By Wendy Perrin, CNTraveler.com
"Google 'best time to buy airfare' and you'll find 50 different competing theories. And they're all wrong," George Hobica told me over lunch the other day. George is the founder of AirfareWatchdog, the airfare deals site that includes some low fares not found on other sites. "Don't listen to anyone who says there's a magic time or day to buy airfare. There is no secret time. You need to look four times a day -- minimum -- every day of the week, as far in advance as you can."
Sounds like a ton of work. Not nearly as simple as looking on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. Eastern or on Wednesdays at 1 a.m. But George has just compiled his "12 Tips for Finding Low Airfares, 2014 Edition" to make your airfare shopping easier. You probably already do many of the 12, as do I, but I thought I should share three nifty new takeaways from lunch:
Keep your airfare search results page open on your computer screen all day.
Whatever airfare search site you're using, just leave your Web browser window open on your computer screen and hit "Refresh" at least four times a day. Airlines change fares all day long, says George, and "even if the fares don't change, the number of seats available at that fare will change."
When you can be flexible with your travel dates, use Kayak or Google Flights.
Flexible date search allows you to look for airfares within a certain window of time and pinpoint the least expensive days to fly within that window. I've always used ITA Software for this, but George recommends two tools that may be easier for many people to use. At Kayak, register your email address, click on "Flights," then click on "More search options" and choose "Flex Month." As for Google's Explore Flights tool, you can specify a trip length and month, allowing you to search for the lowest fares within whatever window of time you've got.
If you are flexible about your destination as well, use Adioso.
When you're open to suggestions for where to go and you just want a great airfare, Adioso works well because it lets you search not just for a specific destination city but for an entire region. Instead of having to limit your search to, say, "New York City to Copenhagen," you can punch in "New York City to Europe" and see what's available in, say, April or May.
Of course, the easiest way to get around time-consuming airfare shopping might be simply to have low fares emailed to your inbox. AirfareWatchdog's fare alerts include discounted promo-code fares as well as low fares on Southwest Airlines that other sites' alerts may not include. Personally, my favorite of the three types of fare alerts is the "Departure City alerts" because I want to know what surprise deals crop up from my home airport as well as other airports within a reasonable driving distance of home.
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