Buying an air ticket NY-CA, two nights: pointers on how to use this new-fangled "World-Wide-Web?"

Hi. I haven’t bought an airline ticket since Usenet days. I know there are all sorts of spidery things that search for good/best prices, and on top of that ways to optimise using all of them.

Any advice?

There are all sorts of spidery things, but most of them defer to ITA to do the actual route finding. They have a website where you can go right to the source, but you still need to go to a site like Travelocity/Expedia/&c to actually buy tickets.

Note that tickets on Southwest Airlines, for one, are not generally available on sites like Expedia, Travelocity and so forth. So if you want to consider SWA, you have to go to its website.

If your flight days aren’t flexible you’re not going to get much variation on flights. Are you willing to take multiple stops? If so you can get some better deals. If you want non-stop or direct flights then the prices from the major carriers or Travelocity/Expedia aren’t going to vary much.

Personally, once I’ve used a tool like ITA to identify the airline with the best price/route/timing, I strongly prefer to go directly to that airline’s own web site to purchase the ticket.

I’ve bought two tickets online in the past month. The ticket online site (Cheapoair, in this case) quoted me a price for the ticket, I confirmed it, and my credit card was charged for exactly the quoted price. I receive an email confirmation, containing the ticket number, which I printed to be presented at the checkin counter.

I then phoned the actual airline in question, quoted my ticket number, asked several relevant questions, and received no surprises.

I did the same with a couple of hotel bookings, made separately through another site (Kayak), which routed me through Expedia), got confirming emails of my reservations, followed up with specific emails direct to the hotels, and again, no surprises.

Be aware that there can be additional charges that vary by airline, such as a charge for the number of checked bags. Something that looks cheapest on the web page might end up being more expensive than another option, after taking that into account.