When you travel, it's not always about getting the best deal – it's about getting the right deal. Patrick Surry, the chief data scientist at Hopper, knows that consistently paying a reasonable price over spot-checking and buying airline tickets on impulse will save you money in the long run. Hopper is a travel search engine that compiles the history of airline prices based on destination and the time you are traveling — so you know the best prices for your upcoming trip based on past flight records. As the man responsible for coordinating the research Hopper uses, he knows just as well as anyone when you should buy and fly — and shared his tips with us.
What is the biggest mistake people make when traveling?
Procrastinating. People just procrastinate too long by spending a week or 10 days looking for the "best deal" to save money and you end up spending more. Spot-checking the internet every few days results in a 5 to 10 percent increase in what you pay because the longer you look, the closer you get to your departure date, which means higher prices when you finally do purchase. So when you get online and look for a ticket, book the first thing that is a reasonable, fair price.
How do you know that you are getting a good deal?
You just have to do your homework before you try to purchase by looking at past flight history and prices and seeing what other people are paying — and that's what Hopper does for you. If you know that ballpark range, you will know what is reasonable for that destination at that time of year. It's not about finding the "best" deal, but finding a good deal.
What do you do when you book flight tickets?
I try my best to look beyond the obvious to make things work — that means looking at flying into alternate destinations or at different times of the day. A lot of people automatically fly straight into their destinations — especially when traveling to European cities such as Rome, Paris, and London. But flying into a nearby airport and then traveling into the city can save you a lot of money. Last year on our family vacation to the UK, we flew into Portugal and took trains to our destination. That alone saved us more than $2,000.
What is your one piece of advice for travelers?
Be flexible. The more specifics you start with while planning a trip — whether it be dates, times, destinations, hotels — the more you are locked into paying more. It's not about not having a plan, but some of the best — and cheaper — vacations are ones that are not set in stone. If you are flexible about where you stay, when you fly, and where you go, you can have an amazing trip and experience things you wouldn't have otherwise.