When it comes to finding the best deal on airfare, timing is everything. The cheapest tickets are usually purchased three weeks in advance. Airfare prices increase as the date of departure gets closer, so booking ahead of time will save you money. Also, many airlines offer last minute deals if they have not filled their flights.
If you’re flexible with your travel plans and can take advantage of these last minute deals, you may be able to get a ticket for a lot less than if you had booked in advance.
How to get the best fare:
1. Sign up for airfare alerts. Airlines compete, and you can benefit from the competition. Sign up for fare alerts on sites such as Kayak.com and Airfarewatchdog.com. If a fare for your preferred date or route drops, you’ll receive an alert in your inbox or on your mobile phone.
2. Be flexible with travel dates and times. The best deals are usually available Monday through Thursday, and they vary by destination. In general, prices are higher during the summer months, major holidays and spring break, but low fares do pop up at unexpected times so it pays to search frequently and be flexible with travel plans if you want to score a deal.
3. Fly indirect routes when possible, especially overseas flights where nonstop flights typically cost more than connecting flights.
4. Book directly with the airline website instead of a travel agent site or online booking site such as Expedia or Orbitz (although these sites are good tools for comparing fares). Avoid booking through a third-party travel agent because they often charge extra fees that can be avoided by booking directly with the airline’s website.
5. Buy tickets well in advance of your trip if possible (
Airline tickets can be expensive, but there are ways to get cheap tickets. These tips will help you get the best deal on a plane ticket.
The best way to get great deals on airline tickets is to be flexible about your travel plans. I usually start out by looking for the cheapest flights available from my home airport, but then play around with the dates and times and length of stay until I find a deal that works for me.
For example, when I was planning my honeymoon, I started out by searching for the best deal on a round-trip ticket to Hawaii. After finding a good deal, I checked out the prices on one-way tickets and found that they were almost as cheap as round-trip fares. Not wanting to spend more than we had to, we booked two one-way tickets. Thankfully everything worked out just fine.
Here are some other tips that will help you get the best deals on airline tickets:
For years the Airlines Reporting Corporation, or ARC, has been the world’s largest processor of airline ticket transactions. With more than 200 airlines and 100,000 travel agency locations reporting their ticket sales through ARC, it knows more about airline pricing trends and tendencies than anyone.
According to ARC’s data, the best time to buy a domestic airline ticket is usually within 14 days of departure. Not only do ticket prices tend to go down over that time period, but they also tend to stay strong until about a week beforehand. At that point, you may see tickets getting cheaper again as airlines slash fares to fill empty seats.
There are exceptions to the rule, however. Sometimes domestic flight prices have been known to drop as low as seven days prior to travel—but very rarely do they go lower than that.
To get the best deal for international flights, you need to plan longer in advance. According to ARC’s data, travelers can expect to see international flights at their lowest around 11 weeks before departure. That window is typically when airlines offer their biggest discounts on international flights—sometimes up to 50 percent off the base price.
The Internet has changed the way most of us buy plane tickets, and for one simple reason: It’s easy to compare prices. Sites like Kayak, Bing Travel, and Google Flights have leveled the playing field. In many cases, you can avoid paying full price by flying on a nontraditional route or with a low-cost carrier.
The following guidelines will help you find the best deals on airfare and maximize the value of your ticket dollar. But remember: There are no guarantees in this game. The airlines change their rules all the time, and there’s no magic formula for saving money on a ticket. We can, however, give you some tips that will help improve your chances of scoring a cheap fare.
1. Book early… but not too early
2. Know when to fly
3. Fly on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday
4. Fly out early in the morning or late at night
5. Use an online search engine to find out available flights
6. Choose a multi-stop flight over a direct flight
7. Use frequent flyer miles strategically
You can still get a good deal on a flight even if you don’t have the luxury of planning weeks or months ahead.
Start your search by comparing flights on sites like Kayak and Google Flights, but then also check the airline’s own website. “Airlines do a great job of updating their own sites to show sales and deals,” says Bill McGee, aviation expert at Consumer Reports. What’s more, he says, some airlines are now offering free checked bags and free access to entertainment and WiFi (which you’d otherwise pay for), so those savings will be reflected in the price you see on the airline’s website.
Don’t ignore shopping directly with the airline: It might just save you money.