5 Ways Procrastinators Mess Up Chances of Finding Cheap Flights

Don’t be a Procrastinator

Are you a procrastinator? That won’t help you when it comes to finding the best deals on airline tickets this year.

Demand for flights is holding up, for the moment anyway, so the airlines aren’t being forced to do any heavy discounting. That means last minute ticket buyers will likely be disappointed.

Don’t miss out on summer travel; see what procrastinators do wrong, and what you can do right, to win the airfare game.

5 Ways Procrastinators Mess Up Chances to Find Cheap Flights

There are many ways to mess up when buying airfare, but these are the errors I see people make time and again. No need for you to make the same mistakes.

1. Buy Airfare at the Last Minute

In this case, “last minute” means ignoring your airline’s advance purchase requirements. If you violate this restriction, you will usually pay the same high prices that business travelers do, as opposed to the lower priced leisure class tickets. Advance purchase windows typically break down as follows:

  • Legacy airlines (Alaska, Delta, United/Continental, US Airways): Best prices generally available up to 14 days from departure.
  • Discount airlines (AirTran, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, Virgin America): Best prices generally available up to 7 days from departure, though sometimes less depending on the airline and sale.

On the flip side, don’t shop too early, either; airlines don’t release their better priced seats until about 3-and-a-half months out.

2. Miss Out on Travel by Waiting for Last Minute Deals

Last minute airfare deals are few and far between. Yes, there is the occasional exception, but you cannot count on it. If you don’t have to fly, go ahead and gamble, as long as you know that you may wind up sitting at home. Avoid this with a little pre-planning (see reasons to sign up for airfare alerts in #4).

3. Assume Bereavement Fares Still Exist

If there’s a death in the family or a similar emergency, you might catch a break and find one of the few airlines that still have these somewhat anachronistic airfares; the big surprise however, is how little such fares will save you. United, for example has “compassion” fares that discount steep last minute fares by a mere 10 percent. It’s better than nothing, but try these alternatives:

  • Look for package deals: Even with an added hotel, it may be cheaper than last minute walk-up airfare prices
  • Use your miles: When airfare is expensive, your loyalty points are at their best redemption value
  • Check alternative airports: Big hubs are usually cheaper than medium-sized or regional airports

4. Avoid Geek Technology

You don’t have to be a technological wizard to sign up for FareCompare Real-Time Airfare Alerts; it’s a snap. Then sit back as we send the deals to you, via email, Twitter or on your iPhone in real time. Tip: if you like the deals, book the trip because cheap airfare does not last long.

5. Shop on the Weekends

If you look for airfare on Saturday or Sunday, you won’t see the best prices. Here’s all you need to know:

Shop for Airfare on Tuesdays at 3pm Eastern.

Now, quit procrastinating and go find yourself some cheap flights.

More from Rick Seaney:

The Six Sins of Airfare Shopping

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Published: June 15, 2011