When the economy is uncertain, it makes sense to do what you can to save on everything – and that includes travel. Unfortunately, airfares on the whole are going up, not down. The increased prices represent a real challenge for anybody who wants to take a vacation without busting their budget.
Travel insiders understand how the industry works and what it takes to find the true bargains – the flights that you can afford and still have money left for a hotel, rental car, and entertainment. Use these 5 insider secrets to booking cheap airfare to travel on a dime.
Book at Least 6 Weeks in Advance
Booking your flight early may help you save as much as 6% or more on the cost of your tickets. A study from the Airlines Reporting Corporation showed that people who bought their tickets 42 days before their flight got the best deals.
If you do decide to book early, keep in mind that this rule isn’t carved in stones. Depending on the popularity of the route and the time of year, airlines may announce deals and discounts much closer to the day of the flight. In any case, it’s a good idea to start shopping early if you want to save.
Fly on a Wednesday
It might surprise you to learn that Wednesday is the least expensive day to fly. Why? Because fewer people fly that day than any other day of the week – and when the airlines have seats to fill, they’ll discount them. Most of us are used to taking vacation Monday to Friday, but if you can be flexible and leave mid-week, it can make a big difference in what you pay.
After Wednesday, the next two days to consider are Tuesday and Saturday. You won’t save quite as much, but you might be able to find a deal. It’s also interesting to note that Friday and Sunday are the two most expensive days to fly – so even if you can’t fly on a Wednesday, you might be better off avoiding those two days if it’s at all possible.
Fly at Inconvenient Times
If you’re like most people, you probably look for flight times that suit your schedule. You might schedule a mid-morning flight or one in the afternoon. However, they key phrase here is “most people.” It stands to reason that if you’re determined to fly at the same time that the majority of people want to fly, there’ll be fewer empty seats – and fewer bargains available.
The cheapest time to fly – and this isn’t an option for every trip – is the red-eye. You leave late at night and arrive at your destination early in the morning. It’s generally reserved for long West-to-East trips domestically, such as the Los Angeles to New York route.
If a red-eye isn’t available, consider trying to get on the first flight of the day. It will probably leave shortly after the airport opens, around 6 am or so. You’ll have to get up very early, but if you do you can save money. Other good times to travel include right around lunchtime, and right around dinnertime.
Shop for Tickets First Thing in the Morning
It has become fairly common for airlines to post discounted fares late at night or first thing in the morning. Of course, that’s not always the case – but it’s the kind of insider tip that can end up saving you a substantial amount on your ticket if you can take advantage of it.
If you’re normally researching for airline tickets in the middle of the day or in the evening after work, you’re probably missing out because the discounts have already sold out by then. People in the know make a point of doing their searches very early in the day – and so they’re the ones who snag the great bargains.
The more you implement this particular trick, the savvier you’ll become about when to look. Some airlines release discounted flights like clockwork and once you know their schedule, you can make a point of being there when they do. It won’t hurt to look at other times of day too – not every airline sticks to a rigid schedule – but in this case, the early bird gets the (discounted flight) worm.
Buy Directly from Discount Airlines
The final tip here is to try skipping the general travel sights and flight aggregators and going directly to the source. It might seem counterintuitive, but the truth is that many of the discount airlines post web-only specials on their websites – and those deals aren’t available on other sites.
Try bookmarking a few of the discount carriers that fly to your most frequent destinations and make a habit of checking them first.
Anybody can get lucky once in a while, but these five tips can help you travel – and save – like a real insider.