PORTLAND, Ore.— You probably know the basic tricks for finding airfare deals – buy in the middle of the week, check multiple sites, be flexible on dates. But there’s one secret you might not know that could save you hundreds of dollars on your next flight.
Here’s the trick: The next time you search for airfare on a travel site, try adding a hotel room for one night, even if you don’t intend to use it. Bundling a flight and hotel could save you hundreds of dollars.
For example: We found roundtrip airfare from Portland, Ore. to Budapest, Hungary on Expedia.com for $1,636. The same flight cost $817 after adding a hotel room for one night.
“Booking multiple items in one itinerary is the best kept secret in travel,” said Christie Hudson, communications manager for Expedia.com. “When travelers bundle their flight and hotel on Expedia.com, the average savings can be up to $600.”
The discount on air/hotel bundles is the result of available inventory, explained Hudson. Additionally, she said airlines and hotel partners are often willing to reduce rates because of the large volume of sales by Expedia.com.
There is no guarantee that you will find a discount by adding a hotel, but it is worth trying.
Similar discounts can also apply to car rental plus hotel.
If a traveler cancels one portion of their itinerary, it typically won’t impact any other portion. Most travel sites do not charge fees to cancel, but travelers should take a close look at rules and regulations in their vacation package itinerary to make sure there are no cancellation or no-show fees.
Bundling deals appear to work best for international trips.
Other secrets for saving on airfare
We also discovered other ways to save on airfare by asking travelers to search for bargains.
Here’s how it worked. KGW did a Facebook Live in early May, asking people to help us search for cheap airfare. We gave travelers 24 hours to shop online for two trips; Portland, Ore. to Memphis, Tenn., and Portland, Ore. to Budapest, Hungary, leaving between Aug. 10-12 and returning Aug. 17-19.
How they got airfare deals
The best deal a viewer found on airfare from Portland to Budapest was $842. Mindy Redburn-Smoak of Oregon City found the airfare using a few tricks, including a search of busy connecting airports.
“It only took about 20 minutes or so,” Redburn-Smoak said. “I had to search three to four websites.”
Lauren Randolph of Hillsboro found the best domestic airfare to Memphis: $309. She found the best deal by using Google's powerful ITA Matrix search engine.
Tricks to get these deals:
- Compare prices on several websites
- Search for busy connecting airports
She also based her search around busy international airports. A major airport will serve more airlines and provide travelers with more options. In this case, Redburn-Smoak found a great deal by building an itinerary around Heathrow Airport in London, United Kingdom. The $842 roundtrip airfare went from Portland to London, then on to Budapest.
- Consider booking multi-leg trips
Several travelers also found savings by booking multi-leg trips instead of a single roundtrip ticket. It can be quite a bit cheaper to book each leg of the trip, but it is tedious and there is risk involved.
First, you will probably have to recheck your luggage at each stop. Additionally, if you miss a connection, most airlines aren’t going to rebook your non-refundable ticket.
- Be flexible on dates and airports
Travelers looking for savings on a domestic flight from Portland to Memphis found discounts by considering alternate days of travel. Randolph found her $309 airfare on Google Flights, which has calendars and graphs that allow shoppers to compare prices from one day to the next.
Additionally, travelers should consider other nearby airports. For example, if you are visiting New York City, there are four regional airports including John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark and MacArthur Airport in Long Island.
“There could be some serious savings,” explained Octavio Blanco of Consumer Reports. “Recently, we did a search for New York airports and found for flights from New York to Los Angeles -- it was about $100 cheaper to book it out of Newark than to book it out of JFK.”
- Set a price alert
Some travel websites including Kayak or Travelocity allow passengers to set a price alert. If you sign up, the site will send you an email alert if the airfare price drops.
- Keep checking prices for 24 hours
After you buy a ticket, go back and check the latest airfare. By law, travelers have 24 hours to cancel a ticket with no penalty, no questions asked. Prices change all the time so if you find a cheaper airfare, cancel the original ticket for a better deal.