Finding cheap flights when traveling is always an adventure. I have found a couple techniques work well for me. I recently booked tickets from Calgary to Moscow and I will show you the comparison of prices using the techniques there.
I personally use Expedia, Travelocity, EasyJet (Europe), the individual airline websites, and travel agents when trying to find the cheapest arrangements. You might know of other resources to try as well.
Local Tour Agents
I usually get together a rough itinerary for a travel agent and then email a number of the tour shops around my city. They should get back to you with quotes. If they do not get back to you soon, they don’t want your business.
Next it is time for online research. This is where I almost always find the cheapest flights. Go to one of the sites I listed above or another one you have heard of.
Type in Your Start and End Destination
This is the worst thing you can do, but it is the easiest and will show you the worst price you are looking at. For Calgary (YYC) to Moscow (SVO) on July 10 2007, the cheapest quote on Expedia was $1,837. It was for Air Canada and Aeroflot-Russian Airlines.
Why is this so expensive? Expedia is going to book you all on one ticket. I am not certain, but I think this can only be done through associated airlines. There are a couple positives to this.
- If there are cancellations or other problems, they will make sure you get to your end point regardless. They airline you are on and the airline you will be connecting on will know your flight status and can sometimes even make arrangements for you before you land.
- You do not have to pick up your checked luggage and re-check it in.
If you even want a bigger scare, do a round trip or multiple destination trip with your "going there flight" and your "coming home flight". My wife and I were going Calgary, Canada to Moscow, Russia and then Beijing, China to Calgary, Calgary. The tickets are over $3,200 now and were over $5,000 when we first looked a month ago.
Note: I am showing one way trips because of the nature of my trip. Try round trips on the online sites if that suits your needs. Then try each way of your round trip separately. Why? If there is more than 8 hours between your stopover or you will already be retrieving your checked luggage, there is no advantage to being on the same ticket. So booking a return ticket with the same company makes absolutely no sense unless it is cheaper. Find the cheapest round trip and then find the cheapest one way in each direction.
Break up the Flights Using Connection Cities
There are a million possibilities here, but you can start guessing based on your own knowledge of geography or by the stopovers you see in the previous list of "more expensive" flights.
Pick cities to go to that are large and will have large airports with a lot of flights to choose from. I usually look at London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Houston, Toronto, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Seoul, Tokyo, and Copenhagen (just for my Russia trip).
You will not have your flights on the same ticket so keep that in mind. This means you must retrieve your checked luggage and re-check it in. They will not compensate you for your missed connector necessarily (they will on flights all on the same ticket). I like to have at least 3 hours between international flights if possible.
I already did this for myself so I am going to use the cheapest flights I found. I typed in Calgary (YYC) to London (LGW). I found a flight leaving the evening of July 10th, 2007 for $588 including taxes with Air Transat. It arrives the next morning and there is a flight 3 hours later going from London (LGW) to Amsterdam (AMS) with EasyJet for $59 including all taxes and fees. You arrive at 3:20PM, see a bit of Amsterdam, and stay the night in a hotel. The next day there is a flight from Amsterdam (AMS) to Moscow (SVO) for $259 including taxes.
Result: Now it takes me longer and I have to stay in Amsterdam for a night. They total cost is $906 all taxes included. This is half the price of our original quote with Expedia. You are taking an extra day, but saving over $900 per person. I think that is worth the hassle really.
Go Back to the Travel Agents
No doubt, the travel agent will have quoted higher than this. Go back to them with your number and get their opinion. They might think the stopover is to short or something else. They should match it and try to get it all on the same ticket for you. If they cannot, no biggie, just try and get them to match. Then you will have a travel agency that can help you if have any more problems.
A good one to try in Canada is Flight Centre. These guys will price match and then give a $10 discount per person for you. For a family of 4 that will give you $40 back on your trip to use for something else. Another one I have used it Travel Cuts
There is an order to which I have found the cheapest flights. I will list them from the most expensive to cheapest. I am using my recent flight purchase example. I needed to fly from Calgary to Moscow and from Beijing to Vancouver.
- Book a complete round trip online using only your starting and end destinations. This would be a round trip or using the multi-destination feature. i.e. Multi-destination flight of Calgary to Moscow and then Beijing to Vancouver. Both flights on the same ticket.
- Book each part of the one-way online using just the start and end destinations. i.e. One ticket with Calgary to Moscow. One ticket from Beijing to Vancouver. This is the most expensive of the "no hassles" option. There is no reason for me to have both sections of my flights on the same ticket because they are almost a month apart and I will be retrieving my checked luggage.
- Book through a travel agent. They will be doing number 2 on their own, but have better resources to look.
- Book individual one ways flights on separate tickets through connection cities to your final destination. i.e. Ticket from Calgary to London, ticket from London to Amsterdam, ticket from Amsterdam to Moscow, ticket from Beijing to Vancouver.
There are lot of other possibilities out there. If you know of other good techniques and good websites, post a comment and I will give you a link back.