Find a Cheap Flight Any Time You Shop

Making travel plans? Have fun, but before you shop, check out these quick and easy tips. They’ll help you save money.

1. Compare prices

Can’t stress this enough: Compare airfare prices. If you only shop one airline site, you probably won’t get the cheapest price. No single airline always has the cheapest flights, and some airlines thought to be expensive sometimes have the best deals. If you don’t compare, you could miss out on big savings.

How to avoid those awful change fees

2. Don’t delay

Most of us shop too late. Too late is within 14 (and sometimes 21 days) of your departure for legacy airlines and sometimes even the discounters. If you shop too late, prices go up. As airfare analyst Rick Seaney likes to say, “Think about the day you plan to shop for airfare – now, move that up a day earlier.”

Note: If you receive an airfare alert about a great deal – and you like the price – jump on it. Airlines can and do change their prices with no notice.

3. Shop on Tuesdays

Airfare analyst Seaney has proved this time and again with all the airfare data at his disposal: Typically the cheapest time to shop is Tuesday afternoon at about 3 p.m. eastern time. This is usually the time when airfare sales have been launched and other airlines match the prices to remain competitive.

See all the airline fees here

4. Fly the cheapest days

For U.S. domestic flights, the cheapest days to fly are usually Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. On flights to Europe, this can vary but often the cheapest days are from Sunday to Wednesday.

5. Fly the cheapest airports

Bigger hub-type airports usually mean cheaper prices (though not always). If you live in a smaller city, check prices from your hometown airport and the next biggest city; the difference might be worth a longer drive.

Need help? Learn to pack like a pro

6. Pack light

Save as much as $50 per person every time you fly by using a carry-on instead of a checked-bag. Exceptions: Allegiant, Spirit and sometimes Frontier charges for carry-ons (and their checked-baggage rates can actually be cheaper).

Alternative: Fly JetBlue or Southwest for free checked bags but don’t book your flights with these airlines without first comparing prices to see if this freebie is worth it.

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Published: September 19, 2013