matrix. Skyscanner gets creative by pairing up flight segments across multiple airlines to give you a variety of options. The ITA Matrix is not a booking site, it is a powerful tool that allows you to really tweak the search parameters and get the information you want. For example, you can find out if it’s cheaper to fly back from your destination after 3 or 4 nights by using the “calendar of lowest fares” function. Instead of using just one, try searching on multiple sites because they each scan a different variety of airlines. Oh, and while these sites are great for research, I always book directly with the airlines.

Be Flexible with Timing, Dates and Airports

After you plug in your first “ideal search,” try to be flexible with your search parameters. If I am looking for a flight on Thursday morning, I will also conduct a search for Wednesday evening. If your flight dates aren’t flexible, try searching for flights out of other airports in the area. The Washington, DC area has three airports to choose from, and although I prefer flying out of DCA, I know that BWI has cheaper flights sometimes and the parking is least expensive there!

Deconstruct Your Flight

So your boss just cleared you for a business trip this weekend. Booking at the last minute really reduces your options because most flights are fully booked or outrageously priced. When you get stuck in this situation and can’t adjust the date or time of your flight, it’s time to get creative and deconstruct your trip. For example, you want to fly from DC to San Francisco but all the flights are exorbitant. Work backwards. Search all of the flights going out of San Francisco – Skyscanner has a great “everywhere” search option and Airfare Watchdog lists today’s top fares – to find out which flight paths are cheapest. You may find a travel deal between, say, San Francisco and Dallas. Start searching for flights between DC and Dallas that can pair with a roundtrip Dallas-San Francisco flight for a reasonable total price.

Book Your Own Flight Segments

Deconstructing your flight is like building your own layover into a roundtrip flight with two legs each way. Another option is to search for individual segments with different airlines. Every once in a while booking two one-way tickets is cheaper than one roundtrip.

The issue here is that you have to be vigilant about the timing (make sure you have plenty of time to get from one flight to the next), aware of airports (don’t book a flight into DFW and out of DAL unless you are prepared to transfer airports) and remember to check in for multiple flights.

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