I start out with an open mind. I don't want to limit myself by specific airlines or even modes of transportation. I'll take a plane, train, ferry, or even a scooter if it'll take me to a desired location. That being said, I usually start with airfare since it's the fastest and usually the easiest to find.
I start my search on either expedia.com or kayak.com. I prefer Expedia since they always include the taxes and other fees. I absolutely hate finding airfare that's I think is a steal to then realize it's actually $300 more with taxis included. Expedia doesn't play with my emotions and I like that about them.
I use Kayak to find which airlines are the cheapest to a desired location. I will then go directly that airline's website and search for an actual ticket there. It'll either be the same price that Kayak quotes or even cheaper.
When it comes to airfare within a desired region I'll usually do a quick google search of which airlines are the cheapest and the most used. For example, In Europe it's highly recommended to find flights to other European countries on Easy Jet or Ryan Air. Both companies offer discounted prices all the time. It's especially great for the boy and I since we'll be able to benefit off of last minute deals thanks to our flexible time line.
It's very important to try different options. If you plan on visiting multiple destinations make sure you incorporate that in your search. Expedia gives you the option of flying to multiple destinations and I often find that flights are a lot cheaper when booking this way. For example, yesterday I was looking up flights to Aleppo, Syria on our way to Delhi, India (from Europe). My first search looked like this:
Milan, Italy -> Aleppo, Syria (connection in Cairo, Egypt) = $399.50/person
Aleppo, Syria -> Delhi, India (connection in Doha, Qatar) = $382.20/person
grand total: $781.70
Using the multi-destination option I found these tickets for nearly $100 less:
Milan, Italy -> Aleppo, Syria (connect in Amman, Jordan)
Aleppo, Syria -> Delhi, India (connect in Amman, Jordan)
Total for both flights together : $690.60
I had tried flying out of various cities in Europe. Milan has been the cheapest thus far but I still have a few more airports that I'm looking into. I'm telling ya, I could spend hours doing this stuff.
Also, I had sworn myself against travel agents- mostly because I thoroughly enjoy doing the work on my own and paying someone to do what I love would just be dumb. However, most travel agents have partnerships with certain airlines and can often get you discounted airfare that you won't find on their websites. For example, Kangsan Travel based in South Korea will often find me great prices on trips to Thailand and other areas around Southeast Asia. They also have a neat feature on their website that allows you to look up your own airfare. Only downside is that you don't get the taxes added on until you check out.
Here's a little cheat sheet that I've made just for you:
Flights to or around Europe:
Flights from Korea:
- www.whypaymore.co.kr (You'll need someone who reads Korean to help you)
Flights to or around Southeast Asia:
Flights to India:
Now don't forget, I'm still learning. There are so many other tricks of the trade and I'll be more than happy to share them with you as soon as they're revealed. Until then, I hope this helps. Feel free to offer an advice that you have to share!