Bid late at night or early in the morning when the system is less active. (Photo: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images )
Bidding on airline tickets is like bargaining in a souk. You start out by quoting an unreasonably low price and wait to see how far the other party will budge. Priceline, the most prominent airfare bidding site, was named as one of the best travel websites by "Travel+Leisure." Its "Name Your Own Price" bidding feature advertises savings of up to 40 percent off of published ticket prices. Flexibility is key to successfully finding low fares when bidding. Priceline changes its bidding rules periodically, restricting how frequently you can bid, but you can bid again immediately by slightly altering your search criteria.
Define your travel bidding parameters: airports, dates and times. Check to see if there are alternative regional airports near your home airport or destination. Map the distance between your home and destination and these smaller airports to see if it is feasible to travel to or from these airports. Evaluate your travel plans to see if there is wiggle room in your departure or arrival date or if you can accommodate overnight or early morning flights.
Research the current rates for your prospective itinerary. Search on Kayak, a
fare aggregator that uses real-time fare information, for your original airports and travel dates. Note the lowest prices available for these flights as well as any alternative dates you are able to travel on. Click on "show fare charts" in the upper left-hand corner to see historic prices for the fare you are considering. Consider waiting for published fares to drop before bidding if fares are currently trending upward.
Go to Priceline.com and click on the green "bid now" button under the "Name Your Own Price" heading. Select your primary departure and arrival airports and preferred travel dates and click "bid now." Enter in a bid amount on the next page that is 50 percent to 60 percent lower than the published fares you found in Step 2. Type in your contact information and credit card number, and click the green "buy my tickets now" button.
Wait for Priceline to process your bid. Review the offer Priceline highlights if it declines your bid. Accept this option if the fare seems appropriate to you or select the option to retry your bid with different criteria. Include off-peak travel times or alternative airports, if you can accommodate these changes, and bid again as you did in Step 3. Begin again with different travel dates if you have not found an appropriate fare.