One of my favorite resources for finding cheap air fares on the internet is Kayak.com.
The two Kayak features I use when I want to find a cheap airfare are Buzz and Explore. I will cover Kayak Explore in a future post.
Access Kayak Buzz by going to Kayak.com, click More, and then click Buzz under More Tools.
Note that for the default option of Top 25 Cities, you can specify a starting destination (From) and Max Price, and select a geographic range (Europe, Africa, etc.), date range (Leaving), and Stops (Nonstop or Any Stops). If you select the Lowest Fare option, then geographic range changes to a text box where you can enter a specific destination (such as London).
For me, when I enter Kayak Buzz, the From field is WAS (Washington, DC area airports–including IAD, DCA, and BWI). I often change it to IAD (or Dulles airport) to confine search results to my preferred airport.
WAS is my default because of Kayak’s cookies (my previous activity). So, your home airport may already be entered if you have used Kayak or, if not, you will have to enter it.
Here are a few examples of how to use Kayak Buzz to find cheap fares.
Example 1: I enter IAD for From, select Europe for To, select March 2012 for Leaving, and select Nonstop Only for Stops. Among the results are fares of $694 to Paris and $702 to Istanbul. I then change the Stops option to Any Stops and click Search. Those results show a fare to Istanbul for $543 and Paris for $692.
So, I can save $160 by taking a connecting flight to Istanbul but only $2 to Paris. The Istanbul $543 fare would be even more fun if I can create an interesting stopover in the connection city. How about if the stopover airport is Paris? I might possibly save $150 on a nonstop to Paris AND be able to have a vacation in Turkey. Superb!
Find current fares and more information by clicking on show fares or check now for any fare listing. Sometimes the current fare will be less than the Buzz result (such as Dulles to Boston. Buzz shows $133 but show fares shows $103).
Example 2: Without going back to the original Kayak Buzz screen, I can explore more airfares. Select United States and November 2011 and click Search. For a little warmth, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale are around $150 and Phoenix and Los Angeles are around $320. These are not spectacular fares but I know to not spend tons of time trying to find cheaper fares. Similarly, I can look at fares for other months and/or to different regions without leaving this screen.
Example 3: I couple of times I noticed fares between Dulles and Honolulu for about $750. I can research whether split tickets would result in cheaper fares by using the Lowest Fare option. I know that the Dulles to LAX fare is about $320. So, I will see if LAX to HNL fares are less than $430 ($750-$320). Click Lowest Fare button. Enter LAX for From. Enter HNL for To. Click Search.
Results show fares of $390 between LAX and HNL. So, it is not a much cheaper fare option to split tickets but I can still create a stopover vacation in Los Angeles (or San Francisco, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, etc.) plus fly on preferred airlines (like JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines instead of United or American).
Once you are familiar with Kayak Buzz, these steps only take a couple of minutes and are a powerful way of finding cheap fares.
What’s the BUZZ? Have you used Kayak Buzz to search for lower airfares? Other sources? Let me know by leaving a comment.
Charles McCool is an independent consumer travel advocate.
© 2011, Charles McCool