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March 19, 2015

If you're always looking to save money on airfare (who isn't?), follow these five tips—they'll help you stay ahead of the game in terms of travel deals.

Many leisure travelers have to mind their money when it comes to booking a trip, and airfare is often the largest obstacle to clicking "purchase." The key to removing that obstacle is finding a great deal on airfare, which can seem a fool's errand considering all the websites, booking engines, and "book on Tuesday" tips on the topic.

The trick to scoring shockingly cheap flights (like our recent Kauai trip, or that $200 surprise to Abu Dhabi) isn't much more than sitting down and thinking through your travel goals so you'll be ready to whip out the credit card the moment the deals pop up.

When it comes to being prepared for an airfare deal, these five things are key:

1. Destinations

Sit down and have a quiet moment to yourself. Turn off The Travel Channel, X-out of Pinterest, and enjoy some nice daydreaming about destinations you want to visit in the next year or two. Make a top 5 list, or zero in on one in particular. If your focus is not so much on destination but activity (surfing, diving, skiing, museum-hopping, eating empanadas, etc), then think on what cities would be great for a visit to enjoy that activity.

2. Dollars

Set a flight budget. This is as simple as writing a value next to your destination targets. For example: "Hawaii < $600" or "Barcelona < $400" or "Hong Kong < $700" or "any Southern Caribbean island < $300." Don't be afraid to make the prices impossibly low, as you never know what sale, fare war, or mistake will drive those ticket prices deep down.

3. Dates

Consider when, in the coming months, you'd be free to get away on a trip. Write down the dates. When an airfare happens, it usually comes with specific date rules and the less time you spend looking through your iCal and coordinating with friends and family makes it likelier to score the deal.

4. Discussion

Talk about your immediate desire to travel. Go out to breakfast or lunch with friends or family and bring it up. Facebook about it. Gauge the interest of others in joining you, discuss their availability and general budget, and make a list of people whom you can text or call when an airfare deal ticks all the boxes. If they're serious with moving forward with trip plans, be proactive and get the ID info necessary to book travel, which includes name as printed on passport, passport number, date of birth, passport expiration date, and any frequent flyer numbers. Use Venmo to receive payments from everyone who's on the itinerary, and reap the credit card points. You organized the trip and you purchased the flights, so you'll be the one toasted at that waterside dinner on the first night in paradise.

Deal-watching

Finally, you've got to be ready to catch the deals. We recommend following TheFlightDeal, FareDealAlert, and Airfarewatchdog, as their alerts have enabled us to jet off on bucketlist trips for pennies on the dollar, over and over and over.

http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2015-03-19/be-ready-for-the-next-...

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