Istanbul: Flights are Booked!

Over the weekend, my Istanbul buddy and I booked our flights. After a week of monitoring flights, we observed the prices all go up by $20 and decided we should just hurry up and do it. We'll be going for one week at the beginning of March for $550.10 per person, round trip. I think that's pretty amazing, especially considering it's a 5000 mile trip.

If you're curious or looking for some flight searching tips, here's my technique (which I use when I have no particular destination in mind).

First step: kayak buzz
Do a little search to see what destinations are plausible.
I inputted my city of choice (airport is usable as well), chose the region I was interested in (Europe, obviously), and then the time frame. I used March 2012 because that's when my travel cohort is on spring break.

Once I hit search, I was given a list of destinations and dates that had the cheapest fares.
As you can see, Istanbul is still second on the list (I say still because this is a screenshot of a more recent search; we decided on Istanbul a few weeks ago and all flights were slightly cheaper back then). I've been to Dublin multiple times already so I wasn't really interested and though I eventually want to go to Denmark some day, we thought Istanbul was more "exotic" and totally outside of our comfort zone.

Second step: refine the search.
I went to do a normal search in kayak to personalize my search.

I put in the general time period we were looking at and then used the flexible dates option to get the best price. The little calendar to the right is actually a great guideline for what dates to use, if you have that flexibility. You get a nice snapshot of what it costs to fly on what days, which can help you choose accordingly.
As you can see, there are a few options to choose from and I clicked the +/- 3 days button. Kayak actually gives you a few more options to refine your search even further, as you can see from the drop down menu below the date input. I kept it at 3 days to maximize the ability to find the cheapest trip.

Final step: choose your flight.
Once you hit 'search,' you'll be taken to a screen with this lovely chart. The column along the left shows the possible departure dates and the row across the top shows the possible return dates. I boxed the dates I used (3/3 and 3/10) and you can see the +3 days and -3 days for each. For a while we were looking to depart 3/6 and return 3/10 for $576 but decided that we wanted to be out of the country for longer and chose a $551 flight.

Now it's time to look into the lodging and sightseeing.

Cheers and happy searching.