1. Sometimes secondary airports are just as convenient, sometimes they’re not. Factor in the cost of getting to and from the airport.
For example, when I was staying with friends in Silicon Valley recently, San Jose airport was just as convenient as San Francisco Airport and I almost forgot to even check San Jose airport.
You can largely solve this problem by using booking engines that offer a “metropolitan area” search option.
Keep in mind that there might be some convenient airport options that the booking engines miss, so do your airport research.
On longer trips, you can get even more creative e.g., by flying into Finland and taking the train to Russia. If the flight cost is substantially less, your overall cost might be the same, and you get an extra country for free.
2. Don’t book flights that depart very early morning if the public transport doesn’t run 24 hours.
A secondary reason for not booking very early flights is that you probably won’t sleep well the night before. Being tired can lead to grumpiness, arguments, and making silly mistakes (like accidentally leaving your purse somewhere or misreading a boarding pass. My Mom got confused between her gate number and her seat number once and missed her flight).
3. Don’t book flights that arrive late at night.
Often either the public transport will have stopped running or you’ll be hit with “after midnight” surcharges for cabs. Also, if you’ve booked accommodation and something goes wrong with your booking (e.g., the guest house has given your room away), it’s much harder to sort problems out in the middle of the night.
4. Only add “extras” (e.g., an extra checked bag) a few days before your trip.
If your plans change and you can’t take your flight, it’s likely to be either impossible or a big hassle to get the fees for the extras back. There’s not usually any advantage to booking your extras at the same time you book your flight itself.
5. If you have to pay to select seats, see if you like your auto-assigned seats first.
Check in online (do it as soon as you’re allowed) and then only pay to change your seats if you don’t like what has been auto-allocated.
6. If you’re traveling with a companion, only pay one seat selection fee.
If you wait to see what you’ve been auto-allocated first, you might be able to just pay one seat selection fee in order to sit together. Or, you might choose not to sit together (e.g., if you’d rather both have aisle seats than sit together).
7. If you can’t take a nonrefundable flight, at least see if you can get a refund on your taxes.
This would be the exact type of request I’d ask the Visa Platinum Concierge to take care of (or at least find the information for me about what process I needed to follow).
8. Even if you’re booking round trip, check the prices for each one way.
Sometimes the exact same flights are cheaper when you look at each of the one way journeys separately.
9. Make sure you pay attention to the currency prices are quoted in.
I’ve almost made this mistake a few times, thinking something was being quoted in New Zealand dollars when it was in US sollars. Or, thinking the price was in USD when it was in Australian dollars.
10. Are inconvenient flights really cheaper?
When you’re considering inconvenient flights with long layovers, take into account the cost of taking an extra day off work or needing to pay an extra night’s accommodation.
11. Check the exact airport.
If you use metropolitan area search, you might be arriving into one airport and departing from another.
12. If you’re traveling as a pair, it might be cheaper for one person to book a bigger luggage allowance and the other person to book no luggage allowance.
Also, the cost of adding luggage is sometimes inexplicably cheaper when done by phone vs. online.
13. Airlines vary wildly in their charges for extra bags and sporting equipment (especially their policies for carrying bikes).
Check this info before booking, so you can calculate the total price for the flights and luggage you wish to take.
These tips aren’t the best advice for every scenario/airline. Do your own checking, but keep these ideas in mind.