One of the biggest expenses in travel is most likely your transportation cost. Internet search engines are hard to navigate the cluttered websites that open a million windows to compare prices are really irritating! With that said, there are also some great resources that make booking flights quite easy and can help you save especially if you are a student or under the age of 26. If you are older than 26, don’t worry! There are also best times to purchase your flight and great deals on specific airline websites.
Starting Point Resources
One of my favorite websites to start off my search is Skycanner.com. The website is easy to use, not too crowed with third party ads, and usually finds some of the best deals online regardless of the age of the traveler. Let’s do a sample search from Washington D.C. to Paris departing sometime during the last week of February and returning sometime during the first week of March. Remember, when booking an international flight, you can find cheaper prices if you keep your flight days and airports flexible and if you fly on weekdays instead of weekends. For the sake of this demo, I’ll keep my airport options open and I am willing to fly from IAD, BWI, or DCA. After you see the initial prices, click on the top right “Flexible” button and then “See whole month” to compare prices based on specific dates. The cheapest flight I found is $697 on Turkish Airline (which was voted the best European airline in 2012) with a layover in Istanbul. The total one-way flight time is about 16.5 hours.
There are some drawbacks for Skyscanner as well. For example, this website does not have an open-jaw flight option say if I wanted to fly into London and out from Paris. Also, if you are traveling from within Europe, Skyscanner does not include some of the budget airline options although as of yesterday, you can find Ryanair deals on the website. Click on the same “Flexible” button and you will see a list of airports close to your specifications and how much you will save if you fly from the other airport.
Hipmunk.com is another great resource I use to see all my possible flight options to a destination. I love how the website rates flights based off of the “agony level”.
Student Flight Deals
To find the best direct flight deals, I usually visit both statravel.com and studentuniverse.com. Keeping my airports and travel days flexible, I find that STA Travel has a Luftanza direct flight (about 8 hours) from IAD to CDG that’s priced at $788.03 and Student Universe priced the same flight at $791. Skyscanner listed this same direct flight at $843. That’s a $50 savings right there for anyone who is a student and prefers direct flights. Another reason you may prefer a direct flight is that you usually arrive and depart at a reasonable hour in case you need to catch another connection via train or bus.
For you environmentally conscious travelers out there, Student Universe offers a Carbon Credits program called the ECO2llege where you pay an additional fee (around $25 depending on flight distance) on top of your ticket fee to offset the emissions from your trip. You will get an email informing you of how many pounds of CO2 you’ve offsetted and this complementary “I Fly Green” luggage tag. I think it’s a small but useful reminder to travel mindfully.
Airline Flight Deals
Sometime the airlines will advertise to their mileage card holders and subscribers of the latest travel deals. I just saw this amazing British Airways deal for cross-Atlantic flights plus free nights stay at select locations in London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow and Newcastle. I did a quick search for an open jaw flight into London and out of Paris. The price was reasonable at $854 but as a single traveler, I would only get one free night of accommodation in London worth up to 250 pounds. It’s an even better deal if you are traveling as a couple or with a friend. Two cross-Atlantic flights into Britain qualifies for two free nights of accommodation which can save you up to 500 pounds that you can use instead to go take a fancy afternoon tea, shop at Harrold’s, and drink pints and drams to your heart’s content! Other airlines offer similar deals so make sure not to delete your airline emails before scanning them for great packages!
National Travel Campaigns
Lebanon just launched a tourism revival campaign to combat the effect of the civil war in neighboring Syria on its travel industry. According to Byblos Bank, tourism in Lebanon is down 18% from last year and nearly 38% from 2010. Middle East Airlines is offering a 50% discount from select locations until February 28th. However, keep in mind that if you are traveling from the U.S., you might want to check the Department of State’s Travel Warning.
There may be other countries that offer similar deals to spread their regular tourist season instead of mitigating regional conflict. For example, while the leisure tourism sector in Iceland fluctuate throughout the year, the corporate travel sector is more evenly distributed. Icelandair has been developing it’s flight network in order to promote Iceland’s slogan for business travelers to “meet in the middle”, a reference to the historic Reykjavik Summit when Reagan met with Gorbachev in 1986. The Blue Lagoon is one of the major tourist attractions in Reykjavik. A few buses from downtown Reykjavik to the international airport conveniently drops departing visitors off for a quick dip in these therapeutic waters before getting back on the plane.
Start-up Coupon Deals and Resources
Lastly, if you are dreaming of a vacation but you don’t have a specific place in mind, you might want to peruse Livingsocial Escapes or Groupon Getways. Usually the price is listed per person, which includes airfare, but be aware of the individual traveler supplement if you are planning a trip for yourself. Also, most flights are from specific airports such as JFK in New York and there is an additional fee if you flying out of other airports. Right now, I wouldn’t mind going on the 15-day tour of Turkey ($1849) which includes a round trip flight from IAD and 13 nights of accommodations or the 8-day tour of Spain ($1685) also with round trip flights from IAD and accommodations.
In general, the more flexible you are, the more likely you will score a deal on your flight. The best time to book for international flights is usually 21 days in advance although you may be able to find last minute deals. I like to be sure of my travel times so I usually choose the advance option. I’ve read that the best time to purchase a flight is on Wednesday at 2pm because airlines release prices every week on Tuesday nights and competitor airlines will post a response by Wednesday. I’m not sure if this suggestion is valid but if you have some time on your hands, you might want to do a small experiment. Sign up for the website’s price alert and get emails letting you know of the daily change in price. If you don’t have time, check out Google’s ITA software to find the optimal date to purchase your flight.
Happy booking and safe travels!