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Finding Cheap Airfare

by Josh Jones

Hello there. Some of you, like me, are interested in traveling for peanuts and it is my hope to explore the various means of cheap travel and provide plenty of useful links for you. I will try and update this page once a month or so. Right now I will just jot down some basics.

The price you pay for a plane ticket is primarily determined by two factors:

  1. How hard you look for the best deal out there
  2. The flexibility of your travel

Let me explain: (1) There are tons of deals available on no-name sites and hole-in-the-wall travel agencies. Since no one really knows about them, only a few savvy travelers get these good deals. Ever meet someone who always seems to be traveling for peanuts? It's no accident. (2) Flexibility is key, the less important the exact dates you fly (and how much advance notice) the cheaper you can fly. This is where last-minute-fares and courier travel really come in.

By applying both of those principles to my travel, I have gotten some great fares over the years. How does $175 roundtrip US-Costa Rica sound?

Now, some quick thoughts about various methods of cheap travel:

Courier Travel: The idea is that you sign up with a courier agency and basically get last minute fares at really low rates in exchange for carrying important documents or other items. If you can sacrifice luggage and specific travel dates, this can be a great way to travel, but you probably only want to pursue this if you live in a large city. These are the only places most consolidators will fly out of. I joined a courier agency for around $45 but found out the nearest city I could get a flight out of was 10 hours away.

Consolidator Fares: The basic concept here is that some agencies will buy huge blocks of tickets and get big discounts, then passing them on to you.

Auction Fares: Priceline.com is an example of this type of fare. Basically you bid how much you are willing to pay and they try to accomodate you. You generally have to enter a credit card number up front to place your bid. I have tried bidding sale fares I found elsewhere to see how competitive it is, but had no luck. These types are pretty popular, so somebody must be having success with them.