We’re all trying to plan our holiday travel, But sometimes the most expensive – and most stressful – part of the travel experience is finding the best (and cheapest) flight. In may cases, we can spend hours browsing flight deals and loading various routes and prices trying to assemble the best possible deal with the fewest layovers, and it can get tiresome fast. But how do we really score the best price possible? It starts by planning ahead.
Let Your Budget Lead You
A great way to get the best deals when flying is to plan your flight around your budget, rather than the reverse. This means that you’ll start researching flights before, not after, locking in your dates. By picking your dates first, you may end up paying higher prices just because you’re locked into a certain day or time that is more expensive.
If you can be flexible with your dates, you may just find a span of dates that has a much better price range, as in as much as a thousand dollars better, if you’re flying overseas. You still get where you want to go, but you’ll do so for less when you aren’t locked into a specific time frame.
There’s a lot of differing advice on the best days or times to fly, but generally the best rates can be found by avoiding flying on the weekends. There are exceptions, but weekends are usually more expensive. Again, flexibility is key here. If you are able to start your trip on a Tuesday or Wednesday rather than a Friday or Saturday and consider a redeye or early morning flights, you can get a better deal.
The best flights to catch if you are looking to save are mid-week flights. “Statistically, Tuesday and Wednesday flights will offer travelers the best deals on airfare. Taking the first or last flights of the day is also a great way for travelers to save money, as these times are less popular. The first flights of the day are also typically the ones that leave on time, so for travelers looking to stick to a strict schedule this is an ideal time to fly,” said Jeff Klee, CheapAir.com CEO.
Turn On Incognito Mode On Your Browser
Have you ever noticed that if as you continue to reload flight routes on the website of your airline of choice, the prices sometimes keep changing in the wrong direction as you do? Although no airline has ever admitted to price gouging as people refresh the page, some bargain travel experts have theorized that airlines may do this on purpose, because they are trying to convey a sense of urgency. If prices are climbing, even slightly, then travelers are more likely to feel like it’s urgent to lock in that fare ASAP. But if you clear your cookies in your browser, make your browser private, or search for deals using incognito mode, airlines won’t know you’ve been there before. It’s at least worth a shot to see what happens 🙂
Explore your options earlier, because the longer you wait, the more you may end up spending. “Our 2022 Domestic Airfare study found that the best day to buy flights is approximately 76 days out from your departure date. Another factor to consider, if you can plan ahead, is that the least expensive months to fly are January and February. This is likely due to the lack of travel demand after the holidays and before spring and summer vacation starts,” says Klee.
Play With The Routes
We all want to fly nonstop. That is always the most convenient, least stressful, and fastest way to get somewhere. But, it’s also usually the most expensive way to go. If you take some time to look at options with connecting flights, chances are you will find a better deal. You may also want to try looking at a selection of airlines, because your preferred airline may not have the best deals available for those dates, on that specific route.
Look Into Smaller Airports
When we think of touching down in a destination, our minds immediately think of the larger airports in a city. Granted, they have the greatest range of flight time and airline options. But smaller, local airports often are cheaper. No, they won’t be your best option for you if it leaves you stuck with a much longer and more expensive commute to get to the airport, but it’s something to consider if you have a car, or a friend or family member who can serve as your personal airport shuttle. For example, I live in NYC. If I find a deal at an airport upstate it won’t help me if I need to spend a few hundred dollars to get to the airport, but if you can get to a smaller regional airport with relative ease, this is the way to go.
Consider Smaller Airlines
This works for the same reason as smaller airports. Those regional airlines sometimes have promotions and better deals on similar routes to the more major airlines that we immediately think of.
Use Price Watching Tools
On sites like Kayak and Google, you can search travel for your dates, and then set a flight alert. “You’ll be notified as prices move up and down for your particular trip. Alerts will give you the opportunity to watch and book if you see a great deal pop up for your trip or you see prices creeping up and you don’t want to risk paying more,” says Clem Bason, General Manager of Travel at Snapcommerce.
Use Miles or Points
Obviously, holiday travel can be a great opportunity to cash on those miles you’ve accrued or credit card points toward a steeply discounted flight, a free flight, or even an upgrade. First class, you say? We’ll take it! It’s time to dig into those points you may have accrued on a credit card years ago, but just never cashed in, or maybe you even forgot about them. Make a thorough review of all your statements and see where you might be able to cash in. Even if you don’t have your full flight price covered, you may be able to save $200 or so, which you can then put towards spreading holiday joy in other ways (or, you know, saving.)
More On HerMoney:
- How To Use Your Points For Travel — The Right Way
- Ways To Save On Hotels That You Didn’t Know Existed
- The All-In Guide To Traveling For Less In 2022
- First Class vs. Economy: Is The Splurge Worth It?
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