Special Report

14 Secrets to Get the Best Airline Ticket Price Possible

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Set up airfare alerts

If you have enough time to plan a trip, try setting up custom notifications to instantly receive information about price reductions. A typical fare price will change about once a week so it’s good to know when a particular fare has dropped. Be prepared to jump on a price when it hits your sweet spot, especially if the planned departure is approaching the three-week mark, after which ticket prices tend to increase.

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Check for “hidden city” ticketing

Sometimes booking a flight that connects in (or near) your destination city but then continues on is cheaper than a direct flight to your destination. (You take the first leg of the flight but not the second.) This method is controversial enough that in 2015 United Airlines unsuccessfully sued the website Skiplagged for helping consumers find these so-called “hidden city” bargains. This method can save you money, but keep in mind that you cannot check bags because they will continue to the final destination, and you need to make sure passengers can de-board at the connecting airport.

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Leave early, arrive late

A general rule of thumb for saving money on airfare is to fly when others are less likely to fly. But regardless of whether you fly on or off peak season, departing very early in the morning or arriving in the middle of the night are good ways to save some money. It might be unpleasant to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to takeoff at dawn, or arrive at a destination well after midnight, but these are small inconveniences to save a couple of hundred dollars. Another advantage: shorter lines.

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Let the airline pick the seat

Like baggage and in-flight-meal charges, some airlines are now making passengers pay for seat selection, often by offering discounts on economy class tickets for passengers who forego seat assignments. While this might not be ideal for families who want to ensure that they sit together, travelers can in some cases save more than $50 on a ticket if they’re willing to risk a center seat.

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Check online prices at different points of sale

When you search for ticket prices online, especially for international flights, try different locations in the section that asks where the retail transaction will take place. For example, if you’re flying from New York to Rio de Janeiro, enter Rio as your point of sale on search engines that ask for that information, like Google ITA; that price might be lower than if you use NYC as your point of sale. Also check the price at the foreign carriers’ website in the local currency; the posted price may be lower even if your credit card charges a foreign transaction fee.