Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
MittensMoney
Posts: 113
Joined: Mon Dec 07, 2015 10:59 pm

Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by MittensMoney » Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:41 pm

We're taking a trip to Costa Rica in February 2019. It'll be a large family event with everyone flying down (parents, 4 siblings, 3 little ones), and we've already booked a large beachfront home on HomeAway. Now that accommodations are locked in, I'm looking at options to book the best flight. 'Best' in this case will be a direct flight, and at the cheapest cost.

I rarely fly so I don't have a ton of experience booking the optimal flight, will someone with more experience shed some light on the best websites, timing, etc., to book this?

Thanks in advance.

invst65
Posts: 644
Joined: Thu Nov 27, 2014 11:04 am

Re: Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by invst65 » Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:49 pm

Google flights. You can set up fare watches and look at charts of how the prices are fluctuating over time.
Last edited by invst65 on Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

mhalley
Posts: 6303
Joined: Tue Nov 20, 2007 6:02 am

Re: Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by mhalley » Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:50 pm

Clark Howard is my go to guy for travel tips. He is a fan of google flights.

https://clark.com/travel/clarks-secret- ... -possible/

User avatar
lthenderson
Posts: 3550
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:43 pm
Location: Iowa

Re: Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by lthenderson » Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:51 pm

We use one of several flight compiling websites to get an idea of which flights and times we are interested in and then go directly to the airplane companies website to book the flight. In many cases it is slightly cheaper.

User avatar
oldcomputerguy
Posts: 3540
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2015 6:50 am
Location: In the middle of five acres of woods

Re: Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by oldcomputerguy » Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:53 pm

According to govisitcostarica.com, Costa Rica is served by Alaska Air, US Airways, American Airlines, Frontier, Delta, JetBlue and Spirit. I'd suggest starting with Flightmapper to determine which airlines fly between your desired source and destination, picking the one you want to use, then going directly to that airline's web site and booking there.

(edited to fix broken link)
Last edited by oldcomputerguy on Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
It’s taken me a lot of years, but I’ve come around to this: If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. And if you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.

Iorek
Posts: 970
Joined: Fri Mar 08, 2013 9:38 am

Re: Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by Iorek » Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:55 pm

Southwest flies to Costa Rica and does not show up on many search engines, so I'd check them separately. (Also if you see their cheapest fare available, that's probably going to be a good fare)

I'd be careful about booking Spirit (things might go great but if they don't-- if your flight is canceled-- from what I've heard they aren't much help)

Also note Costa Rica has int'l airports in both San Jose and Liberia, so you might need to consider if it matters which you use (or if you want to use both).
Last edited by Iorek on Fri Aug 17, 2018 11:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

bob60014
Posts: 730
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:59 pm
Location: The Land Beyond ORD

Re: Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by bob60014 » Thu Aug 16, 2018 2:31 pm

That's prime season. Generally 90-145 days out from the date of travel is where some of the better prices are. But if you see fares you are comfortable with jump on it, dont quibble over a few dollars.

As said do a search on Google flights for some comparison. Go to Southwests website directly to compare their fare with others as they are not on Expedia or other sites.

Book directly with any airline you select as you will have greater protections for any delays or other issues, especially winter delays!
Last edited by bob60014 on Thu Aug 16, 2018 4:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

JHU ALmuni
Posts: 96
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2015 12:40 pm

Re: Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by JHU ALmuni » Thu Aug 16, 2018 2:36 pm

+1 for Google Flights.

Also check momondo.com, might find a good deal but usually same/a little cheaper than Google Flights.

adamthesmythe
Posts: 2326
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2014 4:47 pm

Re: Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by adamthesmythe » Thu Aug 16, 2018 4:06 pm

invst65 wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:49 pm
Google flights. You can set up fare watches and look at charts of how the prices are fluctuating over time.
Then you use technical analysis to decide when to buy??

invst65
Posts: 644
Joined: Thu Nov 27, 2014 11:04 am

Re: Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by invst65 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 7:43 am

adamthesmythe wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 4:06 pm
invst65 wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:49 pm
Google flights. You can set up fare watches and look at charts of how the prices are fluctuating over time.
Then you use technical analysis to decide when to buy??
Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any technical analysis for the best time to buy. It's pretty much a seat of the pants kind of thing. For me any way.

I just keep my eye on the prices, and if there is a significant drop I'll buy. If the price doesn't fluctuate or starts to go up as my trip approaches that's also the time to buy.

Got great deals on tickets to Australia last year this way, watching over a period of a couple of months. The deal only lasted for a couple of weeks so I was glad I bought when I did.

LawyersGunsAndMoney
Posts: 87
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2016 2:00 pm

Re: Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by LawyersGunsAndMoney » Fri Aug 17, 2018 7:53 am

Use Google Flights or Kayak to see what flight options are and their prediction about whether fares will rise or fall.

If price options are generally comparable, I would choose a direct flight on a major airline that serves your destination frequently over one that only has a few flights to Costa Rica per week. Reason being, if there is a cancellation or delay you will have more options on said airline to actually arrive in Costa Rica.

When it comes to actual booking - do so directly through the airline's website. If a traveling companion has status on said airline, have him/her book the immediate party so that you can take advantage of potential upgrades, early boarding, luggage and check-in perks, etc.

jeff1949
Posts: 671
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 10:43 am
Location: Salem, OR

Re: Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by jeff1949 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 11:33 am

invst65 wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 7:43 am
adamthesmythe wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 4:06 pm
invst65 wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:49 pm
Google flights. You can set up fare watches and look at charts of how the prices are fluctuating over time.
Then you use technical analysis to decide when to buy??
Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any technical analysis for the best time to buy. It's pretty much a seat of the pants kind of thing. For me any way.

I just keep my eye on the prices, and if there is a significant drop I'll buy. If the price doesn't fluctuate or starts to go up as my trip approaches that's also the time to buy.

Got great deals on tickets to Australia last year this way, watching over a period of a couple of months. The deal only lasted for a couple of weeks so I was glad I bought when I did.
Sounds like market timing to me. :wink:

User avatar
VictoriaF
Posts: 18629
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:27 am
Location: Black Swan Lake

Re: Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by VictoriaF » Fri Aug 17, 2018 11:59 am

jeff1949 wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 11:33 am
invst65 wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 7:43 am
adamthesmythe wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 4:06 pm
invst65 wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:49 pm
Google flights. You can set up fare watches and look at charts of how the prices are fluctuating over time.
Then you use technical analysis to decide when to buy??
Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any technical analysis for the best time to buy. It's pretty much a seat of the pants kind of thing. For me any way.

I just keep my eye on the prices, and if there is a significant drop I'll buy. If the price doesn't fluctuate or starts to go up as my trip approaches that's also the time to buy.

Got great deals on tickets to Australia last year this way, watching over a period of a couple of months. The deal only lasted for a couple of weeks so I was glad I bought when I did.
Sounds like market timing to me. :wink:
Some markets are meant to be timed.

Victoria
WINNER of the 2015 Boglehead Contest. | Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)

MittensMoney
Posts: 113
Joined: Mon Dec 07, 2015 10:59 pm

Re: Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by MittensMoney » Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:09 pm

Thanks, everyone.

Flying from Denver to Liberia, prices seem to be $900-1100 round trip per person and Direct doesn't seem to be an option, mostly 1-stop so I guess I'll just aim for the shortest pit-stop (some are 7+ hours..) Seems pretty expensive but I guess with it being peak season I won't have much of a choice.

I've set up an Alert on Google Flights and Kayak so maybe I'll get lucky and they'll ping me if there's a price drop.

User avatar
climber2020
Posts: 1107
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2012 8:06 pm

Re: Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by climber2020 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:12 pm

MittensMoney wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:41 pm
We're taking a trip to Costa Rica in February 2019. It'll be a large family event with everyone flying down (parents, 4 siblings, 3 little ones), and we've already booked a large beachfront home on HomeAway. Now that accommodations are locked in, I'm looking at options to book the best flight. 'Best' in this case will be a direct flight, and at the cheapest cost.

I rarely fly so I don't have a ton of experience booking the optimal flight, will someone with more experience shed some light on the best websites, timing, etc., to book this?

Thanks in advance.
Here's the problem: whenever plane tickets do drop in price, it's usually only for a select number of seats (sometimes only 2 or 3). Once those seats get sold, the prices go back up again and you have to wait until the next drop. I flew a bunch of people down to our destination wedding a few years ago, and organizing flights for that many people was a huge pain that I will never do again under any circumstances.

Some of your family members will likely end up paying more than others. Easiest thing to do is have each household be responsible for buying their own tickets, and the more diligent ones who check frequently will get the cheaper flights.

There is no best flight website in 2018. They all get the same information. My favorite one is google flights because it has a clean interface, but it doesn't really matter.

User avatar
Watty
Posts: 14584
Joined: Wed Oct 10, 2007 3:55 pm

Re: Best (cheapest) way to book a flight well in advance

Post by Watty » Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:53 pm

MittensMoney wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:41 pm
It'll be a large family event with everyone flying down (parents, 4 siblings, 3 little ones), ....
I have never done it but as I recall most airlines have a group sales department for 10(?)+ people. It would be worth calling to find out if that would work for you.

Getting that airlines credit card would likely not only get you a nice signup bonus but if you buy the tickets with the credit card you should also get a lot of frequent flyer miles.

Post Reply