Here are some general tips and guidelines to think about when you are using the best travel websites for finding airfares.
1. How far in advance.
- If it is high season then the earlier the better. And if you plan to fly during a holiday time period it is probably best to buy your ticket at least 3 or 4 months in advance, since those seats tend to fill up even faster. The only general exceptions are specific dates like Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day or New Year’s Day (most people do not want to actually fly on those days) or if your destination happens to be in low season (e.g. Labor Day is a U.S. holiday, but it falls within Cozumel’s hurricane season).
- If it is not a holiday period or high season in general, my experience has been that on average you tend to get the best prices by purchasing your tickets about 6-8 weeks in advance.
- At the very least try to buy your plane tickets at least 21 days before your departure, because this is often a requirement for many airlines to get their best rates.
2. The best time of the week to make a purchase.
- Many credible sources say that often the best time to purchase a ticket is as soon as possible after 12:01 a.m. Tuesday night (Wednesday morning) in the time zone of the airline’s home base. The reasoning given is that this is when the airlines’ computer systems dump all of the reservations for sale-priced tickets that were made over the previous weekend but were not actually purchased, and it is first come first served once they are available again. Happy hunting!
3. Be flexible whenever possible.
- Try different departure and return dates if your situation permits.
- As a general rule it tends to be more expensive to fly on a Monday, Friday or Sunday due to there being more business travelers on those days.
- Also try nearby airports if possible, because they may be served by budget airlines that tend to force better prices across the board due to stronger competition (see Step 3 for using the best websites for finding airfares). Although using a different airport may be less convenient, it could possibly save you quite a bit of money.
- Be open to different departure times if you can. A mere two or three hour time difference can sometimes mean a much less expensive fare.
- Consider non-direct flights as well if you are willing and able, because direct flights often charge a premium – as they say time is money. (Tip: If you plan to fly different airlines via separately purchased tickets to get to your final destination, make sure you are flying in and out of the same airport for the flight connection!)
- Know that some websites give you more flexibility in your searches than others.
4. When flying overseas always check the major airlines international websites.
- Sometimes the prices will be much cheaper.
- You will be charged in that country’s currency though, so make sure to check on the current exchange rate.
- For the purchase try to use a credit card that doesn’t charge you a fee for foreign transactions.
5. Sign up for mailing lists of airlines that you think you might want to fly on for certain routes. Oftentimes they have sales that only last like 24 hours, so you will want to know about them as soon as possible.
6. Issues beyond price.
- Make sure to compare the total price including all taxes and fees as you are looking at the different websites. Some sites are better at giving you this earlier in the online search process than others.
- If the flight makes a connection or two determine how much layover time there is and how much additional time in the air are you going to spend. Be sure the savings are worth the extra time to you – everyone is different here.
- Keep in mind the potential additional fees for things like checked baggage, food and drinks, etc. that almost all the airlines seem to be coming up with these days.
- If you already have a fair number of frequent flyer miles with a competing airline whose fare is not that much more costly then it might be better to pay the higher amount in order to more quickly cash in on those miles. It might even ensure your next flight is free.
7. Don’t freak out if you don’t get the absolute lowest price.
- Airfare pricing can be pretty volatile – a Texas rodeo comes to mind. With so many ever changing variables out there it is just about impossible to get the absolute lowest fare every time. So even though exercising those bragging rights can sure be fun just do your homework the best you can, and when you see a fare that looks good to you pull the trigger and get on with planning the next part of your trip without regrets. Chances are you saved a lot of money doing it yourself no matter what – congratulations!
Go back to the best websites for airfares.