Think you need a vacation now? Just wait until you’re scouring dozens of booking sites, aggregators and airline websites to find cheap tickets for your next trip — then you’ll really be ready for a week off!
Unfortunately for weary travelers, there’s no real shortcut to finding cheap airfare. As with any purchase, you need to shop around to get the best deal — by trying different booking sites, altering your dates and waiting until just the right time to purchase. But if you’re willing to put in a little time and effort, you could save big on your next flight.
1. Buy Early
Especially during peak travel periods, making reservations late in the game can cost you a lot of money. Airline ticket prices typically go up in the last two weeks before flying, so if you’re planning ahead, try to make the call before this deadline. And if you’re traveling internationally, you’ll want to book even earlier — from three to six months in advance — for the best deals.
2. Buy Late
Sometimes you can buy tickets at the very last minute for a great price if the airlines have failed to fill their planes. You can find such fares at specialized sites or sometimes on airline websites and online booking sites such as Expedia. If you can stand the suspense, and if you are flexible with your itinerary and dates, you can find fantastic money-savers to very attractive travel destinations.
3. Shop Around
No matter how good it sounds, you should never book the first fare you see. Start your search by checking a few of the major online travel providers.
4. Know When to Buy
The hardest part of booking a flight is knowing when to stop tracking fares and make that final purchase. Kayak.com can help you reach that decision, offering fare predictions for most major cities. Just plug in your itinerary and the site will advise you either to book now or to wait, depending on whether the fare is expected to rise or drop. It also shows a fare history graph, allowing you to see whether your fare is headed in an upward or downward direction.
5. Be Flexible
If you live close to more than one airport, check out the fares from all of the airports near you. Many online fare searching engines will ask you if you are willing to depart from or arrive in more than one city. Yes! Also, experiment with different travel dates; shifting your itinerary by a month, a week or even a few days can make a significant difference in fares. You’ll usually find the lowest fares for travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
6. Don’t Forget the Discounters
As their nickname suggests, discount airlines can save you a bundle, but they’re not always easy to find. Luckily for consumers, discounters are cropping up more frequently on aggregators and booking sites (Kayak now offers fares for JetBlue and Spirit, for example) — but there are still a few holdouts, such as Southwest and Allegiant Air, whose fares can’t be found anywhere but their own websites. If you’re traveling outside the U.S., don’t forget to check the international discount airlines as well.