Summer is on the way, which means vacations are just around the corner. I'm betting that whatever adventure you have planned, it's probably going to involve a flight to get there.
Despite the rigmarole with checking baggage, parking your car and going through security, flying is still faster and more convenient for long distances than any other type of transportation. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most expensive.
Still, with a few insider tricks you can get substantial savings on your airline tickets, even tickets you've already bought. That can free up spending money for your trip, or you can put it toward expenses after you get back from vacation.
Ready? Set? Save.
1. Best places to look
If you're just looking at prices on an airline's site, you're missing the bigger picture. You might save more flying a different date or with another airline entirely. Most airline sites don't make it easy to search multiple dates at once, and none of them includes other airlines' prices.
Widen your possibilities with a site like Matrix. You can search for tickets on multiple departure and arrival dates to see what day has the best deal. Or you can just see a calendar of the lowest fares around a certain date. Naturally, Matrix pulls from multiple airlines for easier comparison.
Before you buy, though, you should also fire up a site like Airfare Watchdog. This scours airline sites for deals and pulls them into one easy-to-find place. You might spot a deal you wouldn't have seen.
I do have one caution about buying the cheapest tickets, though. Many airlines have additional fees that don't show in the price of a ticket. The cost of checking baggage is an often-overlooked example. You might find that more expensive tickets are actually less expensive when you've taken other fees into account.
2. Buy at the right time
I'm sure you've heard that the day of the week and time of day you buy tickets can make a difference. Well, you heard right.
Of course, you want to start looking eight weeks before the day you want to leave. That's when airlines start dropping the prices.
Tuesday around noon is a good time to find deals as airlines try match deals other airlines posted Monday evening. Peter Greenberg at CBS News suggests 1 a.m. on Wednesday to snatch up deals that weren't taken on Tuesday. If there aren't many deals going on, researchers from Texas A&M say weekends are the best time to book a leisure trip.
The time you travel can also make a difference. Aim for weekdays in the early mornings and evenings to get the cheapest prices.
That's a lot of things to take into account. So instead, you can also head over to www.kayak.com. When you run a search for tickets, you'll see a Price Trend box in the left-hand column. It tells you whether to buy or wait and Kayak's confidence level. If you want more information about how it made its decision, you can click the box with the lowercase "i".
I do have to say though that while saving money is good, sometimes the savings just aren't worth the extra agony. Flying at 2 a.m.? No thanks. That's why I'd check out the site Hipmunk to quickly find flights with the best balance of cost and convenience.
3. Keep watching prices
Just because you got a low ticket price doesn't mean it won't go lower. The good news is many airlines will refund you the difference if the price drops a certain amount after you buy.
But who has time to look up ticket prices every day? That's where Yapta can help. It keeps an eye on your tickets and alerts you when the price drops. Learn more at http://bit.ly/RQWzMk.
Yapta claims annual savings of $334 per user, which means you can put that money toward a better hotel, a few nice dinners or just put it back in your bank account for life after your trip.
Remember: When you're done saving money with this tip, check out other ways to save money on technology, cable and more at http://bit.ly/1jtK9jc.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Hear it locally at 94.3 WSC News Radio noon-3 p.m. Sundays. For more information, go to www.komando.com.
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