The other day I scored a $38 round-trip flight to Ft. Lauderdale—the fourth time this year I will be flying to visit my dad there for under $40. One time both my daughter and I flew together for under $70 roundtrip—total. While Spiritair’s $9 Club consistently has the best deals for those who can act quickly and Kayak.com is still one of the best places to get a baseline read on the fares, there are a host of great new (and newish) web sites geared toward budget travelers.
E-Newsletters: Sign up to get info on the best deals, many of which require immediate action. One of the new sites on the scene is www.Airfarewatchdog.com, recently named “Best Cheap Flight Finder” by Money Magazine, which has actual humans scanning the field for otherwise unadvertised deals. Then there’s www.InsideTrip.com, which also offers trip quality ratings, based on 12 elements like number of stops, lost bag rank, percentage of filled seats, etc.
Gaming the airfares: While conventional wisdom had it that booking early is always better, this no longer the case. Now there are a few sites that can help you decide the best strategy for purchasing your ticket. Websites like www.Farecast.com predicts the direction of airfares on a particular route. Then there’s www.Yapta.com, which monitors fares on flights, even after your ticket is purchased, allowing travelers to cash in on airline refunds. The site also lets you know when Frequent Flier seats have opened up on a flight of your choice.
Maxmizing your miles: You should join every Frequent Flier club you possibly can—all have had amazing offers lately, but they usually require a quick decision as the seats, dates and availability are generally very limited. New sites www.Milemaven.com and www.Pointmaven.com list all the best FF deals including hotels and airline offers, while sites like www.Milecards.com and www.Mileagecards.com offer information on which credit card offers yield the highest free mileage results.
Bidding sites: Most travelers have heard of bidding sites like www.Hotwire.com and www.priceline.com (thank you William Shatner), but don’t realize they can bid a lot lower than the recommended 50 percent—I know people who have had success at 25 percent. There are also some new web sites that offer bidding on specific packages like www.Luxurylink.com, which can get you truly luxurious deals at fantastic resorts and www.FloridaVacationAuction.com, which might sweeten the trip if your Florida sojourn has become limited to visiting with family.