Money Saving Flights



Keep your eye out for periodic sales. Check your newspaper for advertised discounts or call the airlines directly and ask if any promotional rates or special fares are available. Youll almost never see a sale during the peak summer vacation months of July and August, or during the Thanksgiving or Christmas seasons; in periods of low-volume travel, however, you should pay no more than $400 for a cross-country flight.
Note, however, that the lowest-priced fares are often nonrefundable, require advance purchase of 1 to 3 weeks and a certain length of stay, and carry penalties for changing dates of travel. So, when youre quoted a fare, make sure you know exactly what the restrictions are before you commit.
Consolidators, also known as bucket shops, are a good place to find low fares, often below even the airlines discounted rates. Basically, theyre just big travel agents that get discounts for buying in bulk and pass some of the savings on to you. Before you pay, however, ask for a confirmation number from the consolidator and then call the airline itself to confirm your seat. Be prepared to book your ticket with a different consolidator--there are many to choose from--if the airline cant confirm your reservation. Also be aware that consolidator tickets are usually nonrefundable or come with stiff cancellation penalties.
Ive gotten great deals on many occasions from * Cheap Tickets (tel. 800/377-1000; www.cheaptickets.com). Council Travel (tel. 800/226-8624; www.counciltravel.com) and STA Travel (tel. 800/781-4040; www.startravel.com) cater especially to young travelers, but their bargain-basement prices are available to people of all ages. Other reliable consolidators include Lowestfare.com (tel. 888/278-8830; www.lowestfare.com); 1-800-AIRFARE (www.1800airfare.com); Cheap Seats (tel. 800/451-7200; www.cheapseatstravel.com); and 1-800-FLY-CHEAP (www.flycheap.com).
Search the Internet for cheap fares--though its still best to compare your findings with the research of a dedicated travel agent, if youre lucky enough to have one, especially when youre booking more than just a flight. A few of the better-respected virtual travel agents are Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) and Microsoft Expedia (www.expedia.com).
Smarter Living (www.smarterliving.com) is a great source for last-minute deals. Take a moment to register, and every week youll get an e-mail summarizing the discount fares available from your departure city. The site also features concise lists of links to hotel, car-rental, and other hot travel deals.