* Check for lower fares the day before or after your selected dates.
* Fares are quoted in pounds and euros. Get out your calculator and a list of current exchange rates (see Page 15) and multiply the fare by the exchange rate to get the dollar figure. Or check such currency conversion sites as www.xe.com or www.oanda.com.
* The first fare you see will not be the final fare. Taxes and fees, which can more than double the cost of your fare, are added later.
* Allow a minimum of two to three hours between flights if you are connecting. Ryanair claims 91% on-time arrivals for January through May, easyJet 76%.
* Remember that baggage must be claimed after every flight. You may end up toting bags that might otherwise have been checked through to your final destination.
* Factor in travel time and extra costs (if any) from outlying regional airports.
* Be flexible. The lowest fares may be at "unsocial" hours.
* Policies on changes are very restrictive. Read the fine print.
* Shop around. Because the fares can be booked one way, you can mix and match airlines, depending on your destination, to achieve your best savings.
"Never assume that [the low-fare airline's fare is] going to be the lowest," Eastment says. "Sometimes we can find a lower fare on British Airways."
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Finding the lowest intra-European fare
Using these companies' Web sites, here is a comparison of the lowest fares from London to Paris on a Sept. 25-29 trip. Prices are subject to change.
*--* Web site One way Round trip easyJet $28 $70 British Midland $44 $83 British Airways $534 $98 Air France $540 $105 Expedia $79 $111 Eurostar $90 $180*
*62-day advance purchase train service via the Chunnel
Sources: Companies' Web sites
On the Web:
www.ba.com (British Airways)
www.flybmi.com (British Midland)
James Gilden writes the Internet Traveler twice monthly. Contact him through his Web site, www.theinternettraveler.com.