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3 Steps To Finding Elusive Good Deals On Ever-Changing Airfare

Don Wilson
Port of Seattle
Getting away is nice, but how do you find the best deal? The short answer: Shop around.

[Editor's note: This story has been updated with more information about loopholes how airlines and travel websites deal with 24-hour cancelations.]

Finding a good deal on airfare can be tricky. The prices change quickly. There are conflicting reports on when airlines post their sales and specials. It all seems kind of arbitrary. KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says it’s all a matter of knowing where (and how) to look.

1. Shop Around

In the past, this meant calls to multiple airlines. Nowadays, of course, there are search engines to help. Here are some of Brumley’s favorites. It works by sending you to the airline website. But as Brumley learned searching for South Africa flights, sometimes the fare on the airline website can be different than what was posted on Kayak.

Travelocity: Another search engine, but here, you book through Travelocity’s site.

Vayama: Look here for international flights.

Routehappy: It searches for price AND comfort: How far does your seat recline? How are the meals? Extra leg room? You can search for it here.

Options Away: Great for group travel – say, if you’re booking for a family. Hold tickets for an extra day or even a week, as you try to make sure the flights work for all the folks you’re traveling with.

3. Book It

There’s always the fear that you’ll find the good deal, then check with the boss for time off, then check with the family to see if the trip works, and by the time you get back to the computer to make the purchase, the fare has changed.

“If you find a fare that you think will work for you, book it,” Brumley said. “By law, you can cancel a flight anytime within 24 hours.”

There are some loopholes. The 24-hour cancelation/refund policy might not apply to certain fares, like those booked with miles. The law also has another option allowing an airline to hold a reservation for 24 hours without purchase, but not offer a full refund once the ticket's purchased. Some airlines opt for that.

Also, the law applies to airlines but not necessarily third-party sites like Travelocity, Vayama or Expedia.

Bottom line: Know that this 24-hour option exists, but verify the exact policy with whatever airline or travel provider you're using before you book.

3. Keep Shopping

Even after you’ve found a good fare, and it’s booked, take a few more looks to see if there’s something better. You never know.


"Going Places" is KPLU's weekly exploration of travel topics. Matthew Brumley is the co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions, which provides small-group travel to clients including KPLU. 

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.
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