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Sick and tired of paying a fortune for air travel? The easiest solution would be to skip the plane and take a road trip instead, but many of us don’t have the time or energy to do that. Plus, with gas prices on the rise, the road trip might end up costing more than air fare. And that’s assuming you aren’t traveling across an ocean in the first place.
Fortunately, there are a few tips and tricks you can make use of in order to maximize your savings when purchasing airline tickets — in fact, you might even be able to save a few hundred dollars per ticket in some cases. That’s a lot of extra spending money you can use while away from home!
The next time you’re planning a flight, keep the following guidelines in mind.
The Right Time to Buy
Did you know that there’s a right time to make your ticket purchases? It’s hard to pinpoint an exact rule of thumb since the industry is always adapting to variations in demand, but there are two important factors always in play.
Don’t buy too late. If you’re flying out next week and you don’t have a ticket yet, then you’re out of luck. The unfortunate truth is that you aren’t the only one who needs a ticket and airlines know this. With so little time flexibility, airlines know that they can raise the price and you pretty much have no choice but to buy the ticket. Thus, don’t wait too long before you secure your flight.
Yet, paradoxically, last minute flights are another matter altogether. Prices will actually drop for last minute tickets! Airlines hate empty seats because empty seats don’t earn them money, so it’s better to have the seat filled cheaply. Use this to your advantage when you can, but don’t rely on it since there’s no way to guarantee that a flight will have last minute spots available.
Don’t buy too early, either. You might think that prices would be dirt cheap if you purchased your tickets 6 months in advance, but that’s unfortunately not how it works. The optimal time to buy a ticket, then, is between 3 and 12 weeks before the flight.
Also, consider using Bing’s Price Predictor. Bing might still be lagging behind Google in the field of search, but they have some cool tools that come in handy every once in a while. The Price Predictor is one of them.
The Right Time to Fly
Not only does it matter when you click the “Buy” button, it also matters when the flight departs. If you pick a time when everyone else wants to fly — for example, during the Christmas holidays — then you’ll be competing with a lot of people for limited seats, which ultimately raises the price.
Fly during off-peak seasons. Throughout the year, there are five periods when people tend not to fly that often. These “dead zones” are:
- January, after the 7th
- February, excluding Valentine’s Day
- November, first two weeks
- December, first two weeks
Fly middle of the week. The actual day of your flight can influence the price greatly. Most people tend to travel on the weekends with a tendency to fly out on Friday and fly back home on Sunday, making those two days the most expensive. Tuesday and Wednesday, on the other hand, tend to be the least expensive days.
Fly early in the day. Have you ever flown at 4am? It’s a miserable experience and most people will actively avoid flying at such times, which means there’s less demand for those flights and, consequently, lower prices.
Always Compare Prices
There are many websites that offer the lowest airline prices and there are even search engines for cheap flights. The best thing you can do is visit all of them and compare carefully. Will it take a lot of time? It might. The decision is yours whether the savings in price is worth that extra effort.
First, check all available airports. You might be lucky and have a big airport near you with a few smaller ones scattered about. The bigger ones tend to be cheaper but not always, so check the other ones and compare.
Then, check all available airlines. Some airlines are naturally cheaper than others. Keep in mind that you’ll definitely notice the difference in price when it comes to seat comfort, flight attendant service, accommodations, etc. But depending on how long the flight is, the price cut may be worth it.
Lastly, check all available routes. Direct flights between point A and B are fast and convenient, but you might be able to find cheaper prices if you can stomach the hassle of a layover and connected flights. With the latest rulings, at least you’ll be able to use electronics on these flights.
Note that some airfare websites employ price discrimination based on your browser activity and search history. When comparing prices, always use a VPN or your browser’s private browsing mode.
Split Groups Into Separate Purchases
Even on the same flight, different seats will often have different costs. For example, back seats near the plane’s engine can be uncomfortable and distracting, thus resulting in a lower seat price. While it’s nice that some seats are cheaper, this can prove troublesome when buying tickets as a group.
Let’s say a particular flight has 3 seats available for $100 and you’re traveling as a family of 5. If you search as a group of 5, you’ll never see the $100 seats because airlines typically show you the lowest priced tickets available to the whole group. In this case, the flight might have enough $200 seats for 5 people, thus you’d see the lowest price as $200.
Here’s how you get around that.
First, search as a full group to find all of the flights that have enough total seats to accommodate your whole group. Once you have a list of these flights, go back and search through them for one ticket at a time. Instead of being stuck with 5 $200 tickets, you could end up buying 3 $100 tickets and 2 $200 tickets.
Research Those Sneaky Fees
Most air fares will include all taxes and fees in the ticket price, but the included fees are only those that are directly related to flight. There are plenty of other services that may incur hidden charges. The most common fees relate to checked bags, seat selection, snacks, blankets, and other on-board services.
Research ahead of time and avoid these pesky fees as best as you can.
As is true when shopping for any kind of deals, there’s always a measure of luck involved. Sometimes it comes down to whether or not you click the right links, search the right terms, or pick the right times to go scouring the web. But if you stick to the guidelines above, you’ll be able to tip luck in your favor. Who says you can’t fly for cheap?
For other help with your travel plans, take a look at our tips for planning your trips.
Image Credit: Boarding Passes Via Shutterstock, Price Graph Via Shutterstock, Morning Airport Via Shutterstock, Airborne Airplane Via Shutterstock, Airplane Seats Via Shutterstock, Airplane Food Via Shutterstock