How to Save Money on Russian Travel
Make your reservations as early as you can . . . the earlier the better. This will ensure that you get a seat on the fights you want and it will also improve your chances for a lower airfare. Waiting until a few weeks prior to your departure date can be costly and extremely disappointing if the flights are full.
For most carriers everyone pays a different price for their coach seat on the aircraft. The least expensive coach seats are sold to those that book first and what remains are usually the more expensive coach fares or higher business or first class seats.
Be aware if your air fare is refundable or not and if changes can be made without penalties. With all the financial troubles being faced by the airlines they are getting more restrictive with their fares. If you need a refundable fare or one that will allow you to make changes without too much of financial burden make sure to specify this when booking your reservations.
Use Frequent Flier miles if you have enough. Ask how you can buy or earn the extra miles you need if you are slightly below what is required for a ticket to Russia. It will take 40-60 thousand frequent flier miles depending on the carrier and time of year for a free ride to Russia from the United States.
Make your airline reservation and put it on a courtesy hold before making payment. Usually the airlines will hold your non-refundable reservations for 24 hours to give you time to make sure you want the flight. Get a printed copy of the itinerary and review it for accuracy first before committing payment. Finding a mistake in the dates of travel or changing your mind after paying for a non-refundable ticket can be very costly.
Make sure your itinerary is compatible with the people in Russia you are going to see before making a financial commitment.
Ask the airline if the airfare will expire anytime soon. Airfares change everyday . . . new ones are added and existing ones expire. If the fare is stable and there are lots of seats available then it may be safe to delay a financial commitment. If the fare is going to expire soon and there are only a few seats available then you may be forced to make a decision quickly.
Be flexible with your travel dates and times. Lower fares may be available on other fights. Ask your airline or travel agent to check alternative dates, times and carriers for a lower fare.
Be selective with the carrier you fly on. If you are a frequent flyer with a certain domestic carrier see if they or their travel partners can provide you with a desirable schedule and fare. Giving them your business first will reward you with thousands of frequent flyer miles. Even if their fare is slightly higher the miles you earn on a single trip to Russia could increase your frequent flier status with your preferred airline and help you earn enough miles for a free flight.
Be aware of overnight connections. Some airline schedules will require you to overnight in a hub city between your home and Russia. This will add a significant expense and hassle to your travel if you need to get a hotel room for one night in a foreign country. I experienced this situation when flying British Air back to America from both St. Petersburg and Moscow. This usually happens if your flight home leaves Russia late in the day and misses the connecting flights back to the States. However this may be an attractive circumstance if the idea of spending a night in London is appealing to you.
Frequently there are discounted fares from selected gateway cities (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, etc) to Moscow or St. Petersburg. You can make a separate reservation or use frequent flier miles to get to these gateway cities. Add the cost of getting to these cities to the cost of the special airfare to see if it is better then booking your itinerary all at once.
Contact a travel agency that specializes in Russian travel. Often they know the best international fares to Russia since they work with these airlines everyday. They can also coordinate your travel to other Russian cities.
If you live in or near a city that Aeroflot flies to you may get your best deal with them and enjoy a non stop flight as well. They fly modern Boeing aircraft on their international service.
More information can be found in the Advice Guide:
How to Save Money on Travel (part 2)