How to Score the Cheapest Flights

How to Score the Cheapest Flights

July 14, 2017

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When planning a vacation, your flight can be the most expensive part. It can be more than your hotel, car rental and food combined. A pricey flight can cut down on the number of things you can do on your trip, or even reduce how long your vacation can be.

However, there are ways to stretch your budget and save money on your flights. Knowing when the best time is to book your airfare can save you hundreds.

Here’s what you need to know before buying your tickets.

The Best Time to Book a Flight

While many people book their flights as far in advance as possible to save money, that might not be the best strategy.

In fact, one study found that the best time to buy a ticket to get the lowest price is to book it 47 days in advance. Airlines often release their latest sales on Monday nights, so you might be able to secure a better rate if you book on a Tuesday morning.

When you look at potential flights, look at how full the flight is already. If there are a number of seats open, rates might go down. However, if there’s just a couple, rates will remain steady or can even rise. If you are just two or three weeks out from your trip, book the airfare as soon as possible. Airlines also hike up the rates as the departure date approaches for last-minute fliers.

The time of day the flight leaves affects the flight’s price. Early morning flights, such as those before 8:00 a.m., are often the least desirable and often the cheapest. Flights in the late afternoon or evening are usually much more expensive.

What Type of Tickets to Buy

When it comes to the actual type of ticket you purchase, there are a number of factors to consider.

When you look at flights, consider flying on different airlines for each leg of your trip. Roundtrip flights on one airline can be more expensive than if you booked one-way tickets with two different companies. Rather than exclusively using Southwest, for instance, using Southwest on the way out and United Airlines on the way back can be cheaper.

Additionally, if you are traveling with friends or loved ones, try booking each ticket separately. If you buy them as a group, you may be charged a higher fee. For example, if an individual seat is $200, and another is $400, the airline’s algorithm may charge $400 for each ticket because of the size of your party. Booking one at a time could save you $200.

What Flights Are the Best Deals

Some airlines offer barebones seats that are much more affordable than full-service airfare. For example, a flight from Baltimore to San Diego on American Airlines would cost over $600 for an economy seat. But taking the same route on budget carrier Spirit Airlines is just $154.19.

While budget airlines and airfare like Spirit and Frontier offer much lower rates, there are some downsides to consider before you book. They often limit what you can carry on, or charge a high fee if you bring a bag on the plane. The tickets are typically non-refundable and non-transferable as well.

Compare Offers

Make sure you compare offers from different airlines for the same route rather than being loyal to one company. Sites like Expedia and Priceline help you check airfares from several airlines at once.

When looking at pricing, also consider flying out of or into different airports. If you’re willing to drive a little further and use a smaller airport, you can sometimes get much cheaper fare. If you have any flexibility on your travel dates, you may be able to save hundreds by just pushing back your flight to fly out on a Monday rather than a Sunday.

Getting a Bargain on Your Airfare

While flying can be very expensive, there are ways to score better deals and reduce your costs. By shopping around, comparing your options and being flexible, you can save a lot of money on your vacation. Those savings can help you extend your trip or even afford an extra trip each year.