Hack airfare like a pro

How do I consistently find all these US$400 round trip fares to the other side of the world? How do I make sure I book the right fare to qualify for maximum award miles? How do I maintain my top airline status without breaking the bank or a generous corporate travel budget? 

I get asked these questions all the time from friends and family, so I'm going to share my travel hacks and tips more broadly. Every Tuesday, I'll share a tip to help plan your next trip (or mitigate a potential crisis). 

Today, I'm going to start with airfare. Here are a few tips before we get to my list of favorite websites, tools and apps.

  1. Choose an alliance then focus on earning status on 1-2 airlines. There are 3 global airline alliances: Star Alliance, oneworld and SkyTeam. Frankly, there isn't a major difference between all three. I fly a lot to Asia, and my favorite airlines are on Star Alliance. Unfortunately, United Airlines is my least favorite of all US airlines, so having status makes it bearable.

  2. Airfare changes usually occur on Tuesdays. Check for deals on that day! Airlines will allot a fixed number of tickets for specific fare class. Once the tickets are sold, they're gone (for now). 

  3. Be flexible. Avoid traveling on popular days like Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Why? Monday and Thursday are popular days for business travelers. Friday and Sunday are popular days for weekend leisure travelers. Cheapest (and most available) fares depart on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.

  4. Read the fare rules and restrictions to avoid fees. Almost all fares nowadays are non-refundable. Some are sneaky and won't allow you to earn qualifying miles or dollars toward that status. Some have crazy fees if you decide to change or cancel your flight. 

  5. If it's too good to be true, pull the trigger. You have 24 hours to change your mind (in most cases). Even if almost every fare is non-refundable, every airline and booking agent gives you 24 hours to change your mind and cancel at no charge.

Now to my recommended websites for airfare hacking. All of these websites have mobile apps too. Your wanderlust (and wallet) will thank you.