One of the most valuable things I’ve learned during my years at Harvard I learned from my roommate Kathryn. Her lessons in how to travel have truly been life-changing. Kathryn has been to 28 countries in the last three years by constantly prioritizing travel and by maximizing her trips through long layovers and error fares. I used an error fare to travel to Italy this month for only $280 round trip (compared to about $1,000 normally), and today I’m sharing all our error fare tricks with you!
What is an Error Fare?
For starters, an error fare is what it sounds like. An airline makes a mistake, leaving out the price of fuel, or taxes and fees, resulting in a much cheaper ticket. An error fare can also be caused by a technical glitch on the part of online travel agencies (e.g. Expedia, Priceline, or Kayak). Sometimes the airline or agency realizes their mistake within minutes, but sometimes an error can persist for many hours. If you manage to book a ticket before the error is corrected, then you can get a great deal.
Where can I find one?
Sites such as Secret Flying and The Flight Deal constantly monitor for these errors as well as bargain fares, and they provide instructions on how to find and book those fares. By checking these sites on a daily basis, you can stay up to date on great deals. If you spend a lot of time on Facebook, setting these sites’ pages to “always show first” is an easy way to stay up to date. I try to retweet these accounts when I see an especially good deal, so you can follow me on Twitter for updates as well.
How do I book one?
If you see an error fare you want, book first and think later. You have to act quickly to grab error fares before airlines notice their mistake, and, in general, you have at least 24 hours to get a full refund. The same time I booked the error fare to Italy, I booked a family trip to Zurich for November. After some quick research, it became clear that November is not a good time to visit Switzerland, so we canceled our trip at no cost to us.
Where else can I get flight deals?
An excellent error fare isn’t that common, so if you don’t have time to wait around for a deal or error fare, there’s a few things you can do to get a cheaper trip. First off, usually the earlier you can book, the better. Second, if you don’t have a specific destination in mind but instead a general case of wanderlust, you can use Skyscanner or Google Flights to see what destinations are cheapest at the time of year you’ll be traveling. Google Flights has many helpful research tools, as described in this article. Finally, if you have the energy, red-eye flights can be a great way to save money on hotels.
Do you have any favorite tricks for planning trips on a budget? I’d love to hear them!