Advice if traveling to the west coast from Cbus

As an international student, I decided to visit Florida, Texas, California, New York, Washington DC, Boston and Chicago while in school (i.e. during breaks). I have been to Washington DC and Florida, and I plan to go to California this winter break.

Last week, I searched for round trip tickets through KAYAK, EXPEDIA, PRICELINE, SOUTHWEST WEBSITE and DELTA. Kayak and Expedia were recommended to me by my Chinese friends; Priceline is what I used when I worked as an administrative assistant at OSU; the Southwest website was suggested by one of my California friends; and I knew about Delta when I headed to the U.S. It seems that Kayak offers more flight information than Expedia and Priceline.

My ideal flight plan should meet the following requirements:

1. Leave Columbus in the early morning and arrive at San Fransisco by noon. If I arrive in San Fransisco in the evening, I won’t have any time and energy to visit the downtown, etc., during my first day. So I hope I can reach San Fransisco by noon.

2. Leave San Fransisco in the morning or afternoon. Since there is three hour difference between OH and CA, I realistically cannot leave San Fransisco in the evening. If my flight take off in the evening, no friend will pick me up at 2am or 3 am at the Columbus airport 🙂

3. The shorter the flight duration, the better.

4. I cannot spend more than $380 for the round trip fare.

5. Delta is preferred, since I can accumulate the mileage.

I was interested to find that the price offered by these three price comparison websites is the same with that offered by the airline companies. I also found that Southwest airline and Delta airline have cheap ticket for departing (outbound), while offering expensive return (inbound) ticket. It is probably because the closer to Christmas, the more expensive the ticket price. The differences between Southwest airline and Delta airlines for the round trip of Columbus, OH – San Fransisco are:

1. Delta has more flights than Southwest.

2. Delta has more non-stop flights than Southwest.

3. Delta has cheaper fares (at this time) than that of Southwest.

Then I decided to choose Delta.

I could not find the perfect round trip choice from Kayak, Priceline and Expedia. Majority of the shorter duration flights that are pretty inexpensive leave in the evening and back in the early morning. Then I tried to search Delta website for duration trip, I was disappointed by the Delta suggested round trip flight plans. Finally I came up with an idea: Why not purchase the one-way trip twice?

I found that the price for two one-way trip is the same with the round trip in Delta. I was able to design the flight time for myself, without following the round trip plan designed by Delta. Finally, I found the right flights with satisfying price and time. Moral of story: Think outside the box when booking airfare. Most people think one way fares are most expensive – and this is true most of the time. But in my case, I was able to save a few $$$s and get the itinerary I wanted by getting two one way fares.