How to fly the cheapskate skies

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Photo by Tamar Ashdot-Bari

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.

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21 COMMENTS

  1. Ellen, you are my guru!! Great ideas for getting where you want to go cheaply. Now waiting for the cheap hotel deals. All the best. Nita

  2. Ellen, this is great! Wish I had this info when I booked my last-minute trip to Florida last month. Look forward to reading more from you.

  3. Thanks for the timely info – I’m planning a quick trip south next month. Also kudos to your fair (fare?) maiden TAB – great picture! A chip off the old block. Paula

  4. I’d never heard of most of those sites before I read this — thanks for the helpful tips! I’m going to sign up for those e-newsletters right now….

  5. Great information. I always wondered how some people were able to find such great deals! I will check out these sites … and pass the info on to friends.

  6. Ellen,
    Great article, super informative and concisely and clearly delivered.
    Keep up the posts!
    We look forward to hearing more travel deals and other subjects from your pen.

  7. These tips are so useful and exciting- Make traveling seem possible any time. I look forward to more posts.

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