Watch Before You Buy: Don’t Be an Impulsive Airfare Buyer


I’m no expert on ticket booking, but I have been around that block a few times, and this latest experience has provided me with an opportunity to share my lessons learned. I’m not an uber-frequent-flier. I don’t have a massive miles accumulation, or status on multiple airlines. So, for now, I’m booking my tickets with cash money. It’s a challenge to spend the least money to get the most miles, so I can make them go far one day.

Note that industry practices can’t be completely summed up, and it’s impossible to completely understand the ins and outs how airfares work. That said, there are plenty of smart ticket buyers out there who have learned the best times to buy and the best practices for purchasing a ticket at the lowest fare possible.

1. Debunking an oft-misused myth

There is an overwhelming fear among novice ticket-bookers that a fare will go up before you purchase it and you’ll be stuck holding the bag. So, as a result, impulsive buyers book after just a few searches because they’re convinced that the fare will go up immediately after they search, or in the next day or so.

This isn’t always true. While it’s a good rule of thumb that you shouldn’t procrastinate unnecessarily on ticket-buying, when searching for tickets months in advance, this quick fare spike isn’t likely to happen. You can afford to spend a week or two tracking ticket prices without any serious wallet-gouging, which leads me into #2 …

2. Spend some time tracking ticket prices

It’s worthwhile to get started early and pay attention to the fluctuations in fare. Use the airline’s website, Kayak, or other comparison sites to get a feel for what the going rate is at the time you’re searching. Then, if you’ve got some cash to spare, keep watching the fare for the next week or so. Watch for fluctuations, and note the days that they come on. Often airfares can be lower when searching on one day of the week (Tuesday seems to be popular). Keep mental notes of all of these things, so that way you know what the airline’s best deal has been.

3. Eventually, just book it

You can’t watch airfares forever. Eventually, there will be a time where you have to click that “Purchase” button. Do it with confidence, especially if you’ve observed a week or two of price fluctuations and see that you’re getting the best deal … or so you hope.

4. Even after booking, you still have rights

Some airlines will issue you a refund or travel credit if the fare for your same itinerary drops after you’ve booked it. Consult Airfarewatchdog’s handy chart on the matter here.