5 On Your Side

Looking for cheap flights? Plan ahead and shop around

Posted November 21
Updated November 29

Security lines. Baggage fees. Cramped quarters.

Flying isn't always the most pleasant experience, but there are ways to save.

Consumer Reports compared nine different websites that promise good fares, searching for the cheapest nonstop round trip flights on five busy domestic routes.

Users simultaneously searched the same itinerary at the same time, and they found some big differences.

In one search for a trip from New York to Miami, the least expensive fare Google Flights came up with $597. On Priceline, the lowest price was $459.

Despite its name, CheapOAir never came up with the lowest fare on any of the routes that Consumer Reports checked.

"We found that you'll increase your odds of finding the lowest fare if you search for flights multiple times over multiple days with and without your search history cleared on your browser," Consumer Reports' Mandy Walker said.

Also, make sure to check the airline's website to see if you can find an even lower price. Google Flights also has a way to check all routes available for all airlines.

Fare prices can vary considerably for flights that are hours apart and at nearby airports. Consumer Reports says Kayak makes it particularly easy to search for other options.

With prices changing constantly, Consumer Reports says it's also a good idea to check the day after you've booked to see if you can find a better deal.

By law, travelers can cancel plans without penalty for 24 hours after a flight is booked as long as you're not traveling for at least a week.

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