Especially during peak travel periods, making reservations late in the game can cost you a lot of money. Airline ticket prices typically go up in the last two weeks before flying, so if you’re planning ahead, try to make the call before this deadline. And if you’re traveling internationally, you’ll want to book even earlier — from three to six months in advance — for the best deals. However, sometimes you can get lucky if you wait, which brings us to:
Often you can buy tickets at the very last minute for a great price, if the airlines have failed to fill their planes. Many airlines offer weekly newsletters that feature their best last-minute deals. If you can stand the suspense, and if you are flexible with your itinerary and dates, you can find fantastic money-savers to very attractive travel destinations.
No matter how good it sounds, you should never book the first fare you see. Start your search by checking a few of the major online travel providers. Checking these sites will give you a preliminary idea of which airlines fly your particular itinerary, what the going rate is and what restrictions might apply. Armed with this information, you can head directly to the airline Web site to see if the same flights are any cheaper (some airlines guarantee to offer the lowest possible fares on their own Web sites). While you’re there, check to see if the airline is running any sales or promotions to your destination.
Know When to Buy
The hardest part of booking a flight is knowing when to stop tracking fares and make that final purchase. Just plug in your itinerary and the site will advise you either to book now or to wait, depending on whether the fare is expected to rise or drop.
Finally, keep in mind that many airlines launch fare sales on Tuesdays — so if you decide to buy on a Monday, you may be gnashing your teeth when your destination goes on sale the next day.
If you live close to more than one airport, check out the fares from all of the airports near you. Many online fare searching engines will ask you if you are willing to depart from or arrive in more than one city. Yes! Also, experiment with different travel dates; shifting your itinerary by a month, a week or even a few days can make a significant difference in fares. You’ll usually find the lowest fares for travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Keep in mind that just about every destination has a peak season — and if you can fly any other time of year, you’ll often pay significantly less.
Don’t Forget the Discounters
As their nickname suggests, discount airlines can save you a bundle, but they’re not always easy to find.
Use Your Frequent Flier Miles
Why pay a fare at all when you can use your frequent flier miles? Although redeeming miles has gotten more difficult in recent years, it’s still a good option to consider, particularly if you’re booking early; airlines designate a very limited number of seats on each flight as eligible for award travel, and these seats go quickly.
Get a Refund When Fares Go Down
If fares go down after you’ve purchased your ticket, ask for a refund! You may not always get one, but policies vary by airline — and many do not publicize the fact that they will refund you the difference if prices go down. It can’t hurt to ask.
Consider an Air Pass
In order to promote tourism in their countries, many national airlines offer air passes at reduced rates for tourists. If you’re planning to do extensive travel in one country or region, an air pass might be your most cost-effective option.