Whether you travel for pleasure or for business, buying a plane ticket can be a significant travel expense. And there's no reason to spend more than you have to. However, there are some common mistakes you may not even realize are costing you extra money. Recognize them, and start saving on your next booking.
1. Revealing Your Browsing History
If you haven't been searching for flights in incognito mode, or at the very least clearing your Internet browser's cache, you may be spending more on flights than you should. That's because flight booking sites often use technology that tracks what its customers (you) have been browsing.
That means they know when you've looked at a flight multiple times. Rather than lowering the price to lure you to a final sale, they may raise the price to encourage you to buy before the price goes any higher. You can easily remedy this by browsing in incognito mode or clearing your cache, saving anywhere from $50–$200 in some cases. (See also: 6 Ways to Avoid Sneaky Online Price Changes)
Next time, don't get tricked into buying a ticket that's too expensive. Clear your cache first and buy your ticket second.
2. Buying Your Ticket From a Booking Site
Search engines that aggregate flights from a variety of airlines can be a great resource when you're trying to find the cheapest flight (see tip number eight for a great search engine). However, you need to be aware that some third party bookers will charge you an extra booking fee — which you can avoid by booking your flight directly through the airline's website.
Some small and more obscure airlines may not have a website, in which case you can either call or shop around for a third party booker that doesn't have these fees.
Even if the booking engine doesn't list a fee separately in the price breakdown, it may still be jacking the price up. It's always a good idea to refer back to the airline's listing of the flight and make sure that you're buying it from the least expensive website. (See also: 4 Secrets to Getting the Lowest Rate From Travel Websites)
Check out the best airlines for your next trip:
3. Booking to Fly on a More Expensive Day
Another common mistake that people make is forgetting to check flexible dates. Different days of the week usually offer different fares. For example, flights leaving the U.S. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are the least expensive days to fly, according a study by Fare Compare.
If your schedule is adjustable and you're not checking flexible dates, you're probably paying more than you should for your ticket. Prices can vary wildly from day to day for the exact same flight.
4. Flying Into a More Expensive Airport
Some airports cost more to fly into than others, depending on taxes and airport fees. If you're flying into the most expensive airport, you're going to be spending more money on your plane ticket than you have to, and the same is true with respect to the airport you're flying out of.
For example, the United Kingdom has an Air Passenger Duty (APD) of $90 for one adult economy traveler to fly out on a long haul flight. If you have the time, it's cheaper to book a short haul flight (with an APD of $16) to a place like Dublin or Paris, then book your long haul from there.
In general, it pays to be aware of what your departure and destination airports are charging you to take off or land there. It may require some digging around to find these fees, but doing so could save you money on fees associated with your departure and destination airports, and even those where you have a layover.
5. Forgetting Your Airline Rewards Points
If you travel infrequently, or are a member of a lot of airline rewards programs, it may be easy to forget those piles of frequent flyer miles you've accumulated through flights or credit card airline rewards programs. The last thing you want to do is let a hefty rewards stash expire simply because you forgot about it. Whether you use a rewards-tracking website or an old-fashioned spreadsheet, it pays to keep track of your rewards points and expiration dates. Getting organized can prevent you from missing out on opportunities for free travel. (See also: 9 Ways to Use Credit Card Rewards to Get Free Trips)
6. Missing Out on the Best Sales
How can you find out about the best deals on airfare? Airlines almost always have an email newsletter where they will announce their sales, but if you're not subscribed, you're likely missing out on these deals.
It doesn't cost you anything to subscribe to airline emails, and it could save you a lot the next time you're ready to book a ticket.
7. Buying Your Ticket Too Early or Too Late
How early or late you buy your ticket can affect how much you pay as well. According to studies by CheapAir, the best time to book domestic airfare in the U.S. is about eight weeks in advance of your trip. If you can't be that exact, at least try to book within a window of 21–112 days before your flight, which is when tickets will be at their lowest prices.
There's some hype about being able to grab last-minute cheap tickets, but this usually has to do with a quirky sale — so it's nothing you should count on if you've been planning your trip for a while.
8. Using the Wrong Search Engine
When it comes to paying less for a flight, using the right search engine is a must to ensure you're getting the best prices. You can use the free ITA Matrix, which has been rebuilt on Google technology, to take advantage of the same software that travel agents often use to book you a flight. (See also: The Secret Flight Search Site Savvy Travelers Use)
Booking flights can be a costly endeavor, but there are plenty of ways to save money and make sure you're getting the best price on the market. See how much money you can save using these tips.