Getting The Best Deal On Flights From Ottawa To San Francisco
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The Ydeals Noise-Free Guide To Getting The Best Deal On Flights From Ottawa (YOW) to San Francisco (SFO)
|There are thousands of travel sites out there, all wanting you to believe they have unique or special prices on airfares to San Francisco. They don't. |
They use marketing noise to hide the fact that there is really only one source of unique prices on flights from Ottawa to San Francisco.
This guide will remove the noise and show you what that source is, so you can stop wasting so much time when searching for the best deal.
What are the unique sources of prices on flights from Ottawa (YOW) to San Francisco ?
Unique Source #1 - The Major Airlines
Are there any nearby airports I can fly to instead of San Francisco (SFO)?
You could consider flying into Oakland (OAK) which is about 35km from San Francisco, just across the bridge.
Most of the time though, fares to Oakland are pretty similar as fares to San Francisco. It never hurts to check though.
Where should I look to get the best deal?
All you need to do is search all the major airlines, preferably at once. My current favorite way to do this would be using Google Flights Explorer. You can enter 'San Francisco (SFO)' into the 'To' box, and see current airfares from all the major airlines. Not to mention how easy it is to browse through different date combinations.
Ottawa to Oakland doesn't appear to be currently supported by Google Flights Explorer. If anyone reading this ever sees them appear, please let me know.
Even if you're planning to go for a longer date range than this tool supports (currently up to 2 weeks), it will give you an excellent idea of what the typical bottom price is right now, and which airline(s) it can be found on. Use it as a starting point, and then use a tool with more precise search options, such as...
My second favorite way would be to search using Kayak. It has all the sort and filter options I need, and searches all major airlines. Click on 'Make my dates flexible' and set it to '+/- 3 days'. You may be surprised how often being a little flexible with your dates can result in a better price.
Another thing you can do with Kayak is select the option for 'nearby airports' underneath your destination on the front search page. If you enter in San Francisco (SFO) for example, and select 'nearby airports', it will also search Oakland (OAK) and a couple others (such as San Jose, which I don't think is really close enough to consider nearby). Or you can pick and choose which airports you would like to search by clicking on 'airport map'.
What about the thousands of other sites that have airfares to San Francisco?
This is the noise. There is no shortage of travel sites or brands trying to convince you that they have the cheapest flights from Ottawa to San Francisco. The truth is though, there's only one unique source of prices that they're gathering their prices from, and that's the prices from the major airlines themselves. They can't offer a lower price than the airline itself, as there's already virtually no markup.
There's a few reasons why I think travelers waste an enormous amount of time checking multiple websites, hoping for a better deal than the one they already found (studies show it to be an average of 22 different sites over 10 periods of research!). The first reason is just human nature. We all want to compare prices and make sure we're getting the best deal.
But I think the biggest reason is simply the noise of travel marketing. With so many travel sites and brands competing for your attention, all hoping you'll book through them, combined with the fact that not one of them will *ever* admit to you that their source of prices is the same as everyone else, it's little wonder travelers waste so much time searching.
What about searching the airline's website directly?
There's nothing wrong with doing that. It's usually just a lot easier to search all of the airlines at once, with a better interface using a good search tool. It's amazing how poor many of the airline's search interfaces are. The fares found on any half-decent search engine will be the same as the fares found on the airline's own website.
One thing you can do is just use a search tool to search all the airlines at once, and then go to the airline's own site to book it once you've figured out exactly which flight you want, and what the price is.
What about my local travel agency or independent travel agent?
They're seeing the same prices you are. Depending on the agency or agent, they may or may not charge you a 'booking fee' on top of the airfare price, for their time. As there's virtually no markup on the cost of flights, they can't offer you a price that's any cheaper than from the airline, or from a search tool that properly searches the latest airfares.
When should I book to get the best price?
This is never an easy question to answer, as airfares are not 100% predictable. Airlines start by setting their price at a level they think will fill the maximum number of seats, based on the demand they expect to see.
If they experience less demand than they expected, they may decide to lower them. If they experience more demand than they expected, they may raise them. Unfortunately, a lot of factors that influence demand can be unpredictable.
How long a person can wait it out in hopes of a better price is a personal decision. Personally though, I am usually not afraid to watch prices on the major airlines up to about 8 weeks before departure in hopes of a better price without fear of the price rising. But everyone has a different tolerance for risk.
What about last minute deals?
Last minute airfare deals to San Francisco on the major airlines don't really exist. Typical of most airfares on the major airlines, as you get fairly close to the departure date, if the airline has done their job correctly, and filled most of the seats on the plane, they feel the last remaining seats become more valuable, and often decide to raise the price.
What's a decent price from Ottawa to San Francisco?
From Ottawa, flights to San Francisco tend to bottom out around $500 to $600 (roundtrip after taxes). Oakland is usually pretty similar. This is just a general guideline though, based on average demand periods of the year.
Airfare prices are highly affected by demand. So anytime you can think of a reason that there might be higher demand than usual for travel to San Francisco (such as dates when many people in Ottawa have holiday time) you can expect prices to react accordingly.
As for the Christmas holiday period (anything between Dec 21 and Jan 5), that's a whole other level of demand, which means prices are never anything but very expensive relative to the rest of the year. As a very general rule of thumb, I find you can usually take a decent price from an average demand period and multiply it by 1.5 to get your typical Christmas price.
What about one way flights to San Francisco?
You should be able to get to San Francisco (SFO) for about 50-60% of the cost of a roundtrip flight. Use the same search techniques as for round-trip flights, and just change the search option in your favorite search tool to 'one-way'.
What about non-stop (direct) flights to San Francisco?
From Ottawa, there are not currently any non-stop (direct) flights to San Francisco (SFO) or any of the surrounding airports. The fastest you can get there is usually with 1 stopover each way on Air Canada or United (layover in Chicago), or on Delta (layover in Detroit).
What about a multi-city flight? Such as into San Francisco and out of another airport nearby?
Searching for multi-city flights in travel is still a bit of a pain. Even Google Explorer currently can't handle it, as there's too many possible combinations. I'm sure eventually someone (likely Google) will put enough processing power behind it and create something useful for searching multi-city fares.
But for now, you're stuck with searching one departure date at a time when it comes to multi-city fares and experimenting with different destination combinations. Most of the decent travel sites will offer a multi-city option (it should be right next to 'one-way' and 'round-trip').
Kayak would be my preferred option here. Just click on the 'multi-city' option and in the first box, enter in Ottawa to San Francisco (SFO), or whatever airport you want to fly into, and then in the second box, enter Oakland (OAK) to San Francisco, or whatever airport you want to fly out of.
You never really know what you're going to get with a multi-city fare. From Ottawa to the San Francisco area, it can often be around the same price as a typical roundtrip fare to the same destinations (or an average of the two). Sometimes it can be slightly more. In rare cases it can even be cheaper. Of course, you're still left with figuring out the cost of getting between the two airports.
What about cheap flights to San Francisco from U.S. airports close to Ottawa?
If you've ever read my guide about flying out of U.S. Airports within driving distance of Ottawa, you may know that I feel it could be worth the drive, when you see an airfare from a U.S. airport to San Francisco that's at least a certain number of dollars less per person than the airfare from Ottawa.
How much cheaper it needs to be depends on which U.S. airport you're flying from. Below, I'll list how much cheaper I feel it should be from each U.S. airport, to be worth the drive.
From Ogdensburg, New York (OGS)
I feel it could be worth the drive, when you see an airfare from Ogdensburg to San Francisco that's at least $175 less per person than from Ottawa. Unfortunately though, the only airline that flys out of Ogdensburg is Cape Air, and they don't fly to San Francisco.
From Watertown, New York (ART)
I feel it could be worth the drive, when you see an airfare from Watertown to San Francisco that's at least $250 less per person than from Ottawa. Unfortunately though, the only airline that flys out of Watertown is American Airlines, and their flights generally aren't much cheaper than from Ottawa. They're also not usually the most ideal routes, sometimes with 2 layovers in each direction.
From Syracuse, New York (SYR)
I feel it could be worth the drive, when you see an airfare from Syracuse to San Francisco that's at least $350 less per person than from Ottawa. That means it would probably need to be in the range of $250 roundtrip after taxes or less, to be worth the drive. This can certainly happen on occasion.
I think I've found a great deal on a flight to San Francisco!
Excellent! Please share it with your fellow travel lovers, they will appreciate it and thank you for it! You can post it in the YOW Deals Facebook group (click 'Join Group', at the top-right, when you arrive), where thousands of people from Ottawa are crowd-sourcing the best deals, and sharing great travel advice.
Why should I trust this guide?
|The info in this guide is based on my observations of the travel industry over the years, including all the thousands of websites out there, and where all the different players get their prices from and how they interact with each other. |
The goal is to remove the noise of travel marketing, so people can stop wasting so much valuable time searching the same prices over and over.
But, as social proof of it's accuracy, feel free to join the YOW Deals Facebook Group (click 'Join Group', at the top-right, when you arrive) and publicly disagree with any of it, or make a comment below. Critiques are always welcome!
I think I have some info that could help improve the guide!
Great! Please post your info in the Facebook group above, or contact me directly. Suggestions for improvement are always appreciated. Let me know if you see something that seems inaccurate or outdated.
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