October 2011: Business travelers know how to book an airline flight, but many Orlando visitors book flights rarely, if at all. In the olden days, you booked through a travel agent and she tracked down the lowest fare possible. In the here-and-now, a travel agent may find the lowest fare, but most then tack a service fee on top of it, making it not-so-cheap after all.
If booking online, get comfortable with one fact: You’ll never know if you got the lowest ticket price. Should you have booked two months ago? Maybe. If you wait until the last minute, will rates get cheaper through last-minute specials? It’s possible. Make peace with the unknown, take your best shot, and accept the consequences.
Here, however, are some suggestions for netting the lowest fare possible:
- If you’re planning ahead, register with one of the major travel Websites for a version of “price alert.” On Travelocity.com, for example, you give them your departure city, destination city, and a price you’d like to pay. If prices drop below that point, Travelocity will notify you by e-mail. If/when that occurs go immediately to the e-mail and try to book the flight. The cheap seats go quickly, and it’s first-come, first-served.
- Found a flight/price you like? Or find a price you like but no availability when you try to book it? Go directly to the individual airlines’ websites. Sometimes they hold back space at the low rates and you can still nab it. At times, the same flight might be a few dollars cheaper.
- If you still can’t book it, stay up late. Airline availability resets at midnight, and some seats may have been on hold but not booked. At a few minutes after midnight, they may (but may not) open up.
- If booking soon, visit the bigger travel websites first – Expedia.com, Priceline.com, Travelocity.com and Orbitz.com – and get a feel for prices. (www.igougo.com searches a number of Websites simultaneously.) Many times, the results are within a few dollars of each other. This helps you believe the price you’re looking at is the lowest currently available, and if you can get something close to it, you’re not getting scammed. You may not get this rate if unwilling to fly at, say, 6 a.m. out of Orlando, but at least you know why you’re paying extra.
- Also visit either your departure city and the Orlando airport’s website and see if any smaller airlines can get you there. Some airlines like Southwest, which is not small in any sense of the word, don’t book through the major search engines. Also check nearby Orlando Sanford airport, which is only about 40 minutes farther from Walt Disney World and roughly equal in distance from downtown Orlando. If you find an airline match, visit its website and price a ticket.
- Once a flight is booked, consider drinking heavily.