First off I want to let you all know upfront that I'm just covering domestic travel in the USA. Someday I might do an international post, I think I might have to go renew my passport before that!
|Just after touching down in Salt Lake City, UT|
Search Options Include:
- Round Trip, One Way, and Multi-City
- Multiple Airports for each destination
- Economy, Premium Economy, Business, and First Class flights
- Number of Passengers
- Number of Stops
- Time of Day
- Flight Duration
Using your own location there are prices for popular destinations further down the main page, as well as access to your two most recent searches. Plus once you've started a search you can open a calendar and compare prices for different dates with no limits on what you can search except what airlines have published.
|Flying over the city of Roanoke, VA|
If Southwest flies to and from the destinations you need I would always check their prices, they're often very close to the competition, sometimes a bit more expensive, other a bargain. But the big draws of Southwest are free checked bags, and free changes to flights. On the other hand all their planes have narrow seats, only 17" in width, and they have at times been discriminatory towards larger customers (though after a few well publicized events this now happens much less frequently).
SeatGuru is the third website I might turn to while planning. Once you've narrowed down your flight options it can help you choose between similar flights if being comfortable is one of your concerns. You can input information for each flight you're evaluating and see a map of the plane, measurements for the seats and legroom too.
If you're like me and larger sized you may even want to start with SeatGuru to figure out which airlines you prefer. The seat sizes and pitch of the seats (legroom) vary by the model of plane and each particular airline. There are comparison charts organized by short and long haul flights and ticket class. They also list amenities such as video screens (including type whether it's overhead, seat back, or on-demand), if laptop power is available and whether it's AC or DC current, and if there's WiFi available. And you can sort the chart by whichever category is important to you.
Beyond the three resources above note that flying on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday will get you the cheapest ticket. Additionally book 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 months in advance of your trip usually yields the best price on fare. The only exception is the week before and after Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Around those holidays it's best to get the flight 3-4 months in advance because they fill up faster.
I should note that I no longer book on sites like Orbitz, Priceline, or Travelocity. They sell third party bookings and your flight isn't 100% guaranteed because if they're overbooked you will be the first to be cut and put on standby. No one wants that! So I check the prices on Google and Southwest, and buy directly from the airline when I know which flight I want.
If you think you might be spending some time in an airport for a layover or as you wait for your initial flight you may want to research the airport in advance. It may make the choice for you if there are several layover airports to choose from and one airport is particularly pleasant when the other choice is in need of updating. I look for three things when I visit an airport website:
- Free WiFi, you really want then to have this if you'll be stuck there for 4 hours, if not bring a good book.
- A map of the airport, if it's a larger airport you may even want to have a printed map handy. Knowing how to get from terminal A over the D might be further than you think!
- Know what food is there. If you need to eat in an airport it's nice to know how many or few options there may be. Some airports are delightful, and some just sad. I like knowing in advance so I can choose something that's healthier or that will hit the spot after a long day.
Finally on the day of my flight I like to make sure I have a change of clothes in my carry on if I have a checked bag, just in case luggage gets lost. I try to print my ticket in advance if possible, or allow plenty of time to be in line to print it at the airport and check any bags. Do you think I left something out? Let me know in the comments!