Tracking Flight Prices
Everyone wants to get the “best deal” on flights and there are various ways to find your best deal. We do a lot of flying but I can assure you, we only fly it the price is right. We are not luxury travelers. I do not pay for any added “perks” or “benefits” – just the cost to sit on the plane. But how do I know when the “price is right”?
There are many, many flight tracker websites that can assist in collating flight options for comparison. My one and only tool thus far has been Google Flights. There are many ways to utilize Google Flights and I am going to do my best to highlight those for you!
Let’s assume you have a destination and time frame for travel in mind. Don’t forget to include neighboring airports as well – I have four airports that I am willing to travel to if it saves a significant amount of money.
The first thing I check is what the best prices are in the months before and after my desired travel day is because it tells me a few things.
- When the cheapest time of year is / “low” season
- What is a reasonable price to pay versus the cheapest flight
- What I am willing to pay knowing the lowest price available
- If I can afford to travel at the time I am planning on going
We have changed plans based on the information I can collect in just a few short minutes – we either change the time of year for a destination or change the destination if the travel dates are inflexible.
Once you are happy with the dates and the destination, time to dig into the flights.
Examine the available flights by sorting price, duration, and time of day in order to get the best analysis of the offerings. Also explore the days directly before and after to see if flight times vary and if the prices are any different. If you have flexibility, sometimes a day can make a difference.
Identify flight times that work best for your proposed itinerary knowing that:
- More routes on a day mean that the prices will be more competitive, giving you the advantage of a cheaper flight
- If there are not a lot of flights that fit your schedule, this increases the chance of paying more
- Choosing routes that have many flights departing within a few hours also increases the likelihood of a better price
Now that you have the details, it is time for the most important part – tracking the flight!
You can track two ways:
- Individual flights / routes
- The dates for all flights available
I’d suggest doing both as you never know which flight will come through, even if you have a preference in mind. Consider how much your preferred flight is worth if the overall flight price drops over $100 for an alternative journey.
Why is tracking so important? When flight prices change, you will get an email for the flights you are tracking.
I track A LOT of flights. Whenever I have a hunch for our upcoming destinations – even six months plus out – I throw some random dates on the trackers just to get an idea of where the prices fall so I know what a good deal looks like or how much to budget. It helps to be able to say – this route has been $500 for months and it dropped to $300 therefore, it is time to book. So it is important to study your price graphs of tracked flights.
Just look at the graph below – prices for this route started at $175 and shot up all the way to $350. I was sure we would be postponing this trip cause I was not willing to spend that much for a long weekend but then I got an email that the price dropped to $117 – an all time low!
But to pull the trigger?
Be patient… but only to an extent. Once you see the price hit the number you are comfortable paying, do not wait. Know what this price is for you ahead of time – the price you are willing to pay may not be the absolute cheapest fare because the price may never get there but you do not want to miss the opportunity to pay a flight you were willing to pay versus overpaying.
We have been burned on flights that dropped for less than 24 hours never to see it hit the low again. Take the example below – flights that are up towards $500 did a one day dropped below $300 and by the time I sat with Kevin to book, they jumped back up. Now, I do not want to pay above $400 knowing that the price can dip that low. I will be patient or reschedule the trip for another time.
And there you have it! I spent much of my trip planning hours monitoring graphs, predicting the best / most reasonable flight to pay, adding and modifying tracked flights – this time along with avoiding airlines extra fees allows us to fly for cheap!
Some final tips:
- Google Flights has some limitations, mostly that it does not have *every single* airline propagated when searching (most notably for domestic flight – Southwest)
- Take advantage of the Google barometer for the flight you are tracking to help you find the price you are willing to pay
- Have time off but don’t know where to go? Leave the “Where to?” open or search “anywhere” and browse the globe!
- I have not had great luck with “last minute deals” and in fact have experienced the opposite where the prices are an insane but maybe I am not looking at the right resource
- The earlier you start searching, the better the chance of getting a better deal
- Typically flights go up towards the end of the week
- Sometimes it’s cheaper to do the connection yourself
When you book your flights, turn the tracker off- cause you don’t need to know if you overpaid! Be happy and comfortable with the price you paid.
I hope this will help you snag the flight of your dreams!