Several years ago, I wrote How to Get the Best Deal on Airfare . While many of the tips there are still good information, time has brought about a few changes. Thus an updated article. 🙂
What HASN’T changed? Airfare is still determined by the Law of Supply and Demand. What has changed is the ‘demand’….and because of that, the ‘supply’. Interpretation: As consumer’s have purchased more tickets (demand), airlines have listened and added planes and flights (supply) to meet the need. That can mean good bargains for travelers.
- Time It Right: The best time to purchase airfare seems to be about 7-8 weeks out (more specifically 49-54 days) up to 3 wks prior to travel. Booking less than 21 or more than 200 days out brings some of the worst fares.
- Don’t Pay Baggage Fees If You Don’t Have To: At this time, Delta, United and American are offering 1 free checked bag per person to their credit card holders IF the reservation is made on their website and paid for with that card. You can apply for the credit card right before purchasing the ticket. After approval, you then use that card number to purchase the ticket. These cards typically have an annual fee associated with them, but most (though not all) waive it for the 1st year. After that ‘grace period’ we always cancel the card. I refuse to pay a fee for ANY credit card…..EVER!! Now, the last time we called to cancel, they offered us a ‘stay with us’ deal. We met their criteria and they waived the fee a 2nd year. They did NOT offer that option the following year.
- Compare Total Costs: Southwest and Jet Blue do not charge baggage fees. That doesn’t necessarily mean their flights are cheaper though. Sometimes, a ticket PLUS baggage fee is still less expensive than a ticket on one of these ‘no baggage fee’ airlines… As you’re price shopping make sure you’re comparing the TOTAL COST (ticket + bags). Note that these airlines don’t sell reserved seats. Instead, they sell ‘boarding groups’. You pay to board earlier and get first choice on seats. Though we occasionally fly with these airlines, I really prefer to have a reserved seat….just my personal opinion.
- More Info About those Baggage Fees: While we’re on the subject of baggage fees, American waives the baggage fees on a number of flights from the U.S. to Brazil, Europe or Japan. Find out more about this from their website..
- ‘WHEN you Buy’ Matters: The best day of the week to purchase airfare used to be Tues.
However, trends are changing. Weekends have become the ‘new Tuesday’ when buying airfare within the US or to Europe and some great bargains can be snagged on Saturdays. Worst day to purchase (any) travel? Fridays! (That’s when business travelors are booking.)
- Fly midweek (Tues-Thurs) rather than weekends (Fri – Mon) if possible to get bargain airfares. Websites now show fares for +/- 3 days of your selected date making this much easier to compare. We’ve moved our vacation dates a couple of days to take advantage of lower fares – especially when buying 4 tickets.
- Include a Saturday Night Stay: You’ll find some of the best bargains on round trip tickets if you include a Saturday night in your stay.
- Always check surrounding airports Sometimes if you’re willing to just drive 20-30 miles, you can save significant money.
- Allegiant Air MAY…..I repeat MAY…. be a good deal Just be aware that they take the whole ‘nickel and dime’ thing to the extreme. They charge for things the major airlines do NOT charge for – carry ons, blankets, pillows. Now, because their flights are sooo cheap, this may still be a good deal. You just have to crunch the numbers…and again, look at the ‘total cost’ rather than just the cost of the ticket. Consolidate your packing (including carry on bags) and bring your own lightweight cover and/or inflatable pillow. 🙂 One More Note: You have the option to pay baggage fees when you purchase your ticket…and that’s where you get the best price. Baggage fees paid later cost more. Baggage fees paid AT the airport the day of flight cost a WHOLE LOT MORE! Estimate your luggage needs carefully (and accurately) when purchasing your ticket! 🙂
Saving even just $25/ticket -with free bags – for a family of 4 – round trip – amounts to a savings of $300. Remember when compare shopping to figure in ALL of these (ticket, baggage fees AND any extras) to determine the best deal.