12 steps to the best airfare

 (Photo courtesy of WikiHow)

How to get the best deal on plane tickets to France

Old travel truism: no two people on the plane actually paid the same price for their tickets, even though they're going to the same place and getting the same service.

The guy in 22B might have ponied up $1,300, while the person in 22C with whom he amiably chats during takeoff paid just $320 (note to person in 22C: don't break it to him; you'll ruin his vacation).

This site will help you be that guy in 22C.

The secret to landing the least expensive plane tickets every time is to know where the deals are, search wisely, and never pay retail if you can avoid it.

Here is cheat sheet on how to do this: a brief roundup of all the tips, steps to take, and websites to use to find the cheapest airfare. Click on any one to get much more information and tips on that particular technique.

Don't pay retail

  1. Shop around – Use an aggregator to comparison-shop all the booking engines and travel agencies at once (Momondo.com, Skyscanner.com, Google.com/flights, Vayama.com, DoHop.com). » more
  2. Buy wholesale – Consider a consolidator that buys in bulk (FlyInternational.com, CheapTickets.com, CheapOair.com, TFITours.com, etc.). » more
  3. Book blindly – Opaque fares from Hotwire.com and Priceline.com come with lower costs, but less control over precise flight times and airlines. » more

Know that timing is everything

  1. Know your travel seasons – High season (and high prices) is June 15–Sept 1 and Dec 15–Jan 6. » more
  2. Buy at the right time – The sweet spot is 8–12 weeks out. » more
  3. Be flexible – Look into flights leaving/returning a day or two earlier or later for potentially huge savings. » more

Know where the deals are—and get them delivered to your inbox for free

  1. Get deals newsletters & e-savers – Sign up for for sale alerts with airlines and at deals sites like TravelZoo.com, Frommers.com, BudgetTravel.com, SmarterTravel.com. » more
  2. Get fare alerts – Know when the prices to your favorite destinations drop (Airfarewatchdog.com, Farecompare.com, Yapta.com, Farecast.com). » more

Deploy insider secrets

  1. Be smart about frequent flier miles – Get elite status on any airline, get perks—no checked bag fees, free exit row seats, first to board, airport lounge—at every airline in its alliance. If you're elite on Delta Airlines, you're elite on Air France (Skyteam.com, Oneworld.com, Staralliance.com). » more
  2. Price out vacation packages – Buy air/hotel or air/car (or all three) together at a discount. This is not a tour; your trip is your own (Gotoday.com, Gate1travel.com, SceptreTours.com, Expedia.com, Untours.com). » more
  3. Look into alternate airlines – Whether it's a carrier from a third country (say, Aer Lingus via Dublin, or Air Portugal via Lisbon), or a low-cost upstart (like Norwegian or WOW). » more
  4. Investigate the Big Ben Switcheroo - Find a cheap fare into London, then fly no-frills elsewhere for peanuts. » more
Airfares links
Air consolidators links

Tips

Reid's shortcut to the best fares

All of the airfare hunting techniques mentioned on this site have merit, but, honestly, if I had to narrow it down to two crucial places to check, they would be:

1) The aggregator Momondo
2) The consolidator AutoEurope

Nine times out of ten, I end up booking my plane tickets to Europe through one of those methods.

Watch those fees!

With many airlines now charging to check even a single bag, or to pick your own seat, or for the meal, headsets, and even a pillow and blanket, it helps to know the a la carte fees before you fly.

These sites take stock of the current fees status:

Basic phrases for air travel

[[phrases_air]]

Useful French phrases

Useful French for air travel

English (anglais) French (français)   Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is... Où est? ou eh
...the airport l'aéroport lair-oh-POR
the airplane l'avion lah-vee-YOHn
terminal terminal tehr-me-NAHL
flight vol vohl
gate porte pohrt
customs douane do-AHN
to the right à droite ah dwa-t
to the left à gauche ah go-sh
straight ahead tout droit too dwa
departures hall Hall de départ ahl de day-PAR
arrivals hall Hall d’arrivée ahl da-ree-VAY
exit sortie sohr-TEE
delayed en retard hn ruh-TAR
on time à l’heure ah LOUR
early en avance hn ah-VAHNS
check-in l’enregistrement lun-rej-ee-stray-MUN
immigration l'immigration lim-ee-grah-SYON
security check le contrôle de sécurité luh kon-TROLL de say-cure-ee-TAY
shuttle la navette lah na-VET
boarding pass une carte d’embarquement ooun kart dem-bark-eh-MUHn
baggage claim la livraison des bagages la lee-vray-SOHn day bah-GA-j
carry-on luggage les bagages à main lay bah-GA-j ah meh
checked luggage les bagages enregistrés lay bah-GA-j on-ray-jee-STRAY

Basic phrases in French

English (anglais) French (français) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you merci mair-SEE
please s'il vous plaît seel-vou-PLAY
yes oui wee
no non no
Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais? par-lay-VOU on-GLAY
I don't understand Je ne comprende pas zhuh nuh COHM-prohnd pah
I'm sorry Je suis desolée zhuh swee day-zoh-LAY
How much does it cost? Combien coute? coam-bee-YEHN koot
That's too much C'est trop say troh
     
Good day Bonjour bohn-SZOURH
Good evening Bon soir bohn SWAH
Good night Bon nuit  bohn NWEE
Goodbye Au revoir oh-ruh-VWAH
Excuse me (to get attention) Excusez-moi eh-skooze-ay-MWA
Excuse me (to get past someone) Pardon pah-rRDOHN
Where is? Où est? ou eh
...the bathroom la toilette lah twah-LET
...train station la gare lah gahr

Days, months, and other calendar items in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quand est-il ouvert? coan eh-TEEL oo-VAIR
When does it close? Quand est l'heure de fermeture?   coan eh lure duh fair-mah-TOUR
At what time... à quelle heure... ah kell uhre
     
Yesterday hier ee-AIR
Today aujoud'hui ow-zhuhr-DWEE
Tomorrow demain duh-MEHN
Day after tomorrow après demain ah-PRAY duh-MEHN
     
a day un jour ooun zhuhr
Monday Lundí luhn-DEE
Tuesday Maredí mar-DEE
Wednesday Mercredi mair-cray-DEE
Thursday Jeudi zhuh-DEE
Friday Vendredi vawn-druh-DEE
Saturday Samedi saam-DEE
Sunday Dimanche DEE-maansh
     
a month un mois ooun mwa
January janvier zhan-vee-YAIR
February février feh-vree-YAIR
March mars mahr
April avril ah-VREEL
May mai may
June juin zhuh-WAH
July juillet zhuh-LYAY
August août ah-WOOT
September septembre sep-TUHM-bruh
October octobre ok-TOE-bruh
November novembre noh-VAUM-bruh
December décembre day-SAHM-bruh

Numbers in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 un ehn
2 deux douh
3 trois twa
4 quatre KAH-truh
5 cinq sank
6 six sees
7 sept sehp
8 huit hwhee
9 neuf nuhf
10 dix dees
11 onze ownz
12 douze dooz
13 treize trehz
14 quatorze kah-TOHRZ
15 quinze cans
16 seize sez
17 dix-sept dee-SEP
18 dix-huit dee-SWEE
19 dix-neuf dee-SNEUHF
20 vingt vahn
21* vingt et un * vahnt eh UHN
22* vingt deux * vahn douh
23* vingt trois * vahn twa
30 trente truhnt
40 quarante kah-RAHNT
50 cinquante sahn-KAHNT
60 soixante swaa-SAHNT
70 soixante-dix swa-sahnt-DEES
80 quatre-vents  kat-tra-VAHN
90 quatre-vents-dix  kat-tra-vanht-DEES
100 cent sant
1,000 mille meel
5,000 cinq mille sank meel
10,000 dix mille dees meel


* You can form any number between 20 and 99 just like the examples for 21, 22, and 23. For x2–x9, just say the tens-place number (trente for 30, quarante for 40, etc.), then the ones-place number (35 is trente cinq; 66 is soixsante six). The only excpetion is for 21, 31, 41, etc. For x1, say the tens-place number followed by "...et un" (trente et un, quarante et un, etc.).

‡ Yes, the French count very strangely once they get past 69. Rather than some version of "seventy,' they instead say "sixy-ten" (followed by "sixty-eleven," "sixty-twelve,' etc. up to "sixty-nineteen.") And then, just to keep things interesting, they chenge it up again and, for 80, say 'four twenties"—which always make me thinks of blackbirds baked in a pie for some reason. Ninety becomes "four-twenties-ten" and so on up to "four-nineties-ninteen" for 99, which is quite a mouthful: quartre-vingts-dix-neuf.