"I bought my ticket cheaper on the Internet" is a common phrase among travelers.
But how do you know if you really got the lowest price?
Travel agents have the resources and tools to search many options almost at the same time.
There are a lot of aspects that need to be considered when purchasing airline tickets.
The good news is that not all of these factors apply to every itinerary, but they have to be kept in mind every time travel and tickets options are checked.
The bad news is that Internet services provide little help in determining these possible money saving factors.
Different airlines for the entire itinerary.
Some airlines are generally more expensive than others, but unexpected variations in price can occur even between the major "full-fare" airlines. If you're not trapped into one frequent flier program, then all airlines that fly to where you want to go need to be checked. Do you even know what other airlines fly that route? An airline you've never heard of before might have the lowest fare.
Different airlines for different parts of the itinerary.
Usually, airlines sell round-trip tickets for much less money than two one-way tickets, but this is not always true.
If you are on an itinerary with more than two flights, it may be better to combine some flights from one airline with other flights from another one.
How many thousands of different combinations of different airlines are you going to research on different Web sites to be sure you've got the best combination of fares for each flight segment?
Time of day may make a difference.
Sometimes it is less expensive to take a flight at 6:50 a.m. than at 7 a.m. These time-of-day fares also can vary from airline to airline, and destination to destination.
Choose a different day of week outbound and/or inbound.
Some days of the week are less expensive to travel on than others. These days can vary depending on destination and sometimes the airline. There could be as much as a $60 or more difference.
Different length of stay.
You may know that staying over a Saturday night is usually a requirement for the lowest fares (although not if you're going to Las Vegas). Sometimes it is less expensive to stay a shorter time.
Sometimes airlines operate only one or two flights a week between certain cities and sometimes only in one direction. These "positioning flights" can sometimes be sold at very low prices. Because these are rare, they probably won't appear in your first or second fare search, and you might not even know that the airline operates service to where you want to go.
Choose different travel dates.
A change of travel dates to even a week earlier or later, may put your trip in a different airfare season. On international tickets, this could save as much as $300 or more a ticket. Most Internet services will not tell you that a change in travel dates could save you money.
It is common that nonstop flights will be more expensive than those scheduled with a layover, which in turn can sometimes be more expensive than flights with a change of service on the way.
You might find a service through a less popular hub is less expensive than service through a major hub. It seems impossible to check all the different routings and route specific fare options on the Internet.
Back-to-back and hidden city ticket loopholes.
The crazy system of airfare pricing has some loopholes that airlines don't want you to know about.
However, if you know about back-to-back and/or hidden city ticketing, and if you know about the loopholes that the airlines will never and can never close, then you can save huge amounts of money.
Your travel agent might know about these, but I doubt the Web site you're visiting will.
Consolidator fares are rarely found through Web sites. While primarily involved with getting you discounts on international travel, consolidator fares also apply for travel between most major cities in the United States, potentially saving you huge amounts of money compared to unrestricted coach class fares.
A travel agent with good consolidator contacts may be able to save you more money than just about any Web site.
Airlines make changes to their available fares nearly every second. Even the number of tickets sold or canceled changes every second. Price the same itinerary twice in a row and you might get two very different prices.
Travel agents are familiar all the options and restrictions, and are more qualified to find the best service at the best price than what you can find on the Internet.
Karrie Torok is a travel consultant with Gadabout Travel. She can be reached at (321) 253-3674 www.cruisetraveltours.com.