Step By Step Guide to Buying Cheap Airline Tickets Online

I have introduced you to the four common ways to buy tickets online.  If you missed those introductions make sure you are familiar with them:

  1. The Travel Search Engine
  2. The Online Travel Agent
  3. The Opaque Travel Site
  4. Directly from the Airline

Here is how I would organize my search for air travel tickets.

  1. I would use www.sidestep.com to play around with date options and city pair choices.  Unclick the compare with other sites option as you are just trying to get a lay of the land as to how dates and cities impact the price.  If you need help, read How to Get the Best Price When Buying Online.
  2. I would go to www.sidestep.com to get a base rate.  During the search you can also ask to search Expedia and Travelocity in a different window.  Go ahead and do that so you can see what some online travel agents are offering (Orbitz prices will be included in the Sidestep search).  Also, click to search Hotwire in a different window so you will have a price from an opaque travel site.  At this point you should have 85% of your information.
  3. If you are flying to a city that Southwest airlines services check their prices (www.southwest.com).  If you do end up buying a Southwest ticket continue to check their prices so you can take advantage of their sort-of-lowest-price-guarantee.  To learn how this works, read Why I LUV Southwest Airlines.
  4. If you are flexible, are not concerned about the airline you travel, and do not care about earning air points, you can then try www.priceline.com with a price $25-$75 cheaper than anything else you can find.  Remember if Priceline accepts your price you are locked into that airline and itinerary – it cannot be changed.

How to determine the real lowest price: DON’T FORGET ABOUT BAGGAGE.

Do not forget to incorporate baggage prices.  Let’s say you are traveling with two bags round-trip. On most airlines you will need to pay $80 round trip to cover the bags.  When booking Priceline, know that you will most likely get an airline that charges for bags (as almost all do).  If you can buy Southwest tickets for $250 and Priceline for $200 if you are taking bags you will end up paying $280 for the Priceline tickets plus airline baggage fees, thus the Southwest ticket would actually be cheaper.

When you have got your prices together, if an airline has the cheapest price book directly from their site – especially if they have bonuses for booking online.

Book your tickets! It’s that simple.  The whole process (of comparing fares) shouldn’t take you more than 20 – 25 minutes.

Once you have your tickets don’t forget to Find the Best Seat for Your Flight.