10 steps to getting the cheapest airfare possible to Paris

Don't just go to the website for Air France (www.airfrance.us) and be done with it (though do check it out). Take 20 minutes to research your options and you can shave hundreds of dolalrs of your airfare.

We'll get to the whole "10 Steps" bit in just a minute. First, the answers to the two Big Questions.

Here's how to get as close as possible to that $300 or $600 ticket.

So, how do I find the cheapest airfare?

Reid's shortcut to the best fares
All of the airfare hunting techniques mentioned below have merit, but, honestly, if I had to narrow it down to two crucial places to check, they would be:

1) The aggregator MomondoPartner
2) The consolidator AutoEurope

Nine times out of ten, I end up booking my plane tickets to Europe through one of those methods.
Ah, the heart of the matter. Remember that old travel truism: no two people flying in the cheap seats actually paid the same price for their tickets, even though they're going to the same place and getting the same service.

The secret to landing the least expensive plane tickets every time is to know where the deals are, search wisely, and never pay retail if you can avoid it.

Here is cheat sheet on how to do this: all the tips, steps to take, and websites to use to find the cheapest airfare every time.

Know that timing is everything

  1. Know your travel seasons - High season (and high prices) runs June 15–Sept 1 and Dec 15–Jan 6.
  2. Buy at the right time - Again, never buy more than four months ahead of time. The sweet spot is 8–12 weeks out. Track fares with Bing.com, FareReport.comYapta.com.
  3. Be flexible - Look into flights leaving/returning a day or two earlier or later for potentially huge savings (I'm talking hundreds of dollars).

Never pay retail

  1. Shop around: Aggregators - Use an aggregator that will comparison-shop all the booking engines and travel agencies for you with just one click (Momondo.com, Vayama.comLink, Kayak.com, Cheapflights.comlink, DoHop.com, Mobissimo.com, Fly.com).
  2. No-frills airlines
    If you're already in Europe or the Mediteranean region,
    look into a low-cost carrier for cheap flights in Paris. » more
  3. Buy wholesale: Consolidators - Consider a consolidator that buys in bulk and passes laong some of thsoe savings to you (AutoEurope.com, CheapTickets.com, CheapOAir.compartner, OneTravel.com, Airfareplanet.com, Tfitours.com, Economytravel.com).
  4. Price out vacation packages - Buy air/hotel or air/car (or all three) bundled together at a discount. This is not a tour; your trip is your own. You just get the big ticket items for less. (Orbitz.comPartner, Expedia.comPartner, Travelocity.comPartner, AutoEurope.com, Gotoday.com, Gate1travel.com, TourCrafters.com, Untours.com).
  5. Take a chance: Bidding sites - The "Name your own price" bidding feature at Priceline.comPartner offers the lowest costs but the least control (over airline choice, departure times, etc.). Savings can be huge. As a test, I plugged some May dates (4 weeks out) into the aggregators and the best they came up with was $1,025. Priceline was willing to sell me tickets for $542. Opaque “Hot Rate” fares from Hotwire.comPartner similarly come with lower costs and less control over precise flight times and airlines.

Know where the deals are

Watch those fees!
With many airlines now charging to check even a single bag, or to pick your own seat, or for the meal, headsets, and even a pillow and blanket, it helps to know the a la carte fees before you fly. These sites take stock of the current fees status:
• www.compareairlinefees.com • www.flyingfees.com • www.kayak.com/airline-fees • www.smartertravel.com • www.farecompare.com
  1. Sign up for E-savers - Individual airlines and major booking sites (Orbitz.comPartner, Expedia.comPartner, Travelocity.comPartner) tout last-minute sales.
  2. Get fare alerts- Know when the prices to your favorite destinations drop (Bing.com, Airfarewatchdog.com, Farecompare.com, Yapta.com, Farecast.com).
  3. Read deals newsletters - Sign up for esavers at the airlines, and for sale alerts at deals sites like TravelZoo.comPartner, BookingBuddy.comPartner, BudgetTravel.com, SmarterTravel.com, Frommers.com/blog.

 

 

 



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Signs for the airport trains at CDG
Signs for the airport trains at CDG. (Photo by Amélie Dupont. © Paris Tourist Office)