Travel on an Experimental Budget (2)

I’m thinking about a number of trips I want to take this year, mostly for concerts and festivals. I’ve found some new resources for finding cheap flights since my last post on the subject, which was well over a year ago. (Some of those sites no longer exist, and others have been outdone.)

Here’s my current strategy:

1) Start with a couple of high-quality search engines to get the lay of the land:

ITA software has an excellent search engine used frequently by travel agencies. You can easily log in as a guest. It includes Jetblue and other discount airlines, which is quite rare. Now they are previewing Matrix 2, which has a great “See calendar of lowest fares” option.

Skyscanner has been recommended by someone who does a lot of international travel. It has a slick interface, and it did well on my most recent search. You can also modify the dates almost within the original search. That’s handy to do early on, especially if your dates are flexible.

2) Are better fares hiding among the budget airlines?

Wegolo is specific to discount airlines.

For flights within Europe, you can find the budget airlines that fly any route on flycheapo.

3) Get the tabs going furiously to check all the options. (You can assess your own levels of patience/desperation/multi-color tolerance before going at this one. Honestly, steps 1, 3, and 4 will probably find you the right price.)

Booking Buddy: put in the basic information, and open up a bunch of tabs to do the searches within those sites. All the usual suspects are there. (Don’t miss the “search other sites” button at the bottom. You can skip the individual airlines’ sites, since those are covered in the various other metasearches, but Sidestep (recently merged with Kayak) is a good one.)

cfares often has better prices than I can find anywhere else.

4) After all that, it’s actually quite nice to talk to a human being:

On my latest search I did best with a wholesale airfare seller called asap tickets service. The agent was very quick and helpful, and got me a great quote. One friend has told me that he frequently has saved hundreds of dollars off of the standard prices with them. You can run a search to see how they do automatically, and then call.

The advantage of doing this part last that I thoroughly know the other fares. Are they offering a real deal or something I could find otherwise?

It takes some time and it’s a little dizzying, but I like knowing I’ve gotten the best price available. Actually, it’s crucial.

Let me know if you have any other tips. It’s a constantly changing and very enigmatic field…

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