7 Ways to Get the Best Deals on Airfare
Average airfares have fallen in the past few years as airlines have tried to encourage people with tighter budgets to travel. Fares started to creep up in 2011, but not enough that you can’t find good deals, especially if you’re flying within the U.S.
Here are seven ways to find bargain fares when you want to travel, whether you’re hoping to visit relatives for the holidays or take a vacation on your own or with friends.
- Travel on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday. You’ll usually find the least expensive fares on these days, according to the airfare-comparison site FareCompare.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to buy a ticket. Travel experts say that last-minute deals are less common than people think, and if you wait too long, others may have snapped up all the bargains. You’ll generally get the best fares if you buy a ticket at least two weeks but not more than three months in advance.
- Build flexibility into your travel plans. Airfares on the same routes vary not just with the day of the week but with the time of day. Except on weekends, evening flights (after 7 p.m.) offer many of the best deals.
- Comparison-shop for bargains. You’ll see the widest range of options if you visit several types of sites. Try both fare-comparison sites like FareCompare that don’t sell tickets and online travel agencies like Travelocity and Orbitz that do sell tickets. But check the sites for the airlines that serve the areas you want to visit, too, because some carriers don’t allow their tickets to be sold through online travel agencies.
- Take advantage of promotional codes. Many airlines will send you “promo codes” if you join their frequent flyer programs or sign up on their websites to receive the codes by email. Enter these codes into the promotional code boxes on an airline site when you buy tickets and you may get big discounts -- typically 10 to 30 percent off but sometimes as high as 50 percent, Consumer Reports magazine found.
- Look into alternate airports. See if you can fly into a smaller or regional airport, which often costs less than flying into the largest or busiest (and is less stressful, too). You can do this by entering the name of an alternate airport on a site that sells tickets, or calling an airline to ask what airports it serves in a region.
- Consider switching airlines on international flights. If you’ll be traveling to another country, you may save money by flying on a U.S. airline to an overseas hub, then switching to a less expensive local airline. Or you might consider changing from a plane to a train to save money and see part of the countryside.
Remember, too, that traditional travel agents may be able to help. Most agents add a small booking fee to ticket costs. But paying this fee may save money in the long run if you don’t have time to research all of the available deals.