Bank Forward Blog

Friday January 26 2018

Winter Travel Series: What you need to know before booking your next flight

From first snowfall to the New Years toast, the beginning of winter can be a fast, fun-filled time spent with family and friends. Then, just like that, we’re stuck with three more months of frigid temperatures and cloudy skies. By the end of January simple activities like leaving work or running to the grocery store can feel like an act of minor torture.

Winter travel is a perfect way to get some needed vitamin D, or even just make the rest of the winter just a bit more bearable. Below is the first in a two-part series on tips for getting out of town without a hitch.

1. Shop around

There are several websites that take on the work of shopping for flights so you can save time and money.

Airfarewatchdog monitors prices across flights, airlines, and even hotels, so you can search and compare for the best flight deals. Level up by signing up for their fare price alerts for deal notifications.

TripAdvisor Flights pairs flight comparisons with their well of user reviews so that you can see what other travelers are saying about a potential flight. Additional filtering options include nonstop flights, searching nearby airports, and getting their price drop alerts sent to your email.

Do a quick search on Travelocity Deals page to view discount flight, hotel, and package deals for domestic and international locations.

Kayak searches all the sites so you can get the information you need to find the right flights, hotels, rental cars and vacation packages. On a budget? Use their explore page to view prices to domestic and international destinations from your home airport.

2. Double check

A quick Internet search for ‘travel deals’ can lead to pages and pages of results. Double check unfamiliar travel websites by searching the name of the booking website + ‘scam’ to see if any red flags pop up. The last thing you want on your winter getaway is to end up at the airport with a non-refundable reservation that the airport won’t recognize.

It’s also important to note that a reservation from a third party booking site is not the same as an actual ticket from the airline. After confirming the reservation, the third party booker sends your information over to the airline so an official ticket can be printed. Normally this a smooth process, however there is still some room for error so make sure to confirm your spot by calling the airline directly a few days prior to departure.

Another thing to double check? A round trip flight is often, but not always, more affordable than two one-way tickets. Price out both options before hitting ‘buy’.

3. Time it right

Ticket pricing can experience gradual drops and fast spikes even up to the days before a flight. While booking early can help you secure a good rate, there is such a thing as booking too early.

In general, travel experts recommend booking between three and seven weeks out for domestic flights, and four to six months out for international flights. The website reviewed data on 4,191,533 flights in 2013, noting changes in price each day, tallying a total of over 1.3 billion individual prices. They found that the best date to purchase is 54 days before travel.

Apps like Hopper can take the guesswork out of this waiting game by sending you price projections so you can snag a ticket at the right time.

Wait a little too long? While not always recommended, holding out until the last minute can score you last minute deals on under-booked hotels and flights. Check out Last Minute Travel or to pay off on your procrastination.

4. Know your fees

Air travel is riddled with opportunities for additional fees. Pay close attention to the fine print to make sure you won’t experience surprise charges at the gait. What may look like a deal right away can get pricy after counting baggage fees, seat assignment fees, and mileage fees. Alternatively, sometimes the higher fare can pay out in the long run if it’s inclusive of baggage and other amenities (we’re looking at you, Southwest).

Airfarewatchdog has an exhaustive list of fees by airline that you can view here.

5. Befriend the airlines and “insiders”

Signing up for email alerts from airlines, travel bloggers (link to the Points Guy), and booking sites can help guarantee that you don’t miss a travel deal, ever. To sweeten the deal many airlines will gift you a promo code just for signing up to their email list.

Why waste time scouring for deals when you can wait for them to come to you?

Lastly, even with due diligence, things can go wrong. If you experience a problem and need to make a complaint about booking a flight, If you have a complaint about booking a flight, report it to the Department of Transportation and to the FTC.


Shopping Airfare Deals:

Want to get the lowest fares? Here’s when to book:

Twelve tips for finding low airfares:

How to sign up for deal newsletters and fare alerts from US-based airlines:

How to find airline promo codes:

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