“How soon they forget.”
I’m guessing that’s what the TSA agent thought as she reminded me to pull my cellphone out of my pocket and put it into the tray. “That’ll trip the alarm for sure,” she said with a smile.
Remembering how to navigate a security checkpoint is an important skill as we get back in the travel groove.
But what about getting the best deal on your airline ticket? Some travelers are more tech-savvy than others, but there are a few simple tricks you can use to get a better deal. After all, the airlines simply will not advise you of the best rates or how to find them. That’s because they use the lowest rates as “attack fares” to signal their displeasure at other airlines.
Thankfully for travelers, there’s a whole lot of displeasure going around. And remember: When the airlines are mad at one another, the traveler wins.
Let’s review some of the basic steps — and look at a few of the best deals that nobody is talking about.
[The completely correct guide to being back in an airport]
1. Try and stay a little flexible on your dates when you’re planning a trip. Sometimes changing by a day or two can save you some big money.
2. Start your search at Google Flights. There are other travel search engines at Expedia, Kayak and Priceline, as well as the airlines’ own websites. But Google’s search engine is my favorite right now, particularly if you’re just looking for an airline ticket (no package deals with hotels).
There’s a box to type in your departure city. If you just type in ANC for Anchorage and hit “search” without entering a destination, a map will come up showing fares to cities around the world. You can zoom in on the map to find your city.
3. For domestic tickets, search for one-way tickets. It’s easier to find the best deals that way. For your outbound flight, type in the date you’d like to leave and click on the price graph link. You’ll be able to see the one-way fares for about 45 days at a time. Just click on the date you want and hit OK.
4. Modify your search. You can request only nonstops or search only specific airlines. There’s also a button that says “duration” where you can filter out results with a long connection.
5. Pick a flight. From there, you can review the specifics of the flight. If your flight is a “saver” or “basic economy” fare, you’ll see how much it costs to upgrade to the main cabin to pre-reserve a seat. Then there will be a button that says “select” that will take you to the airline site to purchase your ticket.
Rather than buy the one-way ticket, you may want to make a note of the flight details, then search for your return flight.
Searching for two one-way tickets is not as simple as just requesting a round-trip itinerary. And sometimes, there’s no problem — all the fares are the same in either direction. But this season from Anchorage is a little different. There have been great deals on outbound flight and not-so-great deals on the return flights. So you have to search around a little bit more. Sometimes it makes sense to fly through Fairbanks.
Speaking of Fairbanks, if your ticket is too expensive, go back to step 2 and type “FAI” in the search bar for Fairbanks. Then you can do the math and see if the connections line up. I’m using that strategy for a trip next month.
6. For international tickets, things are more complex. It’s best to search for a round-trip ticket, since one-way tickets can be more expensive than round-trip itineraries.
7. Choose a trip length of at least seven or eight days. The Google Flights home page will automatically choose a four-day trip. But for many international tickets, you have to stay at least seven days.
More importantly, pay special attention to any COVID-19-related restrictions on international travel.
[Should you cancel your summer vacation? Crowds, high prices and variants have some travelers reconsidering.]
Using the Google Flights site, there are some great deals available, particularly within the US
If you want to go to Florida, you could leave right away for Fort Myers from Anchorage for as little as $101 one-way on United, American or Delta. The return rate is the same — between $95 and $110 one-way through mid-February of 2022. Anchorage-Tampa is selling for about $108 one-way on Delta, American or United. Travel through Sept. 30, 2021.
Fly from Anchorage to New York City starting Sept. 14 on Delta, United or American for as little as $106 one way. The return trip is as little as $107 one-way, for travel through Dec. 17, 2021.
Fly from Anchorage to several destinations in Montana for $109 one-way on Delta or United starting Aug. 4: Bozeman, Kalispell, Missoula, Great Falls or Helena. The return tickets cost about the same for travel through Sept. 30.
Fly from Anchorage to Kansas City for $101 one-way (in either direction) on Delta or American. Fly between Aug. 25 and Sept. 30.
From Fairbanks to Atlanta, the fare ranges from $97-$102 one-way (in either direction) on United, Delta or American. Fly between July 16 and Sept. 30.
From Fairbanks, most West Coast cities are available for as little as $79 in either direction through Sept. 30.
There are select European cities on sale from Anchorage right now. You can buy the tickets — but you’re wise to be familiar with the COVID-19 protocols in each country. To Barcelona, fly for as little as $679 round-trip (basic economy) on Delta. Fly between Oct. 24 and Dec. 15., 2021.