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How Do I Know When I've Got A Frugal Fare?

How Do I Know When I've Got A Frugal Fare?

 Seatac Airport in Seattle is the hub of Alaska Airlines

Seatac Airport in Seattle is the hub of Alaska Airlines

The most common question I get is "what website do you get great airfare deals through?".  And my general response is "all of them!".  The first step is understanding what normal fares are from your home airport.  For this example, I chose my home airport of SEA (Seattle-Tacoma International Airport).

One of the best ways to get an idea of airfare is through the Explore feature on Kayak.com.  Once your home airport is set, the map displays the the best round-trip airfare found within the last 48 hours.  Kayak is my generally my starting place when vacation shopping because I am rarely picky with my destination.  I just wanna go as far as I can for the best price!

 The Explore Feature On Kayak.com Can Be A Powerful Tool For Finding A Frugal Fare! (Map Courtesy of Kayak.com)

The Explore Feature On Kayak.com Can Be A Powerful Tool For Finding A Frugal Fare! (Map Courtesy of Kayak.com)

Using SEA as my base airport, I've set some baseline fares that I consider to be "normal" for a round-trip flight in coach.  Then I use this map to see where the best fares have been found recently and book according to my baseline.  Below is a my baseline fare from SEA to domestic locations around the United States.

  • Portland - $125
  • Spokane - $150
  • Oakland - $150
  • San Francisco - $175
  • San Jose - $175
  • Los Angeles - $200
  • Denver - $200
  • Vancouver - $225
  • Las Vegas - $225
  • San Diego - $225
  • Salt Lake City - $225
  • Phoenix - $225
  • Houston - $250
  • Dallas - $250
  • Anchorage - $250
  • Minneapolis - $250
  • Atlanta - $250
  • New Orleans - $75
  • Chicago - $275
  • Philadelphia - $275
  • Baltimore - $275
  • Washington D.C. - $275
  • New York - $300
  • Boston - $300
  • Orlando - $300
  • Miami - $325
  • Honolulu - $375

One important consideration when using the Explore feature is luggage.  The round-trip airfare displayed includes all taxes and fees, but doesn't necessarily include things like luggage (checked or carry-on, even), seat assignments, and in-flight services. 

After finding my destination, I have to know what dates to choose.  Kayak offers a sample date from when the best fare was found.  Using that knowledge, I use a powerful website called Matrix - ITA Software by Google

 Matrix By ITA Software Is A High Powered Flight Search Engine For Finding The Best Dates (photo courtesy of ITA Software)

Matrix By ITA Software Is A High Powered Flight Search Engine For Finding The Best Dates (photo courtesy of ITA Software)

I love this website for picking dates because the calendar of lowest fares allows me to select range of dates to find the best fares.  The length of stay can be adjusted up to 7 days (for example, you could put 4-11 nights or 8-15 nights).  You can also add nearby airports and apply a variety of advanced features for routing, fare codes, layovers, connections and more.  Airline tickets cannot be purchased through this website, but once you have the best dates picked, most websites will be within a few dollars of each other in terms of total pricing.

The most frugal of flyers want the best price and are not loyal to one specific site.  If that's you, then your best bet is absolutely Momondo.

 Momondo is the best aggregator of flights on the internet.  The lowest fare for this flight, for example, was found through a smaller travel site called Faregeek. (Image via Momondo.com)

Momondo is the best aggregator of flights on the internet.  The lowest fare for this flight, for example, was found through a smaller travel site called Faregeek. (Image via Momondo.com)

Momondo does not actually sell flights.  They are a flight aggregator, meaning, they shop hundreds of travel sites to find you the absolute lowest fare.  As you can see by the screen shot above, the lowest fares to Miami for the trip I searched were not found with Orbitz, Priceline or Hotwire.  They are through smaller sites with lower overhead and lower advertising budgets like Faregeek, Justfly, and Smartfares.  I always do a quick internet search to see how reputable the site is if I don't recognize the name. 

In a future post, I will discuss my baseline fares for international destinations out of SEA.  The Explore tool on Kayak can be a great help for this as well.  The nice thing about most international flights that luggage and meals come included.  The landscape is changing, however, and the a la carte business model is expanding to trans-Atlantic routes.  Carriers like Norwegian Air and WOW air are rapidly expanding into the U.S. market.  Even if you don't like their business model, the increased competition has caused some major fare wars between the legacy carriers.

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