5 Things Cheapskates Never Do When Shopping for Flights

There’s no shame in being a cheapskate for airfare; on the contrary, it’s a badge of honor. If you’d like to join the ranks of cheapskate travelers, follow these tips from FareCompare’s resident airfare expert Rick Seaney and start saving money now.

LISTEN Rick Seaney is proud to be cheap. Join him.

1. Cheapskates don’t shop too early

If you buy your airline tickets for U.S. travel more than three-and-a-half months before departure, you could pay too much. For flights to Europe, don’t start shopping until about five months before take-off.

When to shop: The Zone of Indecision

Tip: These guidelines are looser when it comes to popular holiday travel periods, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas or even summer vacation. In these instances, you can shop a little earlier.

2. Cheapskates don’t shop too late

Purchase domestic tickets about 30 days before take-off. For Europe, about one-and-a half months before you go.

Tip: After these cut-off times, the more you delay the more you will pay.

3. Cheapskates don’t shop at one airline site

Your favorite low-cost carrier does not always have the cheapest prices. In fact, no single airline is always the cheapest. If you don’t compare prices, you could miss out on a great deal.

Tip: Southwest only offers its airfare prices on its own website so check it out but again, use a comparison site to see what other airlines are charging (you might be surprised).

4. Cheapskates don’t take easy flights

We’d all like to fly non-stops at convenient times on the most popular travel days, but that’s a recipe for overpaying. If your flight is longer than two hours, compare the price of non-stops vs. connecting flights; the latter is sometimes significantly cheaper. More ways where inconvenience could pay off:

  • Fly Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays – usually the cheapest days to fly
  • Fly overnight or red-eyes, or flights at dawn – again, usually cheaper than other times

Tip: There are rare cases where a connecting flight is more expensive than a direct flight; another reason why you should always compare prices.

5. Cheapskates don’t overpack

The typical checked-bag fee for a single suitcase is $50 roundtrip, but overweight fees can be far more painful. Avoid these charges by using a carry-on (and yes, you can pack everything you need in a carry-on). Note:  Allegiant, Spirit and in some cases, Frontier will charge for carry-ons as well as checked-bags.

Tip: Two airlines still offer checked-bags for free, JetBlue (1) or Southwest (2).

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Published: March 19, 2014