Booking Your Solo Travel
Booking airline tickets can be a daunting task for some, particularly for those not well versed in all things Internet, since so much of making arrangements is done on the web today. Here are well-tested insider tips for successfully getting your plans in order—hassle-free.
When to Book
Whether traveling domestically or internationally, in most countries, it makes economical sense to book your ﬂights in advance. Even the day before is preferable to booking the day of your ﬂight at the airport. Some airlines will offer ﬁxed pricing on ﬂights regardless of when you travel or when you make your reservation, and will provide one-way tickets that are half the roundtrip cost. Most airlines, however, charge based on availability, the need to ﬁll their ﬂights, and the going rate at competitive airlines, causing a ﬂuctuation in the cost.
As soon as you know where and when you’re going, buy your tickets. If you have some ﬂexibility in your schedule, booking engines can scan a range of dates to locate the best deal.
If you’re traveling from the United States, last-minute tickets are usually outrageously expensive unless you purchase through a discount last-minute online resource, such as Lastminute.com, or you have a travel agent who can ﬁnd a deal for you.
How to Book
- You can book and buy tickets directly with an airline. This can sometimes be cheaper than reserving through one of the travel search engines. You’ll also get better customer service if an issue arises than if you booked through a third party.
- Start your search for ﬂights, hotels, and car rentals on Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity. These sites sort ﬂight information for most, but not all, airlines, hotels, and car-rental agencies. Pricing can be different between these search engines, depending on route, dates, destination, and travel times. Additional fees, such as fuel surcharges, booking fees, and taxes, may not be added until you’re ready to check out, so read the ﬁne print. Be aware that the airline may also charge fees based on the amount of luggage you are checking. Conﬁrm whether you’re being quoted a one-way or a round trip, and once you have found the cheapest price on one of these sites, then call the airline, hotel, or car-rental agency directly or look at their website to ﬁnd their best deal. Often it’s the same or slightly better. If so, book it.
- You can also arrange multi-destination journeys on many of these sites. This option can be used if you are ﬂying into one city and out of another, or if you are traveling to multiple locations and don’t want to book one-way fares. You may also be able to search for ﬂexible dates. In this case, the booking engine will search for several days surrounding your travel dates for the best deal.
- Check the sites of regional and smaller airlines such as Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways separately as these aren’t included on the major search engines.
- In any website for which you use a credit card, you will see a lock icon at the bottom of your browser, which indicates that it’s secure to enter your confidential information. If it doesn’t appear, don’t enter your credit card number.
- If you’ve booked your ﬂight and later ﬁnd an identical ﬂight on the same airline for less, some airlines will refund all or a portion of the difference in cost. Fares can go up or down several times in a day. Get to know what your airline’s policy is, and then look periodically to see if the fare has been lowered. JetBlue, for instance, will credit you the difference if the fare for your ﬂight has gone on sale after you’ve booked. If you book online, Delta Air will refund you the difference and give you a credit voucher worth $50 for future travel if you ﬁnd a fare more than $5 cheaper than the original fare.
- Check Farecast to determine the chance of it costing you less if you wait a couple of days before booking your flight. The site is designed to forecast the rise and fall of pricing on ﬂights using complicated algorithms and trends.
- Schedule ﬂights early in the day, as these will be less prone to delay. You can refer to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which provides an amazing array of information on their website, including data for on-time performance of airlines, broken down by originating airports.
- Consider flying into a smaller airport, rather than a city’s larger and more popular facility. It is often cheaper and more convenient (there’s less air and road trafﬁc).
While travel agents may not be your cheapest option, you can’t beat a travel agent for personalized service. If you need to change your itinerary or need help if you’ve been bumped off a ﬂight, your travel agent can make the arrangements on your behalf. While on business trips, you can call your agent to book you on a different ﬂight when yours is cancelled or delayed, whereas you may be unable to get help from the airline’s customer-service department.