Congratulations, you sold your boss on the many Autodesk University takeaways, and Viva Las Vegas! Of course for you to take anything away from AU, you have to get there first. For many just convincing your boss to lay down the cash to go to AU was probably difficult enough, and you haven't even booked your flight. With corporate budgets tighter than ever and airfare prices increasing every day, how can you insure you're getting the biggest bang for your buck?
Before continuing I should mention that I am by no stretch of the imagination the world’s expert on travel. Instead I am just a geek who has spent many hours searching the internet trying to find the best deal possible. After all a geeks worth is measured not by what he/she knows, but how well he/she can Google – right?
Types of Airfare Sites
These sites employ a model similar to a search engine like Google. They do not sell the airfare, or even book it. Instead they search a compilation of sites in an effort to locate the best fare available. Since they neither sell nor book flights, they generally make their money with affiliate hotel deals and on-site advertisement. Many of the best deals can be found on these sites.
- Booking Engines
Booking engines are similar to aggregators in the way they search multiple websites to find the cheapest price on a flight. Unlike the aggregators, these sites do however book a flight on behalf of an airline, collecting a small fee in addition to the price of the flight.
- Airlines own Website
Especially for flights found on booking engines, you’ll want to pay a visit to the airlines website to see if you can get the flight without the booking fee. Additionally some airlines (Southwest) do not share their fares to the aggregators.
When to Book Your Flight
New fares are generally applied at midnight, so 12:01 am is generally the best time to score an awesome deal on a flight. I have not personally had a chance to try this theory, but I have seen Wednesday mentioned as the best day to book airfare. The theory behind this one is that airlines post their new fares on Friday, other airlines generally react on Monday, and Tuesday is the “price war” day. Therefore the dust settles with the fares posted Wednesday. It’s suggested the cycle then begins all over on Thursday (fare increase).
Finding a Flight
There’s certainly no shortage of travel websites among the ranks of the internet, but which ones are actually worth going to. Personally my preferred site has been Kayak.com. It’s an aggregator, and has done well by me when it’s come to finding the cheapest fare. Another popular aggregator has been Sidestep.com, which is now owned by Kayak.com. Another aggregator that has caught my attention of late is Farecast.com. Not only does it find the cheapest flight, it predicts ticket prices seven days out.
With that my suggested method of attack is as follows; start with the aggregators, proceed to some of the budget carriers, finally end with the booking engines.
- Aggregators (Start with these)
- Airline Websites (these airlines are known for their cheap rates, and somewhat common omission on aggregators)
- Booking Engines
I will once again mention the booking fee charged by the booking engines. Oftentimes you can use one of the booking engines to find a flight, and then go to that airlines website to book the same flight without the booking fees. Booking direct with the airline isn’t always the cheapest, but is certainly worth checking out.