Everyone’s had those days where they’re day-dreaming about a trip they can’t afford and they just wish to themselves that flight prices would magically drop and they could magically afford that trip to Milan, Italy or Kenya or wherever.
Well…I can’t tell you that magic is happening but I have honestly booked flights to Milan, Italy and Nairobi, Kenya for $300 or less each, roundtrip.
If you’re asking yourself, “Is this some kind of joke? Is this a mistake?” then the answer is…well…one of those things is true.
I know I’ve blogged about this before, but you seriously need to be reminded about this. Because mistake fares are exactly the kinds of deals you daydream about.
What is a mistake fare?
Most basically, a mistake fare is any time there’s some kind of mistake in the process of pricing a ticket (or hotel room) online. Most often, this happens because there’s some kind of error in the process of programming that price. For instance, whoever is plugging in the formula for that price somehow misses plugging in the fuel portion of that price.
How cheap can these mistake-fares get?
These mistake-fares are all over the place in terms of price. We don’t tend to pay attention to them until their as low as $400 or less for an international ticket. Once there was even a “$0″ United fare that cost only $5 in airport taxes, but it wasn’t honored.
Which brings me to another important point…
Do these mistake-fares actually get honored?
The airline mistake fares almost always get honored. The $0 United example didn’t get honored because no one actually bought anything. But for the most part a mistake fare is going to be cheap enough to be a ridiculously good deal, but cost you enough for the airlines to make the decision to honor it.
For whatever reason, hotel mistake-fares on the other hand are not always honored. In this case, the hotel will generally reach out to contact you and inform you of the mistake and offer the chance to cancel.
How do you find these mistake-fares?
There is only a little bit of “finding” involved in mistake-fares. For the most part, the best way to “find” mistake-fares is by connecting with other “travel-hackers” who might publish these mistake-fares on their social media. For instance, my husband and I try to share the mistake-fares we hear of on our Facebook page. Because this network of people is so big, and thanks to the forum “Flyertalk”, the word tends to spread.
However, like I said, there is still some “finding” involved.
Here’s what I mean. Because this pricing mistake is usually an error in how the price was code, it can take some trial and error to figure out what the mistake actually is.
For instance one person may be browsing “fill-in-the-blank-bookingservice.com” and stumble upon a ticket to Milan in February for only $150 roundtrip. The error is existing on fill-in-the-blank-bookingservice.com, so you’ll know right away that you need to be booking your ticket there. But maybe you aren’t free in February, so you try out June. No luck. Or maybe you’re not interested in Milan so you try Rome. No luck.
Many times these mistake-fares are somewhat specific and restrictive, but maybe less than you’d think.
In the example I just used with Milan, there were some people booking in other times of the year, but not all times of the year were revealing the mistaken price. Or, in the case of the Nairobi mistake-fare mentioned, some people were finding that mistaken price for other destinations, but not all destinations.
Finding the mistake-fare you want can take some playing around, but be careful. They don’t last long.
These mistake-fares are such a fine line between amazing and inconvenient, because not only do they tend to be specific, but they go quickly. So sometimes in the time it takes you to find out if you can get the vacation time off, or in the time it takes you to call up a travel-buddy, the mistake gets fixed and it’s gone.
Because of this, figure out the cancellation policy right away. If the cancellation policy allows any decision-making time at all, then you can feel free to book a mistake-fare speculatively. Which is to say, you can book the first mistake-fare that catches your attention as possibly feasible, without worrying about working out the details ahead of time.
If there is any flexibility of cancellation at all, book first and work it out later.
Who are mistake-fares good for?
While this may sound complicated, it is perfect for anyone with a free spirit and a spontaneous nature. Or, for people who want to see the whole world. If you have one specific destination in mind for your next trip, and are uninterested in other destinations, then mistake-fares are not for you. But if you are always up for an adventure, and curious about travel of all kinds, then you may just find a mistake-fare fitting your next spontaneous travel needs.