How To Find The Best Airfare

Stay away from the big travel sites like Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, and Orbitz.

While they make it easy to book a ticket, they have large mark-ups, so their prices are almost always higher than if you do your own searches.

In this tutorial, we’re going to assume you want to fly from New York to London. I like this route for a couple of reasons.

First, the flights are almost always non-stop, and about as cheap as you’re going to find from North America. New York is also usually pretty cheap to get to from anyplace in North America.

Second, once you get to London, it costs so little to continue on to any other European destination, by plane, train or bus.

Start with Google Flights.

We’ve entered New York City because we want to see all fares from all of the city’s international airports. Same for London.

We are flying in June because the weather is nice, fares are cheaper than July and August, and there are fewer tourists. We are taking two weeks because you need two weeks to fully unwind. Plus, you lose a day each traveling.

Down at the bottom, we have selected our country and currency. I won’t get into the minutia of booking using different countries and currencies. Drop me a line if you want to know more about this.

The next thing you’ll see is a screen like this. And this is why you always start with Google Flights. Because it will tell you the cheapest fares it has found for any given day by the month, which makes your searching so much easier. Don’t book from their links, because they don’t always have the cheapest fares for a particular day. The little arrow on the right is very helpful because you can scroll through the months ahead.

So, we have chosen our dates and trip length. We’re looking at a fare of around $475. Click done.

The flight insights Google Flights shows can sometimes save you a lot of money, so check out what shows up. In this case, we have already selected the cheapest flight for our purposes. Since we selected all airports, it’s very important to pay attention to the airports your flights will be landing in and leaving from. Sometimes, they are different, so take that into consideration when you look at layover times. If you are ever switching airports on a trip leg, make sure to leave ample time to travel to the other airport and time to get through security. I’d give it at least 3 hours.

Our results show LGW (Gatwick) and Heathrow (LGH). In our case, we are going to select the Norwegian fare since it is the cheapest.

Selecting the Norwegian flight on Google Flights takes us to Norwegian Airlines website. If you have never flown Norwegian before, fear not, they are excellent. Our dates are correct and now we have to select the fares for the outbound (departing) flight. Clicking on the links that say LowFare, LowFare+, Flex, etc. brings up a handy chart that shows you what is included in those fares.

The cheapest fare, LowFare, gives you nothing except what they call hand baggage which must fit beneath the seat.

Here are the inbound (return) flight options.

Once the fares for each leg are selected, you can click on start reservation. This is where you can pay for your flight, or choose options that the airline will offer to sell you before final payment, like seat selection.

So, our total cost is now about $571.  Is this the best deal? Well, a little more detective work is needed to be absolutely sure. This is when we go to Momondo, the best flight search engine we have found. We enter NYC and LON to show all airports, as well as our search dates.

Here we see the cheapest flight (ignore the first box because that is a paid ad) which is $508. It’s on Norwegian and Ryanair, which means you now have to book four tickets. It’s not non-stop (a change of planes and airlines in Dublin each way) and the flight times are considerably longer. Note the airports. The outbound leaves from Stewart airport, about an hour north of Manhattan. The London flights to and from Dublin are from Southend airport, near London.

So, you have to decide if these variables are worth saving $60. Note that each airline has different luggage requirements, and what’s included in your fare can vary from airline to airline. Before you buy any ticket, it’s always a good idea to go the airline site and look at their fine print.

If you wanted, you could amend your dates and spend time in Dublin. That could, and probably would, affect your final cost.

In our case, we want cheap and fast, so we click on the Best tab to show what Momondo recommends. In this case, it’s a Norwegian Airlines non-stop for $515. Note that this is cheaper than the $571 flight we found on Google flights.

We could stop there, or we could do a little more digging. Remember, the $515 Norwegian fare includes nothing but a hand baggage item that will fit under the seat. No carry-on, and no checked luggage.  Scrolling down the flight results we find this. It’s $100 more, but includes what they call an accessory item – something that fits under the seat – and what they call hand luggage – a carry-on. So, it it worth an extra $100 to fly on a legacy airline that probably gives you more in-flight perks (not sure about free seat selection, though) than the budget airlines? It’s your call.

Note: some of these fares are provided by OTAs (online travel agent). Why should you book through an OTA? Get some answers here.

Remember, Zoonie Travel can be your travel concierge. We’ll organize your trip.

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