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Online Airline Reservations

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More and more travelers, particularly among the younger generation that has grown up with the Internet, are turning to online reservation systems to make their flight arrangements. There’s a logical reason for this. Booking a flight (and a car rental and hotel reservation, for that matter) online is faster and more convenient, gives you more freedom to comparison shop and is usually a little cheaper than the traditional methods – calling a travel agent or contacting the airline directly.

There is a multitude of ways to book online, each valid depending on your needs. They are all straightforward and simple to use. The best part is, if you want to book a flight while curled up on your sofa watching a late-night scary movie in your underwear, no one will be the wiser.

Where to Look

If you want to save money, take a tactical approach to booking your flight. Compare prices using a variety of websites. Try to book well in advance – but not too far because fares could drop in the interim. Staying flexible on travel dates and destinations could save you thousands. Bottom line: do your homework.

  • Airline Websites -The most simple and direct approach is to go through the reservation systems that can be found on every major airline’s website. If you’re booking at least 21 days in advance, you’ll likely get that airline’s best price; wait until the last minute, and you’ll wind up paying a premium. Some airlines offer special Web-only fares, giving you added incentive to check out their sites.
  • Shopping Engines -If you haven’t lived on a deserted island for the last 10 or 15 years, chances are you’ve heard of Expedia or Travelocity. Both allow you to comparison shop and book online, and they have enough clout in the industry that they can offer regular, exclusive discounts in addition to the published fares on the airline sites.
  • Auction or Discount Sites -If you have the time, the flexibility and the inclination, this might be the best route to go. If you fear the unknown, use another method to book online. Sites such as Priceline or Hotwire can offer flights at deeply discounted prices, but you can’t select your flight times, and you won’t know which airline you’ll be on until after you’ve paid for your ticket.
  • Last-Minute Sites -If you’ve decided on a whim to catch a Broadway show in the Big Apple, check out places like Last Minute Travel and Site 59. Both specialize in putting together last-minute packages that include low fares with hotels and even car rentals. Flexibility is the key for this type of site, but you could save plenty of dough.

Staff Writer