You’ve read all the reasons why travel is good for you, and you’ve decided it’s time to take a vacation. After comparing whether to fly or drive, you’ve chosen to fly. Now you just need to decide when to buy plane tickets. Here are some tips that help me when researching an buying airfare.
1) Research Begins When You Decide to Travel
As soon as you decide to take a trip, start researching! You don’t have to buy right away, just get started on planning and tracking.
2) Go Incognito
I have seen first hand a ticket go up in points cost when re-searching for the flight a second time. Some people might think the whole cookie tracking process of airlines is a bunch of conspiracy theory hoopla, but I for one believe it. Use an incognito browser window for searching flights and/or clear your cookies before or after your searches.
3) Get a Baseline
Find out what it would cost right now to buy your flights and take note. Pick your favorite search sites, like kayak.com, hipmunk.com, expedia.com, etc. to determine the current price for your destination and dates. You can also use past experience or purchases to have an idea of what the ticket should cost. Just make sure you take into account seasonal price adjustments. Flying during holidays and school breaks typically won’t be the same price as “off-season”.
4) Sign Up for Alerts
Once I’ve done my baseline research I’ll note which airlines seems to have the best prices or most direct routes and make sure I’m on their airfare alert/travel deals email list. I also set up alerts for my route with hipmunk.com and airfarewatchdog.com.
5) Take Stock of Credits
Do you currently have any points or credits available with an airline? Decide if you have enough points or credits to pay for your ticket or buy down the ticket price on a certain airline. Keep in mind that points tickets can be limited or increase in cost. If I decide I want to use points, I typically buy as soon as possible.
There are so many factors that affect when you should buy a ticket. Many people will say 6-8 weeks before your trip is prime, however that doesn’t take into account international travel or peak season. A few of the things I look at when deciding how quickly I need purchase: 1) how many seats are available – lots, I’ve got a bit of time; 2) how specific are my dates and times – more flexibility on my end means a bit more ability to wait and see. If I’ve been tracking the flight prices for a bit with my alerts and continually see the same prices, I typically go ahead and buy whenever I’m ready.
7) Keep Tracking
Some airlines, like Alaska, have flight price guarantees so if you see you flight become cheaper you can receive a credit for the savings. If you airline does not offer any credits, then if you see the prices go lower you can note it for reference in case you take additional trips to that destination at a later date.
Be sure that once you’ve booked your flights you note them on your vacation budget planner so you can keep track of your trip costs. I hope these tips were helpful!
Do you have a tip for when to buy plane tickets?