It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a psychic seance to raise the spirits of current airline wisdom. You would think that after traveling to 53 countries and having had over 2 dozen frequent flier trips, and all the rest, I would be able to get the bargain airfare when I needed it for myself. You know the saying, “With my luck when my ship comes in I will be at the airport.”? Most likely that is because they are still trying to negotiate a decent fare. The rules used to be fairly simple and easy to manipulate, but not so any longer.
Using the old knowledge, during June I started hunting down airfares from Budapest to Guatemala or Belize for our annual winter holiday. They were starting at $1,300 each round trip. Certainly no bargain, so I thought perhaps I was shopping too early, so they had no incentive to offer bargains just yet. I tried looking on Tuesday nights, the other pearl of wisdom I have polished over the years. Tuesdays are the days that a number of airlines change their fares, so bargains are to be had. No luck.
When it started creeping onto September, we decided it was time to make the commitment or really cry over spilled milk. Back at it, the great airline budget ticket safari began. When you start seriously searching for air tickets, you learn the shorthand. Budapest is BUD, the international airline code. G Guatemala is GUA, Belize is BZE. First there are the starter kits of airline ticket buying: One starts with Expedia and Orbitz, just to get the lay of the land. Then you move on to Travelocity, Kayak, Skyscanner, but still without any fabulous differences it is time to get your hands dirty, by digging deeper. Still more dirt to uncover and rocks to look under. FareCompare and Travel Zoo are the next sites that are checked. Some sites are getting worse results than others, but none are getting any cheaper. After giving Booking Buddy a shot, it seems my Buddy has turned traitor; it is not giving me any bargains at all. I hear about Pelikan.hu so try that and navigate the Hungarian, but numbers are number and these fares were not adding up to a good deal.
TripAdvisor, One Time Tickets, Cheapo Tickets only caused more confusion than any assistance in the matter. What is really a false promise is when you see these gloriously low prices on tickets only to realize they are quoting in British pounds, not dollars. What I hate is when you find a great fare, but then realize immediately there are no taxes or services fees included, so when you pull out the calculator, you really are looking at needing lottery winnings for the price of the ticket. Those bait and switch tactics are illegal in the US, but some countries they can still get away with it. For good measure, I try Momondo and then Bravofly, but I am still not getting off of the runway. AirNinja is next followed by Smartertraveller and the latter not only searches, but offers another dozen sites to do the same search all over again. BUD to either GUA or BZE is not producing any good results, so then I try the same things with VIE instead of BUD, but still to GUA and BZE. There is no issue in going to Vienna the night before and flying out the next day if we can get a good fare. Nada! Nincs, Nichts!!
It looks like KLM has some great flights from Amsterdam, so I then try to the whole circuit again with just AMS to GUA or AMS to BZE. We can always get a cheap Wizz Air flight to AMS. Strangely enough, the flights were MORE expensive from AMS than BUD. Perhaps BUD is a better BUDdy than AMS is after all. Add to this whole mix is the fact that I have not been back to the US of A since 2003. A number of these flights go to the US first and then on to Central America. I really didn’t want to break my record of time out of the US, so finding flights that didn’t stop there was like finding hen’s teeth in a hay bale. It just was not going to happen. Darn it all.
Speaking too soon, we did find a flight that went from MAD to PTY. We could get to MAD, but the pity was that we didn’t want to go to PTY first. PTY was not on this year’s list of places to visit. That however did stimulate the thoughts of being in MAD first, seeing the Christmasy things and then flying from there to GUA. This started the whole process all over again. After finally being reassured that we found the absolute best airfares we could find, we then searched the sites of the airlines we would be using: American. Looking at their site, there were no better fares, so then I checked the sites of all of the other reasonable airlines in the OneWorld Alliance to see if any of their partners had better fares, though it would be code sharing anyway.
The end result is we are now the proud owners of 2 sets of tickets: set one is from BUD to MAD, which is interesting. It only take a few hours to get MAD. We spend 3 nights in MAD and then continue on from there to GUA. After a month, we leave BZE to return to MAD for one night and then back to our BUD. Are you curious where we found the best deal after all of this? Drum roll please…..Expedia! Surprise, surprise, but this has not always been true in the past, so I will go through the same thing all over again in the future.