When to buy tickets?
Most people who know anything about buying airplane tickets know that Tuesday afternoon (at about 3pm) is the best time to purchase them. This is because the airline companies lower their prices at the beginning of the week to entice buyers. When airline A lowers its prices for a ticket, other airlines will follow suit in order to compete effectively. If there are only 10 people going to Cancun a certain week and Airline A has $20 tickets while the competitors have $300 tickets, guess who gets all the customers AND all the money that there is to get? (hint:Airline A). However, the airlines can’t keep prices too low for too long or else buyers will take all of them AND have paid less than they may have been actually willing to pay. So, eventually the prices start climbing again, that towards the end of the week, they are usually considerable higher than they were at the beginning.
The stealthy game owes its existence to the computer operated ticket-sellers that command the prices during weekends (when workers are at home spending time with families and such). The computers use algorithms that leave prices high to maximize profit until Mondays, when human workers adjust prices for competitiveness.
Of course this game gets trickier depending on demand. Waiting until the last minute can be a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow or it could spell disaster for your travel plans and your bankbook!
When to fly?
No one likes waking up early in the morning to catch a flight, making it the perfect time of day in which to fly. Chances are, you may be the only one of 20 people on a 40-seat plane, translating into a more favorably priced ticket than full flights.
Similarly, there are actually good days on which to fly. Tuesdays (#1), Wednesdays, and Sundays are the cheapest to fly on. This is because most business travelers want to get home from their work related travel. So they tend to be more willing to fork over a couple extra twenties in order to fly out on a Friday. Also, the reverse is true for Sundays, when business travelers need to get back to work or college kids or other vacationers need to get back to school from weekend getaways. This makes Friday and Sunday the worst days to buy tickets!
Domestic (Foreign) Multi-City Stops
Okay. So, if you are planning on buying multi-city tickets like me for your study abroad trip (
It’s not every day you get to fly 4,000 miles across the horizon, might as well stop by a few places on the way to your final destination), you should consider the type of airline you using. Think about it: major US airlines are probably transporting U.S. tourists or other international travelers, so it wouldn’t make sense for them to be making stops all over the place right? Right. the major U.S. airlines that I looked are charging more for the inter-European legs of my trip. Domestic airlines such as RyanAir.com found me a ticket for about US$ 60 less than what companies like American or United were charging me for the same route. So, I plan to enter the first European city-stop via my trusty U.S. airliner, and for any inter-european flights afterwards, I will use domestic liners.
Miles & Alliances
Another thing to look is for is Airline Alliances. U.S. airlines have partnered up with each other domestically and with foreign liners in the international market. When looking at cashing in your miles for study abroad (like I’m doing), its good to check what companies miles are actually worth more per mile (when flying internationally as opposed to domestically). This is because when some U.S. miles are used with international partner carriers, they count for less than they would at home. Also, some alliances (although having the same amount of partners) are more region-oriented than others. For instance, Oneworld alliance doesn’t have a Chinese partner, and Star Alliance only recently initiated partnership proceedings with two Mexico-related coverage liners (TACA and COPA). For my study abroad in Spain, I had names like Iberia, Air France, British Airways, and American Airlines resulting in the lowest prices. Oneworld alliance, though deficient in some regions, was my cheapest bet to Spain (Iberia, British Airways, and American Airlines are all in the Oneworld Alliance).
A great study abroad travel website I found is http://www.statravel.com/. It offers a wide range of tools such as an airline search engine that lists discounted flights for students.
If you were looking at exploring the culture and sights of your study abroad program’s host country, you could search student-discounted rail passes, discount cards, and hostels.
If you are traveling to Europe, the Eurail Pass would probably be of interest to you. With it, you would be able to travel through up to 23 countries in continental Europe such as Spain, France, Switzerland, and Belgium.
I found an awesome website for finding cheap airline tickets without having to go to each online travel agency’s search engine. Travel.bing.com was one of the most reliable that I’ve seen so far. It searches all the major airlines and most of the major online travel agency’s such as Hotwire.com, Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Cheapair.com, and Vayama.com. It also has a nifty Price Predictor tool that lets you know if prices have traditionally dropped for the trips you’ve searched for during the time of year that you have selected.