Any tips on finding plane tickets that won't break the bank?

Why does the site say Round Trip Price and then charge a separate fee for both ways? Does Round Trip not mean what I think it means? To me, round trip from Newark to LAX means I get tickets to go to LAX and come home again! Crazy, I know.

Has anyone had a good experience with Priceline? The idea that they charge before I know my details is off-putting. Are there any other sites I should try? I’m familiar with Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity and Yapta.

I miss the old days, where you could buy somebody’s unused tickets from the Classified ads in the paper. Stupid terrorists.

Air has gotten more expensive - no cheap tiers - in the last year. I have booked a number of trips from CA to New England for people and it’s about doubled in that time, even using every trick of date, timing, advance booking, etc.

I have not found the hassles of dealing with the discounters to be worth the small savings. Shop yourself and you’ll find much the same flights and prices but without the middleman. The only thing they’re good for is those 5-leg, 12-hour, any-empty-seat flights.

I’d look at Southwest, frankly. Nearly always the cheapest, tons of flights, multiple hubs and ways to connect, great crews. Also no fees for 2 checked items, which I believe is now unique among the major carriers. I flew my daughter on United late last year, using up some air miles, and it was more expensive, fees for everything including the first bag, and they stranded her horribly on both flights.

Just checked: if you’re two weeks out, Southwest is about $325 round trip. You might get cheaper going with secondary airports - there are four in LA and four or five in Joisey.

One tip I have heard (and my wife has found to be true), is to look at the airline/discounter/whoever site with incognito mode (or private browsing, or whatever your browser calls it). Sites will put a tracking cookie on your computer to see what locations you’ve looked at recently, and if you look at the same place several times they’ll jack the price because they figure you know you’re going and just looking for a low price.

Spirit Air flies out of a small airport near us and we used them to go to Dallas in September.
We were charged for tickets, then for seats, :confused: then for both of our bags. Both ways.

Once we figured out that we only needed one bag it was too late. We’d already been charged and Customer Service was completely unreachable. We never did get our refund. :mad:

I’ve used kayak.com a few times and found good prices on flights. For the most part though, going directly to the airlines website found me the cheapest price.

Southwest also prices its tickets all-in, fees and government charges included. Too many others don’t tack on that substantial amount until the final invoice.

Had that happen with a car rental, too, just this past weekend. I’ve discovered that there’s no reason to look past Enterprise and Dollar; one will have the lowest rates in the area. Unfortunately, Enterprise at this location (Sacramento airport) was high, and Dollar had pulled out for a downtown location. So I went with a no-name, Advantage, and their pricing was all-fees right at the listing. When I got an email from Southwest giving me a discount on Budget, I went to see… and while the listing was a little less than Advantage, the final tally with fees and taxes was almost 30% higher. I appreciate Southwest’s no-bullshit policies a lot, even if they do occasionally land in exotic locales.

The trick I use is to go to the discounter site (kayak, orbitz, expedia) to see comparisons of what everyone is offering, then go directly to the website for the best one to make the actual purchase. This cuts out any discounter shenanigans. But be aware that Southwest is not included in any of the discounter sites. You can only see their flights on their site.

Also, to echo others, I have noticed that the standard prices have gone up and up. Whereas a usual flight might have been $350 a few years ago, the same flight is now $550.

As you have discovered, different airlines have different strategies regarding extra fees. You really have to take all of that into consideration when figuring out the total price you will pay. They don’t make it easy!

I use a travel agent. If the fare seems high, before booking, I check the usual sites and always find that it’s not.

One website I can recommend against is cheaptickets.com. My son used them in November. He had to cancel the flight. He was refunded the ticket price minus $275. That seemed high for what basically was a change fee. He checked around and found out that if he’d booked directly with the airline, he would have lost only $50.

It’s probably on him though. There may have been some fine print he failed to read. Always read the fine print, especially when planning travel in winter.

Good advice, AuntiePam! And thanks to everybody else, too. I’ll try ninja mode tonight to see how much of a difference it makes.

Spirit’s business model is high fees and minimal customer service. Not reaching customer service was probably a blessing. You probably would not have gotten a good result.

My experience is that the round trip price is for their shittiest choice of flights; you want to get in at 10:30 pm & leave at 6am, you can get a flight for, say $300. Oh wait, you want to actually get in at a reasonable time or leave late enough in the day to actually visit your customer, that’s an extra $75 (each flight). :smack: It’s a legal form of bait-&-switch.

It helps if you can be flexible. Friday and Sunday are typically the most expensive days to fly. The cheapest are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday, especially if you book that super-early 600AM flight. And of course you’ll get better rates if you book 1 or 2 months in advance (or at the very last minute, but that’s a big gamble).

Those tickets that airlines accidentally charge only $10-$25 are good if you don’t want to break the bank. The trick is to snag them in the narrow time window that they become available.

Second Southwest. I’m seeing a variety of dates EWR-LAX at $123 each way, all taxes and fees included.

Jet Blue has a number of dates at $165 each way.

Two choices you can use:
The Matrix:

http://matrix.itasoftware.com/ search for the cheapest ticket in the 30 day interval you intend to travel. Note that they won’t sell you any tickets ( or anything else, for that matter–which I why IMHO their search is excellent. They’re also good at finding mistake fares–but that’s whole other story)

Mileage Run forum:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/mileage-run-deals-372/

This is better used, when you don’t actually care about your destination (which doesn’t seem to be your case), but you just might get lucky. Snap up any good fares quickly: once the word spreads, that, say JFK-GIG in business can be had for $900 (making this one up, but a plausible scenario) between June 2nd and June 5th, it tends to disappear quickly.

Since you’re looking for opinions, moved to IMHO (from MPSIMS).

You can sign up for price alerts in kayak.com. Be flexible in your days, and buy about the weeks out.

Spirit is typically cheaper if you book at the airport, and they’re already cheap, if you travel light.

I just booked a one way trip from Chicago to Minneapolis, and the fare with spirit was $.01. The ticket ended up being$13.01 with taxes, but holy shit,.

I also booked a Minneapolis/Phoenix for beginning of February, rt was $78.

Excellent link - thanks for this one.

We just ran a comparison last week on some tickets using different strategies- incognito didn’t effect the bump-up. I think that simply searching for a specific itinerary raises the rates especially on the flights with good times and short layovers. Often (~1 week) later, those flights will drop back down to their original values. So my strategy is: 1. use kayak 1a. be date flexible if possible (TuWTh flights are nearly always cheaper) 2. search other nearby airports 3. as well or often flying into one city and out of another (especially in Europe) will find fairs that are $300-500 cheaper itineraries and a train between them is ~$100 and another city to visit. 4. But lastly and most importantly, if you find a cheap itinerary that is agreeable, buy it in the next ~10 minutes while slowly going through the purchase screens and simultaneously doing final scouting for other options.

We had lost too many good flight options because we kept looking and then the best flight would suddenly be twice the price. The fare sites are really getting good at what they do as well as the airlines knowing what the market will bear (the information from Farecast and other predictor sites shows very little variation compared to 4-5 years ago when those tools were just starting)- it is very uncommon to find great flight deals anymore.

Although, Alaska Airlines ran a Black Monday sale with flights between Seattle and San Francisco for ~$109-129 so I ended up buying 6 round trips over the next 6 months because it was such a great deal (and rates that I haven’t seen in nearly a decade). And I made trips to London+Rome and Seoul+Sydney+Auckland 10 minutes after thinking it would be fun because for each I found tickets in the $600 and $900 respectively whereas most tickets begin/began at $1300 or $2200 and flying RT to any of those cities alone was just barely less than those same tickets.

Airlines seem to lower prices from about Tuesday noon, until Wed. noon. I have found great deals. And yes, I use the consolidators to check pricing, then buy from the airline’s site. After checking SW of course.

And yes to Kayak daily alerts.