By John Skinner
In this series of articles about Internet Shopping I will be mentioning certain software and websites. As is always the case with these articles, the software and websites are mentioned because they are what I use and I find useful. The software or website may not be so useful to you, but it hopefully will give you an idea of what you may want to look for, in order for you to find suitable software or websites for you. I urge you to research to find the software and websites that are best suited for you.
One golden rule is ‘Read the Small Print’. One of the last airline bookings I did with a travel agent was because my internet was down. I needed to make the booking to attend a charity conference in Portland, Maine, USA. After booking the trip Bermuda-Boston-Portland and return, my internet came up and I was able to research the trip properly. I found that Portland was an easy drive from Boston so decided to cancel the Boston-Portland-Boston air legs of the trip and to drive. That was until my travel agent told me that the tickets were non-refundable AND that there was a $100 change fee per person.
Travel Planning can be a bit like the story of the chicken and the egg. What comes first? Do you plan the trip around an event or function or do you chose your destination and flights and work within that framework? I have done both.
I have taken 90 minutes to go from the decision to travel to arriving at check in at the airport (I live 20 minutes from our local airport), for a fully paid for trip. That journey was caused by a family emergency. I could not have done it without the internet and a zero outstanding balance on my credit card and an ‘emergencies only’ bank account.
It was a matter of going to the airline website and booking and paying for the flight, going to the bank website and paying off the flight cost on my credit card. Then into the car hire website, booking and paying for the car and then back into the bank website to pay that off.
Once I have decided I want to travel I prefer to have 90 days between decision and departure. This gives me the flexibility to choose cheaper flights. The earlier you book, the cheaper the flight usually is. Also there can be an up to 10% difference in the price depending the day of the week on which you choose to fly.
When there are multiple flights per day between two places, the cheaper flights are often at very unsociable hours or midday. I have heard midday regional flights referred to as ‘Granny Flights’ because of the high proportion of passengers who are grand parents. Most business travellers prefer to travel at breakfast or supper time and so flights at those times are more expensive.
There are many airlines to choose from. For short distances or regional travel the low cost airlines may be beneficial. Intercontinental travel with the legacy airlines may be more beneficial if you have several connecting flights.
I am aware of three major groupings of the legacy airlines – One World (https://www.oneworld.com); Sky Team (http://www.skyteam.com/skyteam) and Star Alliance (http://www.staralliance.com). All their websites offer route planning and flight bookings including Around The World trips. In addition there are other airline groupings which Code Share (Giving a flight their own flight number whilst the flight is using another airline’s aircraft and crew) and offer customers of members within the group various amenities such as access to Lounges. Each airline website will identify their membership of such groupings.
The internet is a great tool for researching flights, especially if as a retiree on a fixed income, cost becomes an important factor.
On the fun side of air travel planning there are a number of websites which can add interest to flight planning. One of these is FlightRadar (http://www.flightradar24.com) which shows every commercial and most private aircraft which are currently flying. Another is FlightTracker (www.flightview.com) which will allow you to see a particular commercial flight in progress and find out data on that flights previous timekeeping. There are other websites giving flight weather reports such as AC Network Weather (https://sites.google.com/site/acnetworkweather/home). This website is intended for Pilots who are trained to read the maps and graphics, but it can be an interesting visit.
In my next article on shopping for airline seats I will describe some of the other points to consider when researching flights.
By John Skinner