Finding the Right Air Travel

By: Justin Burch

You have probably seen plenty of commercials for websites and travel services promising the lowest prices on airfare. While many of these advertised services can be helpful, many only scratch the surface. The key to finding the best air travel deals and packages is always research. This article will outline the best sources for discount airfare based on different types of travel agendas. You might be surprised to learn about all of the services you've missed - and the fact that travel agents can still come in handy! After the discussion of sources for discount airfare, you will also find some helpful tips for securing the best tickets, regardless of your travel plans.

When starting your search for airfare it certainly never hurts to look at sites like Expedia.com and Travelocity.com, but those who understand the ins and outs of discount air travel never stop here. If you have a set date and location, professionals recommend using aggregator websites. These web services search hundreds of online travel sites for the best deals on airfare, often picking up deals that the popular travel sites miss. These sites include:

• Mobissimo.com
• Kayak.com
• Sidestep.com
• Farechase.com

If you know where and when you are flying but need to find tickets for the next two weeks, try site59.com. This website offers travel packages on short notice and oftentimes you can find hotel and airfare package deals that beat the price of traditional plane tickets alone.

If your travel dates are flexible within a 3-day range, use Kayak.com's unique search feature. However, if your dates are flexible within a month range, use Farecast.com, Farecompare.com and Travelocity.com. All of these sites feature search engines that can generate the best possible rates over a 30-day period.

If you are truly a flexible traveler and are open to multiple locations, several sites offer rate searches based on your point of origin. For instance, if you want to go to Mexico and don't mind if you end up in Puerto Vallarta or Cancun, these searches can save you plenty of money. In addition to the aforementioned Mobissimo.com and Farecast.com, other services that allow multiple location comparison searches include Farewatch.com and AirfareWatchdog.com.

Another useful internet tool for finding affordable airfare is the price history search offered by Farecompare.com, Farecast.com and Kayak.com. With this function, you will be able to compare current rates with previous deals to help you determine when to pull the trigger on a price.

Another great option is a site like Travelzoo.com that gathers all of the best advertised deals. While you can't book your airfare directly through such websites, these services work directly with airlines and travel providers to publish the best prices on a daily basis.

While travel agents may seem like a thing of the past, they still possess a number of distinct advantages. Unlike websites, a call to travel agent connects you to someone who knows the airline system and can find special deals and flights that other services miss. For instance, travel agents often work with consolidators - companies that sell heavily discounted airfare. As consolidators don't sell to the public, many incredible deals are only available to travel agents. Furthermore, if you have specific needs - such as a complicated itinerary, special requests for accommodations or simply aren't comfortable making preparations online - a travel agent can be indispensable.

Now that you know where to look for airfare deals, here are a few more tips to ensure that you always get the best price:

• Start looking for deals on airfare as soon as you start planning your vacation, because more time to search means a better chance of finding the best price.

• If you have searched rates for awhile and a good price becomes available, reserve your seats immediately.

• If you are traveling within the U.S., check the websites for JetBlue and Southwest Airlines. These low-cost carriers usually don't show up in the travel search engines.

• Many travel professional now recommend buying tickets directly through airline websites, rather than sites like Orbitz.com and Expedia.com. Most airlines now guarantee the lowest rates on their own sites and you will be able to avoid the service charges of the travel sites. Additionally, if anything goes wrong on your vacation, your airline will be more willing to work with you if your ticket was purchased directly.

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