June 16, 2009

Internet tools to help you track low airfares

Not that we, the fans of travel, didn’t look for best, which means lowest, fares before, but now, in this economy, it became the most important factor to influence our travels. And sometimes, some of us do give up on going anywhere if the price is just not right.

So, I thought of giving it a try and share some of the tools I have been using for years, and some ‘new kids on a block’ that were recently founded to add to the pool of low airfare tracking tools on Internet.

While not long ago we had to monitor airfares manually, day by day, hour by an hour, this is not the case anymore, thank god. There are now Internet tools that allow you to do so with minimal effort, leaving you more time for home and work activities.

These tools can be used either by itself, solo, or in a combination. I do both, whatever leads to the best travel deal. Finally, the budget travelers, who are never satisfied by first online pull-out of an airfare rate, have tools at their disposal to gather timely information on the costs for a given flight. Try checking a few of them at the same time to establish a baseline price for your airfare shopping.

The online travel industry is a not only a competitive market, but it’s also a growing one since most people neither have time for a face-to-face contact with a travel agent, nor to go to individual airline sites, or browse through all the travel search engines, like Travelzoo and Expedia. However, these established sites have already gained enough of credibility, and have proven record for offering worthy packages and deals through their platforms.

But again, personal travel online “assistance” is not “futuristic” myth anymore, it’s real and available. And what’s more – all of it is free, and you are still the main controller of the situation, like it or not – it’s all up to you to pick a deal you like; these tracking tools are only here to help.
This site allows you to subscribe your email address for daily updates on low fares, while the site’s blog posts the day's best finds, which includes a daily top 50 airfares. Whereas many people are reluctant to give away their emails to services like this, being afraid for solicits, Aifare Watchdog does pledge that they “do not sell or trade email lists," and they offer "easy unsubscribe." You can tailor the alerts they send you to your home airport(s). They also have a "low fare of the day" feature.
The FareWatch tool is tied to the U.S. Department of Transportation data bases. You simply select a departure city from a drop-down menu and click "go." Choose a destination city in the same way. This is probably one of the simplest fare tools available.

The DOT data then shows you the lowest average fare for that route, complete with the airline and its market share. You'll also see that data for the market leader on the route, and even the number of daily passengers who fly between the two airports.

These are good for baseline comparisons. Remember that very few hot bargains will show up here. This is a tool to check the average fare. It will help you eliminate the outrageously high offers, and appreciate the bargains.

Launched on July 1, 2007, Yapta - an acronym for "Your Amazing Personal Travel Assistant” - now has more than 350,000 registered users. The site can track fares from 23 different airlines, including American, Delta, United, Jet Blue, Virgin America, and many newly added international carriers such as Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa.

Once you find a flight you like, you can track it, and Yapta will alert you when the price drops. If the price declines after you purchase it, Yapta will help you get a refund or credit from airlines that have lowest guaranteed fare policies (most of them do if you buy directly from the airline, which Yapta helps you do by linking directly to the airline sites).

What makes this interesting to the budget traveler is the ability to target a specific flight of your choosing and then watch the airfare as you would the price of company stock. It's done with software called a "tagger" that is downloaded to your computer.

Seattle based Farecast offers a unique service by providing its users with intelligent airfare predictions. Founded in 2003, unlike other travel companies Farecast offers international flight price predictions.

Farecast tries to predict flight price changes for consumers so they know whether to buy now or wait. In late 2006 they added guarantees, effectively allowing consumers to buy insurance policies against price increases in the event they decide to wait. And as of 2008 Farecast now also offers hotel bookings.

The site offers flight predictions for over 200 markets between U.S. cities and Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean and Canada. According to USA Today, travelers can search for international trips up to two weeks long and six months out and Farecast will predict whether fares will go up, down or hold steady over the next week.
Internet Airfares is tied to Worldspan, a data base for travel agents. This tool provides information for 36 major cities in the United States and Canada. Simply click on the city and see the lowest fares from that airport to other cities. Excursion, advance and refundable fare categories are included.
This Norwalk based travel search engine is not a new tool on the market, it’s actually won quite a bit of that travelers’ market share. It indexes hundreds of global travel sites to help you find the right flight, hotel, rental car or cruise line. Its Buzz tool gives you a range of airfares for the past 48 hours before you start shopping. Buzz allows you to survey these prices. You enter an origination airport and destination continent. You'll then receive a list of available airfares sorted from lowest to highest. This makes it possible to pick out the lowest-priced destinations at a glance.
Founded in November 1999, SideStep is a metasearch engine for travel which searches more than 200 websites looking for the best travel deals.

Founded in October 2003, Mobissimo is a travel search engine that indexes over 180 travel sites. It searches and compares prices from online travel agencies around the world, traditional airlines, low cost airlines and consolidators.These online airfare tracking tools are certainly not the only services at your disposal on the Internet, and you might find others that do better work for you. That's why it's important to make several base comparisons as you shop.

Still, such wide-known and well-used worldwide travel search sites as Kayak, Expedia, CheapFares, CheapTickets, Cheap Fare Guru, and Travelocity manage year after year to offer competitive offers, but it does take up some time to find those deals, which any of us would die to have.

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