A vital part of your travel planning will be the purchase of your airline tickets. The days of totally relying on a travel agent to find you the best prices and complete your bookings are long gone. Agents still have a significant role to play in the travel industry but with the evolution of online booking, you now have an assurance of getting the best possible deal.
The first step in booking an airline ticket is to get familiar with the potential carriers that service your intended route. Narrow this selection down further into regular airlines and those that you'd regard as budget or low cost. If you are seeking the cheapest price, this is where your focus is likely to be. From here, it comes down to timing. Wherever you have genuine competition, you will have sales and special offers to take advantage of. Registering with airlines to receive promotional emails will help keep you updated with these cheap fares before many others become aware.
Shopping around has always been a time honoured way to save money. If you can't wait for a sale to appear this is how to ensure that you get the best price. There are many sites nowadays that will search the different airlines and return what they believe to be the cheapest option. Commission on bookings should be charged back to the airline and not added onto your fare. To be certain this is the case, check the price shown on the third party booking site against exactly the same ticket on the airline's site. They should be the same and if not take the lower one!
Being flexible with your travel timing is also a sure way to save money. You'll usually find that ticket prices vary significantly for the same route on different days. On popular domestic routes where there are several flights per day you're also likely to find significant variations. Often the cheapest flights will leave early morning or arrive late at night. It then becomes a choice between convenience and price. Remember that for a flight departing at an odd hour you may not be able to use public transport and the cost of a taxi to the airport may actually cost you more overall!
On long haul flights, airlines usually offer 'early bird' seasonal sales. These can be a good way to save but ensure that you do a comparative search with other airlines as they may be having a similar promotion or otherwise cheaper. Generally speaking, ticket prices tend to climb towards departure date but sometimes if the airlines haven't sold sufficient seats they will offer last minute fares at a great price. Once again, being registered to receive email updates from the airlines keeps you updated on these bargains and there are also websites that specialise in such offers.
If you have them available, consider redeeming your frequent flier miles when booking another flight with the same airline. These programs work on a 'use them or lose them' basis so it'd be a shame to see them go to waste. You'll still need to pay taxes but it's a great way to get a cheap airfare, especially if you points redemption coincides with a sale or promotion.
Finally, if you need to book several flights within a large country or geographic region, don't forget about the option of an air pass. You are guaranteed to save money over booking your flights individually and they generally offer flexibility. If you are planning an even bigger trip, then a round the world ticket will also save you a lot of money. There are several airlines alliances that offer these tickets and providing you can tailor your travel plan to meet their criteria then you'll be able to obtain excellent value.