Airfare tends to be the
most cost-prohibitive (expensive) part of planning a vacation or
trip. Plus during the course of a day, prices fluctuate depending on
availability. And with delayed flights, over-crowded cabins, excess
fees and no free food, it’s surprising that airlines are able to
charge such high ticket prices.
Despite the abundance of
meta-search engines like Kayak, Google Flights, or
Fly.com and online
travel agencies (OTAs), finding the lowest priced airfare is still a
tedious process. That’s because prices change minute-by-minute, and
it takes time to find the cheapest price.
Doing research is only
one way to get a cheap ticket, another way is to shop in the “magic
window.” Prior to 28 days before your trip, ticket prices are pretty
much the same. But during the period of 18 to 28 days prior to your
trip, prices are at their lowest. This time-slot is your magic
window for booking. Domestic fares bottom-out exactly 21 days before
The last 18 days prior
to your trip, prices start ticking up. The average fare increases 5%
two weeks before departure, with fares increasing 30% from their
lows the last seven days before departure. International fares don’t
have as much fluctuation; 34 days before departure, fares are only
about 4% lower than the average at six months before departure.
Be sure to reserve your
hotel suite when you book airfare. As a general rule of thumb, the
more you can tack-on to your vacation package upfront — even
including things like meals and tours — the better the savings over
separate do-it-yourself pricing.
When booking a package
deal, OTA’s are better able to package these deals than airlines.
You can save an average of $525 on a vacation … with an average of
$1,000 saved for weeklong vacations to very popular destinations
through an OTA.
Airlines announce their
sales on Tuesdays, competing with each other and unveiling their
latest fares for the next few months. Mid-day Tuesday to late-day
Tuesday or early Wednesday is a good 24-hour sweet spot when you can
find the latest sales. The airlines also release their last-minute
weekend deals on Tuesdays, so flexibility is your best friend for
booking airfare along with a willingness to go where the bargains
Departure time and day
Wednesday is the best day to depart, followed by Tuesday and
Saturday. Experts cite savings of up to 10% when traveling midweek
to midweek. For a weekend trips, you’ll find that airfare is
cheapest when you depart on Saturday and return on Monday.
Flying during certain
times can also reduce your airfare bill.
The very early morning flights, particularly if you’re going on a
leisure vacation, tend to be less expensive than midday departures.
Plus these flights usually have the lowest risk for delay or
cancellation, since the plane and crew are already at the airport.
Overnight flights can usually be good bargains, as well as late
afternoon or dinner flights.
Special tip: When
you’re doing your search, don’t initially specify departure times.
This way, you’ll be able to see the time of day that really is the
cheapest to fly.
Flights from smaller
airports can be cheaper.
Experts also suggest looking at fares for airports within a
reasonable radius of your destination. Large airports are sometimes
monopolized by the larger players. Savings for flying into a smaller
airport may justify more time in the car spent driving to your
Consider one-stop as
opposed to non-stop flights.
When the stop is in the airline’s hub city, it can generate some
dramatic savings and thus lower fares. When traveling with small
children, time during a layover may be a welcome break from the
One-way tickets can be a
Buying two one-way tickets from different airlines may be cheaper
than a round-trip ticket. Many meta-search engines will do this for
you, such as Kayak’s “Hacker Fares.”
Continue to check fares
after you book.
If fares drop within 24-hours after you’ve obtained your ticket, you
can cancel your flight without paying a fee or penalty, according to
Department of Transportation regulations. However, the flight must
depart more than a week from the time the ticked was procured. If
fares drop outside this 24-hour window most airlines have a credit
or refund policy, but they may charge a fee.