Fare Game

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Expedia, Hipmunk, Travelocity, Kayak and it goes on and on and on…  In a crowded word of travel providers, online retailers and even scam emails how do we find the best fares and when do we book?

Well there are many ways to get the best deal possible when booking a flight. What matters most is a little knowledge, persistence and being flexible with dates is the key.

We all get the emails from our favorite airline with deals that we can’t resist. But of so often when we try to book them and we can’t get the fare; there are just so many rules and regulations and too much info to read in order to secure the best fare. But fear not, I have some ways to make it easier.

Staying a Saturday night is still vital; 2 days minimum and no more than a month maximum. Those are the ground rules. Most airlines offer the same fares you will see on discount websites and so if possible I always try to book directly with the carrier. I find this is easier if you have to make changes, there are cancellations or other issues.

I find that 2 weeks advance notice is normally the shortest time you need in order to get good fares, while 4 weeks seems to be the sweet spot. Booking a ticket in high season will for sure bump up the fare and during school holidays is the worst. So here’s my solution, close your ears to every headmaster and headmistress out there and simply take the kids out of school 2 days earlier and return them a day later. You’ll see how that dramatically drops the fare. Weekend destinations also will sell out fares earlier and have higher prices so try to pick a Thursday out and Monday back home.

So how does an airline actually price their fares? The whole system seems needlessly complicated when you can sit next to a fellow passenger on the way to Miami who paid only $200 for the flight while you handed over $800. But it does make sense. At least to the airlines that is.

Airlines sell seats on a fare basis. They work it out that x % will sell below cost, x amount at break even, then the rest are the money makers. They go from Z-A, literally. Every ticket is based out of a bucket of fares and is assigned a fare code.

For instance a ticket booked in X class will be one of the very lowest you can book. The fares get higher when they are in YMBH class and then J or F for the premium cabins. Some of the lower fares won’t even allow you to earn miles on some frequent flyer programs and a non-cancellable, changeable or refundable. They also may not come with pre-assigned seating or any luggage allowance.

The best scenario every time is to have travel insurance so if you need to cancel due to illness then you are covered or if you are away and needed assistance for a different flight home. Also remember even if you have a ticket with the cheapest fare airline staff at the airport have much more flexibility then they often like to let on. They want to keep the planes full and moving so ask and see if you can get on another flight if that’s better for you, even if your cheap ticket won’t allow it. Check In Agents often don’t appease but Managers Airside will often do what they can. If you land early and need an earlier connection, ask and ask again. No worries on checked bags. They have a way to locate them and place them on a different aircraft. So be persistent and see who can help you.

Of course another way to get the best fares are using you frequent flyer miles. My rule of thumb is never to use them on domestic or short haul flights, or even in coach for that matter. I try to save the miles up for a big trip in business or first class. A ticket from London Heathrow to Nice will be discounted to around $300 or can be redeemed for 30,000 miles. Meanwhile a ticket from LHR to Hong Kong would be at the most discounted $4,000 (if you’re lucky) or use up 100,000 miles. So do the math and save the points for the big tickets.

Daniel Green - The Model CookDaniel Green, the Model Cook is a Celebrity Chef known for his healthy approach to food and living well. With TV, books, magazines and live appearances, Daniel spends his time helping fans to cook better, feel better and live better. He’s also an avid traveler and a self-confessed Foodie.

To contact Daniel or learn more visit www.themodelcook.com or follow on Twitter @themodelcook.

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