Everybody needs a getaway now and then. If you’re a traveler on a budget, though, you need to know how to get the biggest bang for your vacation buck. How can you find the least expensive fares? Check out these cheap airfare tips.
Getting the right info
You can find tons of advice online, but not all of it is accurate. However, the following five techniques enjoy the backing of expert trekkers from all walks of life, so they’re sure to save you a few coins. Read on to discover all you need to know about finding the most affordable fares.
Book early or take a risk
Contrary to popular belief, airlines generally don’t reduce ticket prices closer to the departure date. If you know you have some time off coming up, the best time to book your fare is approximately seven weeks from your journey’s start.
The travel website Kayak analyzed a year’s worth of data and discovered that prices increased by around 20% starting at six months out. They started dropping three months before the departure date and hit the sweet spot at the seven-week mark.
If you don’t have the luxury of advanced notice, don’t throw up your hands in despair. Airlines sometimes offer last-minute deals on underbooked flights. The wise idea is to follow your favorite airlines on social media to scoop up fire sales.
You can remain flexible in two ways — on your dates or your destination. Sometimes, adjusting your dates anywhere from one to three days can save you considerable cash.
Another alternative is to search for nearby airlines when you book your flight. You may need to drive an additional 50 miles or so to your destination, but if doing so will save you hundreds, why not?
Do you need to get away, but don’t care where your destination leads? If you’re jonesing for a break, research the most inexpensive flight destinations and explore somewhere new. After all, they have plenty of beaches in Argentina if lounging with an umbrella drink suits your cravings.
Consider indirect flights
Flights with a layover or two often cost less than direct numbers. However, there are two additional methods you can explore — although one technique does involve a bit of risk.
Mix and match airlines:
Maybe you can find a flight to London for $400, but you want to go to Paris — which comes in at $700. However, if you don’t mind spending a day exploring Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, you might find a flight from London to Paris with a smaller airline for $100 or less.
Get across the pond inexpensively, and look for cheaper fares from there.
Hidden city discounts:
This method entails a degree of risk. You book a less expensive flight to a secondary city — but one with a layover in your actual destination.
When you exit the plane at the first stop, don’t hop back aboard for the second half. So, what’s the risk?
Sometimes, airlines won’t let you depart the plane, meaning you could end up in Beijing after all. Alternately, your luggage may arrive there while you linger in Dubai.
If you attempt this method, don’t do it on airlines where you accumulate miles — some carriers are cracking down by revoking the elite status of travelers.
Use points and miles wisely
If you earn travel rewards on your credit account, you can probably book your flights nearly for free — if you, pun intended, play your cards right. What do you need to do?
Use your rewards card for everyday purchases like groceries — then immediately pay it off at the end of each week. That way, you accumulate the points or miles you need to get away without paying a fortune in interest and fees.
Travel off peak
While researchers have debunked the myth of the magic date and time to hit buy, there are cheaper travel times than others. In general, if you fly on a Saturday or midweek, you’ll find slightly lower rates.
Many travelers who book weekend getaways depart on a Thursday or Friday and return Sunday or Monday. Therefore, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday flights often run a few dollars lower.
Additionally, many people travel during the summer months, Thanksgiving holiday and spring break. Try to avoid these peak times to find the lowest rates.
It’s easier than you think to find cheap airfare
You don’t have to pay a fortune for your next getaway. Dreaming of Tokyo, Madrid or Kathmandu? Find inexpensive flights with a few simple tips!