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Tired of calling around to various airlines and talking to impatient reservationists while trying to scrape up a good deal on an airline ticket? Well, the Internet may not solve the world’s problems, but it has made it possible for the savvy traveler to find flights, reserve seating assignments and even meal preferences, and book tickets all from the privacy of the home and without ever having to speak to a live person.

Just like so-called “bricks and mortar” retailers, the travel business has been shaken up by the rapid growth of the online economy. Most of these changes have benefitted the consumer. There’s a whole world of new information and new purchase options for the bargain-minded traveler that makes finding and booking low-priced airline tickets easier than it has ever been before.

Just follow these simple steps and you’ll be on your way to taking control of your travel, paying less, and enjoying the experience a whole lot more.

Step One: Join travel websites. There are numerous websites out there devoted to travel bargains and you can join most of them for free. Many of them have a very useful feature that allows you select your favorite travel destinations and then receive e-mail notifications when airfares between your local airport and your selected destinations reach a price that you specify. A good strategy is to join not just one but several of these sites, and sign up for as many e-mail notifications to different destinations as you can.

Step Two: Be flexible. The airlines' single most important goal is to fill seats. If you are willing to travel on certain days of the week, (generally Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays) you stand a better chance of getting a good deal. Also, if you are willing to travel during off-peak hours and make one or possibly two connections you stand a better chance of getting a cheap ticket. Remember that many cities are served by two or more airports, and flexibility in this regard will also be helpful.

Step Three: Have your credit card handy. When low fares become available, they are usually restricted to a limited number of seats. The lowest fares sell out fast. If you are ready to move you will be more likely to get the best deals. If you wait even a day, you may find that prices have risen drastically.

Step Four: Name your own price. Some travel sites allow you to bid for airline tickets by naming the price you are willing to pay. This, too, is a free service, and it’s a great way for the bargain hunter to explore low-priced options. Just be sure to read all the fine print and know what you are getting into. Most of these services require your credit card number to place your bid. If your bid is accepted, you have bought the ticket. You can’t change your mind.

Step Five: Book your tickets online. Yes, now that you’ve found the deal you were looking for, many sites and airlines allow you to book your tickets online, and reserve your seating assignment and specify your meal preferences online, too. Enter your credit card number, select the electronic ticketing option, print out a copy of your itinerary, and you’re ready to go. Just show up at the gate (make sure to bring a valid picture i.d. and your credit card) and you will have completed the whole transaction without ever picking up the phone! Have a nice trip.