A reader posed this question last week. Chances are, by the time I replied, the airfare had changed again: Those prices can change by the minute. But I was able to offer some overall tips for finding the best fares available, provided you do your homework.
Q. I’m looking for some help. I am on a limited budget and I’m looking to take a trip with my girlfriend to Colorado in early May. She has friends out there so we have a place to stay so at this point we are just looking for a flight. Right now the flights to Colorado in early May are right around $180 after taxes according to numerous travel sites. Is this about as good of a deal as we’re going to find or are we going to be better off waiting a few more weeks to see if prices drop?
A. The price sounds good to me -- though I admit I haven't been watching airfares to that market (see that last tip below) -- so I’d probably nab it. But I'd spend a minute or two surfing the Web before you do. Southwest Airlines flies direct to Denver from here, but their flights do not show up on most travel aggregator sites such as kayak.com. Go to Southwest’s site directly to see if they beat the price you’ve already found. Microsoft’s relatively new Bing (www.bing.com/travel) includes a price-predictor supplied by Farecast, a Microsoft company. Plug in your dates and destination and Bing not only brings up the lowest fares with links to airline and online booking sites, it also offers a prediction (on select routes) on whether the price is likely to rise or fall in the next seven days. You might want to visit http://www.farecompare.com/ too, because it provides up-to-the-minute information on fare sales. (Southwest, by the way, shows up on this one). You can also sign up for free e-mail alerts at the site so you can be one of the first to know when airlines drop prices. As always, the best way to know whether you've found a good deal is to understand what airlines generally charge for your destination, whether it's Denver or Dubai. So when you have a spot in mind, check airfares from time to time so you know a deal when you see it.