Buying airline tickets…#@*!

With our ever-changing location of living, buying an airline ticket for a vacation has never been a simple task. Since 2009, I have always had to wait until the last minuet to buy for the main reason we never know where we will be located and which airport makes the most sense to fly out of. This past week I knew I had to buy my ticket to go from LA to Honolulu, Hi and I learned a few new things.

For once, I knew what date I would be flying out and where I was going to fly from; therefor, I took advantage of the situation and looked at ticket prices for a few days before purchasing.  Now you should know that once I knew that I would be flying out on Friday, August 17 I had only 14 days to book my flight.  Most would think, you’re screwed! Tickets are going to be so expensive, right? Well, maybe, but it all depends on when and how you book it.

A few years ago I learned from experience that websites like travelocity or expedia are not all they are cracked up to be.  Sure, they can help get you started, but I suggest not booking through them.  I guarantee you will not get the best deal.

I have had numerous hotels tell me that if you see a deal on one of those websites, write it down, then call the hotel, ask to speak to the manager on duty and tell them you saw this deal on expedia or what have you, and 9/10 times the hotel will have a better deal for you.  The massive travel websites gets a percentage of what is booked, so in theory it’s better for the hotels if you book through them directly.  Also check out the hotel’s personal website, they will often have various booking offers.  We once stayed at a hotel that had a website special that gave us an extra 10% off our room and a complementary bottle of wine.  All we had to do was mention it to them when booking over the phone.

The same idea applies with airlines.  Those travel websites are great for giving you an idea of which airlines are flying to your destination, but you will not get the best deal or even see all the various airlines flying to your destination.  There are so many hometown airlines that are not on these huge travel websites, but you can find them by looking at your airports website.  There will be a list of all the airlines that use the airport!    As far as getting the best deal on the large travel booking websites, I have yet to see a deal better than the ones offered directly from the airlines website.  You know when you see the bright red letters next to a ticket price that read “ONLY 3 TICKETS LEFT AT THIS PRICE!”. Well, that’s not completely true.  There may only be 3 tickets left at that price until the following day.

When looking for my ticket to Hawaii, I knew that I would be flying with Hawaiian Airlines.  They are wonderful and reasonably priced and are accustomed to importing dogs into the islands.  I went to their main website and started my search last Thursday, August 2.  At this point I was still unsure if I would be flying out on Thursday, August 16th or Friday the 17th, so I was just price checking.  The price of my ticket at this point was $420 for the Thursday flight and $191 for the Friday flight.  Both flights were at the same time of day, 8:40am and non-stop.  Looking at the rest of the week and even the month, other flight prices seemed to follow suit. From this  I knew that more than likely the lowest I would pay is $191 and hopefully no higher than $420.

I kept checking back and finally on Saturday, August 4th, I knew that I would be flying out on Friday the 17th (we had to wait to get the dogs papers processed so he could be allowed on the island).  Yay! I could actually, maybe, book my flight! I looked at Hawaiian’s website again and my ticket was now at $420.  Poop.  Well, it was the weekend, and I knew that prices tend to jump for booking on the weekends, so I decided to wait.  I’d constantly check back and then book when the price dropped.  It had to drop….right?  Here is what the prices did throughout the next few days.  Keep in mind, I also checked back to expedia and it stayed around the $430 mark the entire time.

  • Sunday: $420
  • Monday:$420
  • Tuesday morning: $420
  • Tuesday midday; $815 (what?!?!….Sh*t, did I make a mistake? I should have booked….)
  • Tuesday evening: $420 (ok, I almost had a heart attack!)
  • 12-3am on Wednesday (I heard that’s the best time to book online): $420
  • By this point I’m starting to think that I’m going to pay $420 no matter what.  Then, I noticed that the ticket prices for flying out within 5 days have suddenly dropped!  They were once in the $400-500 range and are now at $230.  I could fly to Hawaii tomorrow to $230?! My flight had to drop at some point, I was sure of it. I would continue to wait.
  • Wednesday morning: $420
  • Wednesday afternoon: $420
  • Wednesday evening: $191 YYYYEEEEEEESSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!

I knew it would drop! I booked my ticket for less money than what J.Os company booked his for! All because I waited and watched.  Well worth it, if you ask me! Also, I looked on expedia, afterwords just to check, and they had my same ticket for sale for $420 (and apparently only 2 tickets were left at that price) Also, on Hawaiian’s website,  if I wanted to fly out tomorrow, I could still take a later flight for $230:  tickets for over a week out were still priced at $420. Never would have guessed that for pricing! I do find it CRAZY how much ticket prices fluctuate and how often.  Can you imagine if I had booked the $800 ticket? I would be furious.

Now, I’m not saying, don’t plan in advance or wait until the last minuet to buy.  What I am saying, is be patient and maybe think about my experience and the strategy I use.

  •  Look at the month out for ticket prices to get an idea of the lowest price and the highest.
  •  Book directly through the airlines website (not over the phone though or you’ll get a service fee added on).  
  • Look into smaller hometown airlines.  They are not always on the large travel websites, but you can find them by searching your airports website for what airlines fly into/out of that airport.  Then go to the airline’s direct website to book (J.O and I flew round trip from San Francisco to Phoenix, AZ last February for $91/person through a small airline called Allegient. I found them through San Frans website). This airline was mentioned on expedia.
  • Check the airlines website constantly.  Morning, noon and then in the evening.  

Flying can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be insane if you do your research, take your time and book directly.

Bon Voyage!

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