Finding The Lowest Air Fares
Obtaining the lowest fares isn't always easy. You won't be able to get a particular low fare if it is either sold out, or you don't follow the fare rules. Adding to the difficulty, discount fares may have rules and restrictions that can be complex and hard to interpret. If you're looking for the lowest price, the following are some helpful, although obvious, hints:
- Buy Smart / Buy Early - Make your reservation early. (Advance Purchase) Most discount fares require an advance purchase. Generally, the earlier you buy your ticket, the lower your fare. The most common advance purchase requirements are 21, 14, 7, and 3 days before your trip. Airlines sell only a limited number of seats at the lowest fares. When those seats sell out on a particular flight, the price goes up. If you don't find the fare you are looking for, for a particular date, try searching for the same or similar flight 3, 7, 14 or 21 days later, if your travel dates are flexible. The best international fares often require a reservation 30 days or more in advance.
- Peak / Off Peak Travel - Choose your travel days wisely. Fares are divided into peak and off-peak travel times. The least expensive times to travel are generally Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and sometimes Thursdays and Saturdays. The most expensive times to travel are generally Fridays, Sundays and Mondays. Most discounted fares require that you stay over at least one Saturday night before your return flights. Other airline's fare rules may require you to stay a minimum of 3 or 4 days. When searching for fares, try and be flexible with your dates in order to find less restrictive stay-over requirements. Most low fares are seasonal and have blackout dates around popular holidays though the actual holiday (e.g. Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day) is commonly not a blackout day.
- Day and Time -
Choose your times and flights wisely. Many discount fares carry restrictions on flights and times. For example, a fare may only be available on certain flight numbers, in the morning, or late at night.
- Select a flight before 7 am or after 7 pm. In addition, Saturday and Sunday flights are eligible for off-peak pricing.
- Midday flights are more likely to have seats available than morning flights (7 am - 9 am) and late afternoon flights (3 pm - 6 pm).
- The most popular times to travel are Friday night, Sunday afternoon and evening, and Monday morning and thus, it is harder to get the lower fares at these times.
- Some flights departing late in the evening (such as 11:30 p.m.) or very early in the morning (such as 1:30 a.m.), often called "Red-Eye" flights, offer lower fares.
- Often if you are willing to change your departure or return dates or times, you can find a lower fare.
- Choose Your Airport Wisely - If you are willing to drive to an alternative airport, you may be able to save a lot. Some discount fares are only available at certain airports in a major metropolitan area.
- Be Flexible - Many of the specially reduced ticket prices require you to change planes or to take a stopover or connection to qualify for a cheaper ticket.
- Pick a Flight With Plenty of Seats Left - The fewer seats left on a plane, the more expensive those that remain are. Seats on a flight are portioned in groups called "classes". Each class has a price and the cheapest classes sell first.
- Use the Same Carrier For All Flight Segment - When making flight reservations, using the same airline for all the segments of your trip will often result in significant savings. Simply picking the cheapest individual segments regardless of carrier will not result in your best travel value. You may need to change your airline preferences a few times in order to get a return with a consistent carrier for all flight segments. However, often with international flights, two or more carriers may be mixed on the same choice when a connection must be made.
- Travel Search Web Sites - Sites that combine information from multiple sources can many times speed up your research and save you money. One such site is Kayak.
- TSA Information – For even more information go to TSA Traveler Information.