A Case Study on Airfare Deals and Where the Heck to Find Them

I’m not prepared to spend 400 Euros for a ticket to Athens from Germany. Nor do I want an overnight stay, or to arrive in the city at 3 am. I want a reasonably priced ticket, on a comfortable airline, with times that make some sense to me. And I’m usually up with my kids at 5:30 am, so I’m easy to please. I want airfare deals, man!

I bought my ticket to the big travel blogging conference (TBEX, for those familiar) in Athens back in March. The conference is in October. I booked with the assumption that flights between Germany and Greece would be somewhat reasonable. It hasn’t worked out that way, though. NO AIRFARE DEALS HERE!

I thought I could use this opportunity to show an example of how flexibility may or may not work for you – and other things I’ve learned along the way – trying to get to Athens.

First, I start with my own rules for booking flights and getting lower fares that I wrote about a few weeks ago. Other than the conference, I was within my own rules of a cheap flight.

Three Months Out (for Best Airfare Deals)

Things start to get critical for high season three months out. I waited patiently until May. Come May, more realistic options opened: flights at reasonable times and lower prices. Still, more than I wanted to pay, though.

Then a miracle – a direct flight for under 150 E return! First, a double check with my husband.

The next day that cheap fare was gone.

I Decided Not to Go to TBEX

A few weeks later they announced the keynote – one of my favorite travel writers.

What were the flights like now? Repeat after me, “there were NO AIRFARE DEALS”. Most flights required overnight stays somewhere, or arriving in Athens at 3:00 am, or spending way too much money. I tried every crazy scenario I could imagine.

And then I decided to try logic. I found a decent price with a good schedule for my favorite airline. Slightly more than staying the night in random cities, but cheaper than a hotel room. I just needed to double-check with my husband…

And less than an hour later, that fare was gone. (For those taking note, yes, I missed out on cheap fares twice because I wanted to check with my husband -boo.)

The price was up 25 EUR in that hour. I tried logging in via an incognito browser – no luck. I waited until the next morning and the price had gone up even more.

Then I Got Creative

The flight connected in Frankfurt. The airline offers fly & rail prices – and the flight to my local from the airport took just as long as the train. I changed the search options to include rail, and a cheaper option became available. Score. Plus I prefer the train when I can use it. Double score.

But did I Get a Good Deal?

Until recently it was hard for me to determine good deals for airport connections I was unfamiliar with unless they were super obvious. This wasn’t. It was more than I was expecting.

A popular ‘airfare deals’ website only shows deals that equate to 6 cents (US) per mile or less. I used that equation to figure that I was spending around 6.5 cents a mile. So, it wasn’t the best deal – but I also wasn’t too flexible with dates or times, I’m using my preferred carrier (so I’m getting more miles), and I don’t have to pay extra for luggage. Not bad.

How My Multiple Mistakes Help You

  • Have some kind of formula for what constitutes airfare deals so when you find one, you can go for it.
  • Once you find great airfare deals, don’t hesitate.
  • Know when to use logic and when to get creative.

One of our favorite tools to use for airfare deals is the Kayak Explore chart . Most people don’t know about this because they don’t make it totally obvious, but this tool will save you some cheese if you have the flexibility in your schedule.

About Ann Belle

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I'm Ann, an American expat living in Germany with my husband and two kids. I worked in the travel industry for years and share some of the hacking tips I've learned along the way here on The Fairytale Traveler. I write about family travel on Travel Turtle, focusing on encouraging other families to get out and explore the world - whether a ten minute walk from your home or a ten hour drive.

2 Comments on this post

  1. You’re right about booking about 3 months out, that’s when I find the best deals for international travel or with big airlines travel to anywhere.

    Rachel of Hippie in Heels / Reply
  2. My wife always tries not to impulse buy plane tickets, cruises (or anything else); she walks away from the deal on the net or wherever and thinks it through. She definitely looks for sales for months away.

    Michael Orobona / Reply

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