Which airline is best? Which airline won't screw you on fares? Which airline won't lose your luggage? HA! Trick question, they all suck!
Being fairly frequent international travelers we have found that they are all equal in most aspects, but we did have a relatively good experience flying KLM on our last journey. We also used to fly a specific airline (which shall not be nAAmed) because of it's loyalty program, but not it has become so very difficult to use those miles that we now book based on airfares alone. I would love to be able to lie and tell you that we always fly first class but the reality is that we fly the cattle car section like most of you will.
How do we choose when to take our trip? With very few exceptions spring and autumn are the best times to fly to Europe. The hordes of tourists have dissipated and things have calmed significantly. Ahhh, Spring .... the flowers are blooming, the bees are buzzing, the weather is ... erratic. Autumn however, autumn is a joy. The exuberant colors of turning leaves, the smells of baked goods and roasted chestnuts, the (mostly) predictable, dryer weather make for an unforgettable stay. Avoid August (when most Europeans take their holiday) if at all possible unless you love huge crowds of sweaty, smelly people.
When do we purchase our tickets? Remember this phrase "90 days pays". We have tried many times to beat the "90 days pays" system (by buying tickets very early or very late) and have failed in every instance. For some unknown reason the most reasonably priced air fares are posted at around 90 days in advance of your flying date. This time the best fares were found 92 days in advance and would have saved us around 15% off of the fare that we actually paid (due to me ignoring my own rule and trusting an all knowing airfare website that promised me the fares would decrease, which they did not do .... *face palm*). But which day of the week is best? Tuesday. All airlines announce their sales on Tuesdays, thus look for your best price in the evening on the Tuesday just before your 90 days, Or whichever day your Ouija board tells you.
Where do we find the best fares? If you buy airline tickets through a travel agent you are either very old or very naive. Why pay someone to do what you can do better and cheaper? The best way and by far the most common way to buy your tickets are via the internet, but you must be careful. To find the most reasonable air fares you must go to one of the search engines that specialize in pricing a multitude of websites. Be wary of the 3rd party search engines (let's come up with a non-existent company name that won't ruffle anyone's feathers ... let's say PriceOrb) that purchase the airfares for you as that they can cause you huge headaches. Now if PriceOrb makes a mistake in the bookings the airline will not allow you to make any changes or fix the problem, you must call PriceOrb to fix the problem and we both know that the odds of reaching a human at this company is slim at best, and if you do reach a human they will probably have only the most basic grasp of your language. The second problem, to which I can personally attest, is that you quite often will not be awarded the flyer miles for the trip because you did not make the reservation. Lastly you will find that PriceOrb fares are not really up to date and find that your airfare is more expensive than the fare posted. "We're very sorry, but the fare chosen is no longer available and now we must break you".
For the most part I use Kayak (http://www.kayak.com/) to find my airfares and have found it to reasonably accurate, but that doesn't mean that I trust Kayak implicitly. The best method for finding your reasonably priced airfare is by using a site like Kayak to locate an airfare and then going to that airline's website and purchasing it directly from them.
You can assume that you will pay at least $1,000.00 for each fare and if you should be so lucky as to find it for less, BUY IT.
Next time - Hotels