Tips for Getting the Best Deals on International Flights

When traveling abroad, getting there is usually the most expensive part of the trip.  Depending on the date of travel and the destination, international air fare can cost as much as several thousand dollars.  Considering the fact that the average vacation lasts 2 weeks, that's a large chunk of change.  Here are a few tips to help you get the best deal possible.

  • Timing - If cutting trip cost is your biggest priority, then try to travel during non-peak travel times.  Avoiding major holidays and student breaks (spring and summer break) is also a good idea.  Also, don't forget about major local holidays.  For example, if you are planning on traveling to Brazil, and you don't want to spend tons of money, then avoid Carnival.  Ticket prices sky rocket during this time, not to mention accommodation, food and entertainment prices.
  • Where to Buy - You might need to get away from using the usual online booking sites, such as Expedia or Travelocity.  Though they are generally good for domestic travel, they tend to have a markup on international flights.  Kayak.com is a great place to start.  My personal favorite tool on Kayak is the fare history charts.  These can help you decide whether to book now, or wait in hopes of the fare going down.  Also it's worth a shot to check out some of the consolidator sites, such as AirlineConsolidator.com.
  • Be Flexible - If at all possible be open to a variety of travel dates.  This is partially related to the first point of timing.  However, as with domestic flights you can save a significant amount by shifting your travel dates by a few days.  This is generally due to other external factors.  For example there might be a large conference in your destination city happening on the weekend of your planned arrival, shift your trip to arrive on Sunday night and you will likely save some money.
  • Make Some Stops Along the Way - Generally multi-stop flights will be cheaper, but another strategy is to buy separate tickets to and from a hub (stop over city) and then from that city to your destination.  You might be able to find a cheap deal for a flight to NYC, which is a hub for most trans-Atlantic travel; and then you might find a great deal on a flight from NYC to your destination.  This is a bit more involved because you now have to coordinate these connecting flights yourself, but you can often save hundreds of dollars by doing this.
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