How to buy a Flight Ticket and what kind
Sunday, May 1, 2011 by
As the summer approaches and many of you are applying for visas for your summer programs, you are probably thinking about the next step: buying the flight ticket.
You can buy your flight ticket either online or the old-fashioned way from a travel agent. Let’s start with online sources.
There is a huge number of places where you can buy flight tickets online. Some are international, other national. We like to use Expedia, Travelocity and HotWire for our travel needs. The reason why we like HotWire is that it let’s you search several different sources at the same time, saving you a ton of time. There are many others to try if you like, such as Kayak, Mobissimo and PriceLine, the list could be endless.
The most common misconception is that there are some that offer cheaper tickets than others. A friend might tell you “hey, try this one, they have real cheap tickets there”. That’s a nonsense. Every one of these services sometimes shows a cheaper flight than the others. You simply have to try several of them and see what you can find where at the given moment. Which is why HotWire is so helpful.
You also need to understand a few things about flight tickets. They can be:
- Refundable or Non-refundable
- Flexible or Fixed dates
- Open return
- Re-routable or Fixed Route
- With stopover allowed or disallowed
Generally, the cheapest ticket doesn’t allow any of the flexibility. It is non-refundable with fixed dates. Be careful about fixed return date, though. If you wish to stay a few days longer, for instance to visit new friends, you can’t. And if you have to return earlier, for whatever serious reason, you can toss your non-changeable ticket to the garbage and buy a new one.
Open-return tickets are also dangerous. Open basically means that you have no reservation for your flight back and you can make one at will. That sounds sweet, but it’s only true if there are any available seats left. And with flights as full as they are, you can be on a waiting list for a week or even longer (no really!), before you have a chance to book a flight home.
Ideally, you should buy a non-refundable ticket with a fixed date to your destination, and with changeable date of return. That gives you the best combination of relatively low price, the flexibility you need and an existing reservation for your flight home.
But that’s not all. If your trip to the final destination involves several airlines, you need to make sure that all the flights meet these conditions. Which is why, for a beginner, it’s generally better to buy from an experienced travel agent, if your trip is more complicated than just a flight from point A to point B.
By the way, if you are worried that you might be denied your visa and be stuck with a non-refundable ticket (most actually are non-refundable), consider buying a trip cancellation insurance when buying your ticket. The cost of this insurance is tens of dollars and saves you a lot of worrying.
There is also a few tricks that you should be aware of. Some the online services show just one-way prices. So before you rejoice that you found your super-cheap ticket, make sure it’s not just one way. Another trick is an extra charge for your luggage. There are flights where you’ll pay more for your luggage than you did for the ticket itself.
So armed with this knowledge, go ahead and buy your tickets. And if you have an experience to share, sound off in the Comments below.