How to Get a Last Minute Memorial Weekend Airfare Deal

So if you’re reading this you are a pretty serious procrastinator and you’re hunting and pecking around for airline tickets to whisk you away for the long weekend at the end of the month, or maybe just trying to find a deal for one of your friends or family to come visit.

First of all, you’re now inside the 14 day advance purchase window where legacy airlines (American, Continental/United, Delta, US Airways) typically raise the price point of tickets (see why airline ticket “advance purchase” is one of 10 hurdles you must leap to get the cheapest flights).

Luckily, low cost airlines (Southwest, JetBlue, AirTran) have a shorter “departure date purchase window” of 7 days advance purchase before they dramatically lift prices – even better on these low cost airline routes, legacy airlines typically match so the first tip is to follow the low cost airline routes if possible.

One of the main keys to getting any cheap seat, especially those inside 2 weeks of departure and especially for a holiday, is to have some flexibility. Air travel is the biggest worry because hotels are coming off one of their worst years ever, so finding an inexpensive room shouldn’t be that big of an issue.

The easiest way to quickly check the cheapest price points around the U.S. (and World) is to use our Where-to-Go cheap trip finder with a $300 air travel budget for May. You can filter by different types of locations then quickly check numerous date combinations with one click (tip use CTRL-Click to check multiples in your browser tabs).

Just remember that these are the cheapest possible prices, but many locations will be close to being sold out, so expect their airlines to lift prices for Thursday and Friday departures. Saturday departures are your best bet because legacy airlines are charging an additional $30 one-way peak travel surcharge for departures on 27th and 28th of May.

Another trick I use quite a bit for last minute travel is to check out package sites (or sites with a packaging search function). The reason is they typically pre-negotiate air travel (many times cheaper than the a la carte last minute prices) and because the “real” cost of air and hotel are not known, both the airlines and the hotelier are more willing to discount.

The best and final piece of advice is to not get in this last minute air travel shopping situation on your next holiday excursion, especially in 2010 as procrastinators will not be rewarded. That doesn’t mean you can’t find a deal (you can), but it makes it much tougher.

And finally forget-about-it when comes to checking a bag unless you are on Southwest or JetBlue.

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Published: May 18, 2010