OK, whether arranging your own trade show travel or using your corporate travel agent, it is always good to do some quick research to see what is available. The online travel sites like Priceline, Expedia, and Orbitz are good first lines of information to see what is out there. Some airlines do not partner with these travel sites, like Southwest Airlines, so knowing a few basics when doing your research is important. Let me go over the process we use at Exhibit Edge to search for flights and get the best prices.
So how do you pick a flight? It was very coincidental that as I was doing some notes for this topic for a separate article, I picked up a paper that had this headline: “Fliers Check Travel Sites, Then Buy From Airline Sites.” That is what we do at Exhibit Edge.
So why is this good to do?
When you go to online travel sites like Expedia or Priceline you can see all the available airline flights from almost every airline at one time. Many people also use search engine consolidation sites like Kayak and TripAdvisor to compare prices for many online travel sites in one location. I would recommend doing this as a first line of information but then, once you find a flight, book it directly through that airline’s website.
The biggest reason is that if there is a cancelled flight or you need to make changes the airline cannot help you if you do not book through them ─ they will send you back to your booking site! Another big reason is that airline websites make it much easier to manage travel itineraries on a mobile device or through their website.
To give you some statistics from the article, it says that almost 60 percent of us buy our tickets directly from an airline, 30 percent buy from online travel agents, 8 percent buy from traditional travel agents, and 3 percent say they do not book their own travel.
Here are some other tips for booking travel that comes directly from the same USA Today article.
- Airlines can have private sales, reserving their best fares for their own websites.
- If your travel dates are flexible, use a flexible date search, which will search a day or two before and after for lower fares. Kayak has a good flexible date calendar.
- Search often because fares fluctuate throughout the day and the number of seats offered at the cheapest fares change frequently.
- Sign up for airfare alert emails.
I have also read in the New York Times, at CheapAir.com, and on Hopper.com that the best day to book is now on Thursday, but overall Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday are less expensive than the weekend. What days you travel are much more important for saving money. Travel on Tuesdays or Wednesdays is generally cheaper than Fridays or Sundays. The best lead time to book travel is an average of 54 days in advance according to CheapAir.com.
One last note: If you are an hourly employee you need to look at your hours of fly time and compare that with the cost of the plane ticket. Sometimes it is less expensive overall to book a more expensive ticket with a shorter overall flight time. Do the math, especially if your time is billed to a client, and use the client rate to compare costs.
If you are interested in the USA Today article I referred to in this blog, you can find an online version here.