Airline tickets bought through cruise lines have come a long way in the past few years. Today, cruise lines are offering rates that are often competitive with other sources. Still, without paying a deviation fee that negates any competitive advantage they may have had, we are left at their mercy on the details of those airline tickets. Which airline we fly, what time those flights happen and even choosing a seat are made difficult to do with cruise line airfare. The idea of a seamless package, booking all the travel options with the cruise line can easily turn into an expensive way to go. The good news is that booking airline tickets ourselves and even finding the best price can be relatively easy, armed with the right tools and with our heads in the right place.
First, join AirFareWatchdog.com. We have been recommending limiting the number of travel sites used for quite some time now. Going from site to site, each regurgitating the same information over and over is simply a waste of time. For our purposes, what Airfarewatchdog does is keep an eye on the price of airline tickets from all airlines from point A to point B. Regularly, they send email alerts when they see a price they think we will like, based on parameters we provide. Those alerts can be put on hold when receiving them might not be convenient.
I had the occasion to meet the people who operate Airfarewatchdog recently on a sailing of Azamara Club Cruises Journey and found them to meticulous people. These are exactly the kind of people you want watching your money. On a cruise, these are ones who never take the elevator. Even at the end of a grueling long day ashore, while I think I deserve a ride, they walk. They hang in there and don’t give up; qualities they have built into Airfarewatchdog.
Do an initial search for yourself. The idea is to dive in headfirst initially so we have a good, personal-experience quality idea of what pricing is like right now. It’s the same initial investment of time we recommend before contacting your travel agent to discuss buying a cruise.
Personally, of all the travel sites that offer airline tickets, I like CheapoAir.com for searching a variety of sources in an easy, accurate and clean way. Of the more popular travel sites, Kayak.com is too messy for me. Kayak brings a plethora of information to the table but does so with a ton of popup windows, across a daunting array of sites. We still test them from time to time, as well as new sites as they come out, just to keep current on what search capabilities are out there, but Kayak and similar travel sites Priceline or Orbitz are not our go-to travel sites for airfare. Find one you are comfortable with and stick with it. Knowing your way around the booking site makes for more efficient use of your time.
Be Prepared to Pounce when a good fare alert comes in that meets your criteria. Have the funds set aside in an accessible place then once a price comes along that matches your preset, thoughtful criteria, buy it without hesitation and don’t look back.
The first stop should be the airline site itself. When AirfareWatchdog delivers, then it’s time to buy and buy you must. Just to make it all easy, try buying through the airline website. Down the line, if the price decreases or you want to make a change, having booked directly with the airline can have some advantages over booking with a third-party source. Not many but some, especially if the third party source charges fees on top of the price of tickets.
If the price goes down later, don’t beat yourself up. You won. Don’t second-guess your initial price point, the procedure used to establish what that was or how you went about getting it. Still, visiting the airline to ask about a refund or credit towards a future booking is a good idea. This is also a good idea to book through sources that offer a price-match guarantee but know the details of that guarantee.
So let’s break that down into some easy steps
- Book the cruise first- there is really no point in having airfare without the cruise locked down
- Visit AirfareWatchdog- set up alerts for the flying days you are interested in
- Do your own search- just to know what pricing is out there right now.
- Buy, with a double-check first- AirfareWatchdog delivered, check other sources one last time and buy
- Watch for price drops-Yapta is a site that will alert you if the price goes down.
Flickr photo by caribb