shiny fishy

dasmaedel


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Travel: Advice?
shiny fishy
dasmaedel
I posted this on facebook but I wanted to bring it to the attention of the people I know who've traveled more than I have specifically or who are particularly crafty in saving money.

I have never done any travel planning that wasn't just round trip. I'm trying to fly straight to Germany from SF but trying to go back from Germany to NY and then a couple days later from NY to SF so I can see some people on the east coast. What's the best way to get flights for this without being wallet-raped?

Is it even possible to do this on my own or should I just find a good travel agent?

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Most of my flight hopping has been within Europe, which has a ton of cheap flights. I'd recommend poking around on a few different cheap flight websites; kayak is one, orbitz and travelocity I've both had luck with. If you don't see anything, it might be worth talking to a travel agent. I recommend checking out STA Travel. It's primarily for students but I think it also has a general under-25 service.

Also, have an awesome time!

These days, I think travel agents are mainly for helping you integrate other parts of your travel, like places to stay and transportation and tours and event tickets and so on. Flights, you can find just as good on your own online, I think.

[ I had a long bit here about how to use priceline to possibly get luck on cheap fares, before I remembered that feature of priceline only works for basic round trips. Alas. ]

Anyway, I recommend that you do some searches and don't buy, wait a few days, do some more, etc. Get a sense of the price fluctuations in your search results over the course of a week or longer, and then start trying to find flights to actually buy.

But, that depends on when you plan to leave. Most of the cheaper fares have advance purchase restrictions. The most common, I believe, is 14 day advance purchase, but I think there are also some 21 day advance purchase restricted fares, and some 7 day. So, the closer you get to the date(s) you plan to leave, the more cheap fares will drop out. The big cliff is usually at 14 days. ( The purpose is mainly to get more money from business travelers than leisure travelers, since leisure travelers usually plan ahead while business travelers often just find out they have to go somewhere next week, or this week, and have no choice. )

One of the best tools for putting together unusual flight paths with a lot of control, to see how much they cost, is my own employer's demo site. We've got two versions:
http://matrix.itasoftware.com/
http://matrix2.itasoftware.com/
Their feature sets overlap but each does things the other doesn't, so try both and see which one better suits what you're trying to do.

Kayak.com is another tool that's great for flight searches; their main strength IMO is the ability to fine tune exactly what arrival and departure times you're looking for.

Since Orbitz, Kayak, and half the other places you might buy flight tickets online (including lots of airlines' own sites) use ITA software for their fare search, our matrix/matrix2 don't actually let you buy, so we're not competing with our customers. Instead, you note the flights and fare codes for the combination you want, and then you can call the airlines and give them those flight numbers and fare codes and they can book. Or, go to the airline's web site.

You may want to try booking separate trips:
- one way SF to Germany, then an open jaw two-flight trip from Germany to NY then to SF.
- open jaw SF to Germany returning to NY, then a one way from NY to SF.
Doing searches for those, in addition to searching for the entire triangle together, might show you more fare options.

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