How to Set a Kayak Price Alert, an Easy Way to Save Hundreds

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Last week I saved $65 on a oneway flight from Washington DC to Los Angeles because I had set a price alert on Kayak.com. A few years ago I saved $400 on a trip from Washington DC to Buenos Aires.

Kayak price alerts are an extremely simple tool that everyone should know about to save money on cash tickets for prices you know you need to take. Here’s how to set one.

Go to kayak.com and perform your regular flight search. Here’s an example for a weekend trip from New York to Los Angeles in April.

On the search results screen, click the “Price alert” link.

Fill in the box that pops up like this.

Selecting lowest price would cause a price alert to be sent with the lowest price trip for a whole month. Selecting weekly will generate one email per week instead of one per day. Click save, and you’ll start receiving emails overnight.

A few weeks ago, I started a price alert for a oneway from Washington DC to Los Angeles on February 13. Every night I got an email with that looked like this.

Most days, the cheapest nonstops were $174 like the email shown. But occasionally they dipped to $159.

I didn’t think I would have to pay $159 for a direct flight midweek in February, so I kept the price alert going. Every once in a while, the top of the email will tell you that your alert is about to expire. Ten emails are sent before the alert expires.

When your alert is about to expire, your email will tell you and have a renewal link.

I kept renewing the email and checking it every morning when I woke up. Eventually the price dropped significantly. The subject gave me the good news.

And the body told me that American had dropped its price, and the others hadn’t followed suit.

$109 seemed like the best I was likely to do, so I booked immediately before the price rose. Indeed two days later it did, and the price hasn’t dropped to $109 again since.

Kayak price alerts saved me $65 over booking on my original search. And they saved me a few minutes a day of manual searching.

This isn’t the only time I’ve used the service successfully. A few years ago, I was tracking Buenos Aires fares over Christmas and New Year’s and seeing $1200+ roundtrip. One day, the price on a Delta roundtrip was emailed to me at 3 AM as $881. I booked immediately. The next day the price was $1200+ again.

Now whenever I know I want to purchase a cash ticket on a certain route, I set a price alert.

When do I know I want a cash ticket instead of miles? Cash is better to use than miles when miles would be a poor value as miles often are for domestic flights and flights in the offseason. (I wouldn’t pay 60k miles roundtrip to Europe in the winter if the ticket price is $600.)

Price alerts are also fun to watch. It’s interesting to see the day-to-day movement in ticket prices along a route and guessing at the reasons. It’s also interesting to see the airlines ape each other completely. Usually if one airline’s price dropped $15, all of theirs did.

Recap

Kayak price alerts are an easy set-it-and-forget-it tool in your arsenal to ensure you pay the lowest price for a cash ticket.

Set an alert, track the daily emails, and purchase when the price seems better than average.

Bonus

Kayak has a service that does almost the exact opposite thing. You can search for the lowest fares in a certain month to a certain continent to take a vacation on a whim. Read about Kayak Explore here.


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