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Komando: Smart use of Internet can lower flying cost

Kim Komando
| Friday, May 7, 2010

It's time to make plans for this summer's vacation. Everyone knows that there are all kinds of travel bargains to be found online. But with so many websites, sorting out real bargains from phony-baloney hype can be a real challenge.

First, you need to get the timing right. For popular destinations and peak travel seasons, book well in advance. You'll generally find the best fares 21 or more days in advance. Book less than 14 days in advance, and you'll probably pay a premium.

For less popular destinations and off-peak times, wait to book. Airlines cut prices to fill empty seats. You may find last-minute deals a few days in advance.

Of course, not everyone likes flying by the seat of their pants, so to speak. That's how using the Internet can help. Find links to sites mentioned at www.komando.com/news.

Start at Bing's travel site. It examines historical fares for flights. It can help you determine if a fare will go up or down.

Try to shop for tickets between Monday and Wednesday. Prices are usually rolled back on Monday. They rise again on Thursday. The weekend is the worst time to shop.

Next, try the travel search sites. These sites search other travel sites, in addition to airlines' sites. I like Kayak because specifying flexible dates is easy. Fares won't differ much between travel search sites, but don't limit your search to just one.

Others sites to check are Mobissimo, Orbitz and Booking Buddy. They don't all search the same places for fares. For example, not all sites search consolidators. Consolidators buy blocks of airline tickets and offer them at discounts.

It is best to fly when others are not. You'll get better fares for Saturday travel -- although not if you're flying internationally. It is more expensive to fly on Monday, Thursday and Friday. Sunday is one of the most expensive days to fly.

Early morning and late night are the best times of day to fly. That is, unless you're flying a popular business route like Boston to New York. In that case, look for midday flights. It is easy to compare flight prices.

You may save money by reconsidering departure and arrival airports.

For example, I priced flights from Chicago to the Los Angeles area. A flight from Chicago Midway to Los Angeles International was $391. A similar flight from Chicago O'Hare to Burbank, Calif., was $280. For a family of four, that's a savings of $444.

Of course, there may be other benefits. You could get lower rates on rental cars. And a less crowded airport can reduce the stress of travel.

Make sure you understand the price a site is advertising. It may not include taxes and fees. And remember that airlines often charge for checked bags. Once you find a flight, visit that airline's site. It may have a slightly better deal. That's particularly true for last-minute travel.

Before clicking "Buy," be sure to check the site's price guarantee. You may get a refund if you find the same flight on the same airline at a lower price. Guarantees differ between sites; pay careful attention to the terms. Guarantees often expire within 24 hours of purchase.

Finally, you can save by bundling. If you need a rental car or a hotel, book them the same time as your flight. You'll often get a discount.

Contact Kim Komando at C1Tech@gannett.com .

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