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5 Top Insider Air Travel Tips

Posted by Carol Sicbaldi

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Photo Credit: Kathy Dragon

Did you know it’s often cheaper to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday? Or, that you can fly free pretty quickly by joining a number of reward programs?

Finding an affordable or cheap flight online is a very useful skill to have nowadays. And, luckily, there are lots of ways to hone your on-line expertise. Whether its racking up miles with the best credit card out there, or knowing the savviest sites and apps to navigate, we have found these five tools most helpful. And, of course, timing is everything! 

Most of us tend to fly to warmer places in the winter and to Europe in the summer, when the kids are out of school and family can travel together. But, flying when everyone flies, certainly has its drawbacks.

One big recent reality check: airlines and bankruptcy. This harsh fact has meant that the existing airlines, which are under pressure to make a profit, can’t reduce fares as much, and limited competition gives them less incentive to do so. Additionally, because airlines have slashed routes and capacity, they are flying fuller planes, which also means less incentive to reduce fares. And though oil prices have fallen substantially, airlines aren’t going to lower fares, because for the first time in a long time, they are making money and they certainly wish to continue to do so.

But that doesn’t mean the deck is fully stacked against us as consumers. The cheaper fares are out there if you know how and where to find them. Every day the airlines have thousands of killer deals, from mistakenly published cheap fares to normal deals to slashed prices to compete with another airline.

Here are a few Ciclsimo Classico "Insider" Air Travel Tips.

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1. Flight Search Websites

Most search websites have some sort of drawback, so it’s best to browse as many flight search websites as you can to ensure you are leaving no stone unturned. Many search sites don’t list budget carriers because the airline doesn’t want to pay a booking commission or their site is not translated in English.

It’s important to check a few sites before you book, as you’ll often see variations in prices, and you don’t want to miss a deal. The best search engines are the ones that have no affiliation with any airline and make their money via advertising, not bookings. But all websites have their weaknesses and do not include every airline. You aren’t going to find Ryanair or most other budget airlines on large sites like Kayak, Expedia, or Orbitz. U.S. booking sites also tend not to have the obscure foreign airlines that you see on international sites like Skyscanner or Momondo. In short, booking sites have blind spots—they don’t cover every region of the world and every airline equally.  

A few of our Ciclismo Classico favorite sites:

Momondo

Google Flights

Vayama

Skyscanner

Kayak

Most of these sites allow you to set up fare alerts for your particular city pairing.

Important! Remember to search for two 1-way tickets instead of round-trip and don’t search for or buy multiple tickets in a single purchase. Airlines always show the highest ticket price in a group of tickets and it can be worth it to mix and match. Most airlines now sell one-way flights at reasonable prices, meaning one might be cheaper for the outbound flight while the other works better for the return.

2. Get those miles 

The benefits of signing up for airline reward programs, travel reward credit cards, shopping portals, and dining rewards can be worth it.

By collecting points and miles, you can travel around the world for very little (and often free). These programs are easy to use, and there are a lot of other ways to earn miles if you aren’t jet-setting around the world all the time. In the research I did, I found that two of the most recent top-voted credit cards for racking up the points are Discover it Miles and Chase Sapphire Preferred.

All airlines, hotels, and travel brands have preferred merchants. These companies—ranging from clothing retailers to sporting good stores to office supply businesses and everything in between—partner with airlines’ special shopping malls. By ordering online through an airline’s website, you can earn additional points. Similar to the shopping malls, you can register a credit card and a frequent flier number to earn yourself extra points when you dine at participating restaurants in the airline’s network. These dining rewards can add up quickly. Just dine...and fly!

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3. Join an airline mailing list or use flight deal apps

I’m all about reducing clutter in the ol’ inbox, but by signing up for mailing lists from airlines and search engines, you can receive updates about all last-minute or special deals that you might not see otherwise. With the apps, you can set deal alerts that will pop up on your phone to let you know about up-to-the-minute deals on your desired flights.

3 websites to help keep you on top of travel deals:

Airfarewatchdog

The Flight Deal

Holiday Pirates

5 top deal-seeking apps:

Hipmunk

Hopper

Skyscanner

Kiwi

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photo: Kathy Dragon

4. Book early but not too early

Airline fares will keep rising, but there is a sweet spot when the airlines begin to either lower or increase fares based on demand. Don’t wait until the last second but don’t book far, far in advance either. The best booking window is 6–8 weeks before your flight, or around three months before if you are going to your destination during peak season.

 

5. Go the old-fashioned way: use a trustworthy travel agent.

Ahh. Take the hassle-free approach by using a travel agent like our true-and-trusted partners, Valerie Wilson Travel. Many agents charge a service fee for air tickets but it could be worth it to you in the time he/she will save you in research and assistance. In Italian, there is a great term that we use to describe our trusted local butcher or tailor etc. We say "di fiducia" which means that person does his/her trade in a honest and earnest way. Same goes for a travel agent. A good agent "di fiducia" will find you the same deals you can find online and sometimes even better deals if they are clever with the ticketing (especially for international flights).

For more help preparing for a Ciclismo Classico tour, please refer to the Preparing For Your Trip page on our website.

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photo: Carol Sicbaldi

Written by Carol Sicbaldi

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