When to Buy Summer Vacation Airfare: Expert Says, 'Sooner Rather than Later'

Anyone who’s traveled over the last several weeks knows the price of airfare is on the rise, and that is expected to hold true for the upcoming summer season. So when to buy your plane tickets?

Bargains will be Scarce for Summer Travel

According to airfare expert Rick Seaney the answer is, sooner rather than later. Says Seaney, “I would say this summer you are likely to be better off purchasing earlier in the airfare shopping window – which is typically three months to 14 days before departure – especially for domestic flights.”

How to Score Cheap Flights for 4th of July, Other Summer Holidays

Pricing Could be ‘Crazy’

Seaney points out that the airline industry has already raised ticket prices three times this year, and he would not be surprised to see more increases before vacation season gets in high gear. Adds Seaney, “This summer will be about getting a ‘better bad-deal’ rather than a bargain, because frankly steals will be few and far between.” And he went further: “I think pricing is going to be crazy particularly this summer – it’s sort of a perfect storm.”

[Keep reading for strategies to find the cheapest flights for summer]

Strategies to Find Cheapest Flights

Seaney always recommends waiting to purchase tickets on Tuesday afternoons, instead of shopping on the weekends. “Generally, an airline will launch a sale either late Monday night or early on Tuesday,” says Seaney. “To stay in the game, competition-wise, the others typically match the sale prices, and this process is usually complete by 3 p.m. eastern time on Tueday.” A typical weekday sale window ends on Thursday and prices rise again for the weekend. More tips from Seaney:

More Tips for Summer Vacation Flights

Compare prices to nearby airports: “Generally a big hub will be cheaper than a smaller regionally airport,” says Seaney, and the additional drive-time to or from a farther airport can be worth it.

Compare prices to destinations: Seaney says, “If you like beaches, Florida’s have been relatively cheap this year, while we’ve been seeing some higher prices to Mexico destinations.” He adds that airfare to Southern California beaches have been running just a bit higher than Florida.

Pack Light: Seaney says he always travels with a carry-on bag, but what out for Allegiant Airlines which has just instituted a carry-on bag fee that will cost between $10 – $35 each-way. Spirit Airlines also charges for carry-on baggage.

New York Times Practical Traveler When to Buy that Plane Ticket

“So far this year, airlines have raised rates three times, said Rick Seaney, chief executive of Farecompare.com, which tracks ticket prices. ‘I think pricing is going to be crazy,’ particularly this summer, he said.”

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Published: April 5, 2012