Hit The Road
Ticket search starts with Sunday ads
I know what it means to be a dirt-poor traveler, believe me. Throughout college, I worked in various part-time jobs, sometimes two or three at a time, in order to fund my trips. That is how I have become so experienced at finding the most inexpensive air fare possible.
When flying to the mainland, the cheapest deals can often be found by studying the ads in the Sunday newspaper. By comparing prices listed in these ads, you will get a general idea of the price of a ticket to major world destinations. Keep in mind that these prices are just a base price and will fluctuate depending on how near or far your departure dates are.
Also, if you are planning on participating in a study-abroad program, the travel agencies might not have round-trip tickets available because of the length of the trip.
You are not going to find the best deal without some detective work of your own. The ads offer leads as to who to start calling to discover who has the best deal, but don't book that reservation until you also check Internet resources.
There are online travel sites geared toward students and specializing in discounted air fare, rail passes and accommodations.
These sites include Student Universe at www.studentuniverse.com, and Student Travel Agency at www.statravel.com. Both agencies offer a wealth of information on visas and passports, safety and other guides for students on budgets, as well as first-time travelers. Students can apply for their ISIC (International Student Identification Card) on these Web sites. The cards are extremely useful for obtaining student discounts at theaters, cinemas, restaurants and shops worldwide.
Other Internet travel agencies to check include Priceline, CheapTickets and Lowestfare. And students should check out Sky Auction (www.skyauction.com), which allows bids as low as $1 on air fares or packages.
Tickets on this site usually are for major mainland cities, such as Los Angeles, New York City and Boston, and Asian or European cities. Sometimes the fare is low enough that it is worth it to buy a separate ticket from Honolulu to the departure city, then use the auction ticket to reach the final destination.
I used this technique to get to London for a wedding over spring break. I won a ticket from Los Angeles to London for $300 and then booked a round-trip ticket from Honolulu to Los Angeles through a local agency for another $300. What a deal! Just make sure the flights are far enough apart so as not to get stuck if the first flight is delayed.
Don't forget to consider time when booking a ticket. Tickets for peak seasons, such as high summer, Thanksgiving and the holidays, are bound to be more expensive than, say, October. Also, flying on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays will often bring down prices, since flights are generally less crowded and the airlines want to fill their seats. Booking flights too far in advance might make them more expensive than waiting until a month before, but waiting too long can be risky. If you are up to the risk, most online travel agencies run amazing last-minute deals, but you need to catch them at the right time.
Finding low fares involves research, planning and creativity, which are necessary elements to pulling off a trip on a budget. And because nobody seems to serve food on flights anymore, it's best to pinch pennies to splurge on a bento before takeoff.
Joy Uyeno travels frequently throughout the year, and her column geared toward young and beginning travelers appears the second Sunday each month in the Star-Bulletin Travel section.