Low Cost Love Affairs and ASA (Airfare Search Addiction)

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I’m like that kid who’s always playing video games in the basement.

But actually, as I let myself be hypnotized by the flickering numbers, and I jump continents a la Jason Bourne with one click, I am making serious and important travel plans.

Recently, I’ve been spending WAY too much time (maybe that’s why I haven’t posted here in a while?) messing around on Kayak.com, a very user-friendly airfare search site that conveniently includes low cost airlines, unlike Expedia or Orbitz, which I barely use anymore. Kayak’s Explore feature allows you to type in a departure city and a world map appears–with cities covered in price tags. The only complaint I have with Kayak is that several times I’ve clicked on the Booking button and whether I am redirected to the airline website or another booking site, I often get the “This flight is no longer available” message. Of course this probably happens mostly with the cheapest fares, but it is quite misleading in any case.

What I really like about Kayak is the inspiration I get from seeing all these low cost airlines I’d never heard of–once I discover them, I tend to go directly to their site and create my own round trip (or even one way) flight combinations with a commercial airline and a low cost airline, and it turns out to be MUCH cheaper than ANY search engine has ever found for me.

Try it for yourself–you’ll feel like a super powerful travel agent! I also try to incorporate bus travel if it’s cheaper to land in an airline’s hub that is a few hours from my final destination. For example, landing in Dallas has turned out to be very cheap for many of the international flights I searched. Then, to get where I need to go, I ride for a few hours on the fabulous MegaBus for just ONE DOLLAR. I might be jet lagged, but I can just sleep on the bus. If you’re trying to save money, and you’re flexible with your travel times, then this is one very simple way to do it.

Until I discovered Kayak.com (or this revamped version of it, because I did use it a few years back and it was completely different and boring), I often used Skyscanner and Momondo for the search flexibility with dates and destinations. For example, with Skyscanner, you can check fares for an entire month or even search the whole year for the cheapest fares, which are displayed in easy to read bar graph form. You can also type in destination countries instead of cities. However, I never would book through either of these two sites, which tend to list unrealistically cheap airfare through scammy sounding booking sites. Instead, I go double check it with Expedia or on the website of the airline offering the deal.

Another fun and addictive site is Whichbudget.com, where you can type in a departure city or country, and then type in “Anywhere” for your destination, which brings up an ascending list of airfare to various cities around the world. Although clicking on an enticing fare will probably lead you to the inevitable “Sorry, we cannot find this flight” error message, you now have the name of the airline that supposedly is offering this great deal, so you can go directly to their website instead. But this site is still pretty helpful due to its inclusion of low cost airlines from around the world.

Hipmunk.com is also a fun site to use, but their results display gets a bit confusing, with all sorts of crazy color coding going on. But they do give you the airfare results in order of “Agony” which can be a helpful feature.

After these last few weeks of searching overtime, I’ve also realized that low cost airlines are just incredibly underused and underestimated. Yes, some of them may charge you for carry on or checked-in bags or they won’t offer free drinks and snacks, but hey, that’s happening a lot even with the commercial airlines. If you’re just trying to keep your travel budget in check, then you need to familiarize yourself with the low cost airlines that are flying in your region of interest.

My favorite low cost of the moment is JetBlue, which does allow for 1 free checked-in bag, has an excellent website and flies from Austin, Texas all the way down to Lima, Peru for as low as $235!! This is a pretty damn good deal if you’re South America-bound. Try to get a fare like that with a commercial airline! And once you’re in South America, you can easily use a local low cost airline to continue traveling around.  I’ll be back later with more juicy news on low cost airlines…

Have you ever fallen in love with a low cost airline or airfare search engine?

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