The North Family Guide to Buying Transatlantic Plane Tickets
- Start looking early. Not obsessively, not every day, just a casual perusal every now and then. This will help you to get a feel for good dates to travel, and roughly how much you can expect to pay. It's hard to recognize a good deal when you see one if you don't know the regular price.
- If possible, be flexible in your travel dates. It will allow you to shop around with more freedom and take advantage of the bargains that are available to you. While there are plenty of exceptions to every rule, midweek is often cheaper than the weekend.
- Prices fluctuate frequently. Be ready to pounce when you see something that is truly a good deal, but don't despair if you miss it. You are bound to be able to find something similar. Bear in mind that prices often change within the same day, so if you have been looking at night, see what you can find during the day.
- Once you have found your ticket, stop looking. You'll drive yourself crazy if you start agonizing over potential savings lost. Instead, start looking forward to your trip. HOWEVER, the notable exception to this rule is if you booked your flight through a company that offers a price guarantee. Delta, Continental and Orbitz (to name a few) will all reimburse you the difference if you can show them that you paid more for a flight than what is now available. To keep yourself from going bonkers from constantly monitoring flight prices, use a service like Yapta that will notify you if a certain itinerary drops in price.
- And finally, here are some good places to start looking for your flights:
- Matrix Airfare Search. Like a lot of services, they will search a large number of airlines all at once for you. What we especially like is the "calendar of lowest fares" option. This allows you to tell them what month you'd like to travel and how many nights you plan to be away for, and they show you a calendar with the cheapest fares on it, which makes it very clear and easy to book.
- Don't discount the obvious: Orbitz and Expedia have both come through for us as the best and cheapest option on several occasions.
- Even more obvious: check the major airlines. Nine out of ten times their prices will be much more than you can find elsewhere. The tenth time they will be having some kind of promotion that lines up just right with your travel dates, and bada-bing, you've got yourself a steal! That's what happened for us this time when we booked our flights through SAS.
And that's basically it! Hopefully that was vaguely interesting, and possibly even ever so slightly helpful for someone. I'd love to know what your best tips for booking a flight are - please share!
Image borrowed here. Remember paper tickets? :)