Nora and Tim help you find balance when dealing with a stressful debt situation. Learn how to manage stress and enjoy travel without breaking the bank.
There's more to finding cheap airfare than performing a random search and going with the lowest fare. After four years of full-time travel, I've got a few tricks for finding great deals, and I'm always discovering new techniques and loopholes. Here are some ways to find cheap airfare and get the most value for your money.
When to Search
Airlines generally reset and adjust their prices for the week around Tuesday at midnight. Depending on how many seats they have available, they sometimes release some seats at a discounted rate - but they don' last long. If you search at the right time, you'll find these lower rates.
When to Fly
Mondays and Fridays are peak flying days, especially for business travelers. The best days to fly are usually midweek, and sometimes Sundays. You can often get a discount for flying during "off-hours" (such as really early morning departures or overnight flights).
How to Search
Standard search engines don't usually include budget airlines, so you don't get a truly comprehensive picture. I like to start with a search engine like Kayak to get a sense for what the major airlines are charging (and I also use flexible date searches just in case flying a day or two earlier or later makes a difference), and then I use Which Budget to determine the budget airlines flying the same route.
Where to Buy
If you buy your tickets through an online agent such as Expedia or Orbitz, you're generally at their mercy if you need to make changes or if something goes wrong. This can be a major hassle, and I've heard more than a few horror stories. But if you purchase your tickets directly through the airline, you generally get better service and a much easier ability to make changes -at the airport or prior.
Not only that, but once you've chosen the airline, you can sometimes find an even better sale offer that fits your itinerary when you access the airline's website directly.
I've recently started playing with some tools that help you watch rates over time and notify you if the prices go down. The two websites I'm testing are Yapta and Fare Compare. Fare Compare doesn't seem very user-friendly, but I've had good luck with Yapta so far.
Get the Best Deal - Even After You Buy
Yapta has a lovely feature that allows you to track flight prices after you buy your tickets. If the prices go down, you can usually get a refund from the airline for the difference by contacting them.
Be Flexible - And Imaginative
Before you set your vacation in stone, be flexible. Sometimes you'll save by flying to a different airport, or on different days. I recently searched for flights from New Zealand to Canada. Flying direct was prohibitively expensive. But when I searched flights from New Zealand to Hawaii, and Hawaii to Canada, the price dropped in half - and it made for a free layover in Hawaii!
If you are especially flexible with your options, you can play with Kayak Explore to see where in the world your budget will take you.
Travel Hacking and Flying Business Class: Getting Extra Bang
In 2010, I flew over $8,000 in business class flights for under $2,000: less than the price of equivalent economy tickets. This took some dedication to wisely accumulating frequent flyer miles, but it paid off in spades. If you want to become a travel hacker extraordinaire, using frequent flyer miles is a great way to get more bang for your airline buck and often fly in style while you're at it.
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Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She is a contributing writer under the CareOne Debt Relief Services Life Balance blog. Having sold her business and belongings to travel, she has been on the road since 2007. She travels in a financially sustainable manner, taking advantage of creative volunteering positions. As a former certified Financial Planner, she is financially responsible for her actions along the way. She believes there is a fine balance between planning for tomorrow, and living for today. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services. You can follow Nora on Twitter @hobonora
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For years, my long-haul flights have been largely in business class - for less than the price of economy tickets . Here are 13 frequent flyer mile strategies to help you do the same.