It’s not news to anyone that the cost of flights can vary greatly depending on when and how you purchase your ticket.
For example, flying between New York and London roundtrip in economy could cost you as little as $291 if you snag a deal, or over $1,000 if you don’t.
But the problem is that truly great deals come and go incredibly quickly, sometimes in a matter of hours or even minutes. So, how do you make sure you get them before they’re gone?
We’ll give you two techniques: one that’s easy enough for everyone to do, and one that will take some more advanced travel hacking and technology skills.
The Easy Way: Sign Up for Deal Alert Newsletters
There are literally thousands of airfare deal alert newsletters you could sign up for. Most of them aren’t worth it.
In fact, in our experience, there are just two daily newsletters that every travel hacker should subscribe to.
Secret Flying finds just about every good economy-class deal there is to be found. They’re listed on the website, or better yet you can subscribe to their newsletter and get daily emails of flight deals leaving your continent.
The Flight Deal is quite similar to Secret Flying. Both sites frequently list the same deals, but occasionally one will have a unique deal that gets missed by the other. It’s worth subscribing to both sites to make sure you don’t miss out.
While you may have some control over the deals you’re interested in, it can be easy to get overwhelmed with deals in your inbox that aren’t relevant to your travel plans.
This is where Gmail’s filters can come in very handy.
Say you use Gmail and you wanted to highlight any emails from Secret Flying that contain deals involving your home city of Houston.
You’d just type: “from:email@example.com Houston” into your Gmail search box, hit the down arrow, then hit “Create filter with this search.”
You can then tell Gmail what to do with matching results, such as “Star it” or “Always mark it as important.”
Alternatively, you could choose to make it so only newsletters with “Houston” in them make it to your inbox, by choosing “from:(firstname.lastname@example.org) -houston” as your search query and selecting “Skip the inbox” as your filter.
The Hard Way: IFTTT RSS Alerts
This method gives you the opportunity to get an alert for relevant flight deals the moment they’re posted to the internet. Newsletters are fine, but if a really great deal is posted at 6 a.m., there’s a good chance it could be sold out by the time your newsletter hits your inbox in the afternoon.
To do this, we’re going to be combining two internet technologies: IFTTT and RSS feeds.
IFTTT stands for “If This Then That,”, and it’s a website that lets you combine different web services into “Recipes.”
An RSS feed is a feed of a website’s content that can be easily processed by computers.
What we’re going to do is set up an IFTTT recipe that monitors a website or forum for a relevant deal, then emails you the moment that deal occurs.
For our example, we’re going to set up a deal alert for The Flight Deal, but then we’ll give you examples of other sites where you can apply the same technique.
Step 1 – Find the RSS Feed
The majority of frequently updated sites on the internet have an RSS feed. Sometimes, all you have to do is find the RSS icon and click it; other times, it can be a bit more complicated.
Here’s an article that goes into some depth on how you can find RSS feeds.
In the end, you’ll find a URL that looks something like this:
If you go to that URL in your browser, you’ll find a page of code that looks like this:
Confusing, right? But that’s fine. You don’t have to do anything with that feed besides plug it into IFTTT.
Step 2 – Get the Feed Into IFTTT
Head over to IFTTT and create a new account if you don’t have one already. Once you’re in your account, click on the “New Applet” button.
Click on the “If This” button to get started.
You’ll be asked to select a service, and you’ll want to choose “RSS feed.”
Next, you’ll be asked to choose a “trigger,” and you’ll want to select “New feed item matches.”
Next, you’ll be asked to put in your search term, and the RSS feed URL.
Typically, the most useful search term you can use here is your home airport. But it’s important to know how the site you’re using typically refers to your home airport. For example, The Flight Deal typically uses city names, while other sites might use the three-letter abbreviation.
Since we’re using The Flight Deal’s feed in our example, we’ll choose “Houston” as our search term to find deals into and out of that city; but on another site, we might be better off with the city’s airport code (“IAH”).
Fill out the two fields with the correct info and hit “Create trigger.”
Step 3 – Set Up Your Notification Email
Now that you’ve chosen the “This,” you get to choose the “That” in your recipe.
Click the “+that,” then select how you want to be notified. If you frequently check your email, that’s probably enough.
If you want to be notified even quicker, you can choose to get a text message whenever a match is found.
But for now, let’s choose “email” as our action service and “Send me an email” as our action.
IFTTT will now give you some options to customize your notification email with different pieces of the RSS feed. You can get advanced and customize this, but it’s generally fine to just leave it as is.
Hit “Create action” and you should get an automatic notification any time a matching post is put up on your target site.
This same technique can be applied to nearly any site. Other flight deal blogs and sites are an obvious target, but FlyerTalk forums can come in really handy here.
Obviously, you don’t want a feed for every single post on FlyerTalk; you probably want one for a specific forum, and the link to that feed is a bit hard to come by.
Here’s the secret.
FlyerTalk forums have URLs that look like this:
The corresponding URL for that forum’s RSS feed looks like this:
So, if you’re on a forum on FlyerTalk and want to find that forum’s RSS feed, all you need to is add the last three numbers in the forum URL to:
Or, you can just let us do it for you.
The links for those forums’ RSS feeds are:
• Mileage Run Deals: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/external.php?type=RSS2&forumids=372
• Premium Fare Deals: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/external.php?type=RSS2&forumids=740
The truth is that a good number of the great deals that end up in flight deal newsletters are first found and posted on one of those two forums.
Snooze in Comfort During Your Trip
Every once in a while, you might find a great business-class international deal with a lay-flat seat. But there’s a decent chance that your best deal will be in economy.
But that’s no reason to sacrifice a good night’s sleep. With the right gear, you can be comfortable on any seat, and for that matter, anyplace else you might find yourself on your trip.
The key is our Midnight Magic sleep mask. For less than $20, you’ll be able to sleep through bright cabins, noisy seatmates and even annoying attempts at conversation.
An adjustable fit and nose strip lets you customize your comfort and darkness level, while rounded eye liners keep the mask from putting pressure on your eyes. A silky-soft plush fabric delivers ultimate comfort, and elastic-free straps hold the mask in place without snagging on your hair.
Not convinced? Check out the reviews to see why other flyers have fallen in love with what just might be the world’s best sleep mask.
So, what are you waiting for? Gear up and then set yourself up to find, and take advantage of, killer flight deals for your next vacation.