I don’t really have to describe Las Vegas to you, do I?
If you’re reading this, you know what you want: gambling and nightlife (but if you get a chance, look around while in Las Vegas – Lake Mead, Hoover Dam and the Red Rock National Conservation Area are all most impressive).
My personal favorites (as a 2-3 time a year visitor) are the golf, dining (my favorite is Michael Mina in the Bellagio and Il Mulino in the Caesar’s Forum Shops) and the shows (okay, a bit of poker as well …).
First the Bad News for Sin City Air Travel Cheapskates
Las Vegas has taken it on the chin recently — from being dissed (then un-dissed) by the White House – to the nation’s worst unemployment, as the recession hit hard last year causing a dramatic drop in traveler demand.
At first this might seem like good news on the discounting front (true for hotels as City Center opens with a raft of new rooms) — but alas, this is not the case for airfare as airlines have dramatically cut back seats in the wake of this drop in demand — and we all know that stronger demand + less seats = higher ticket prices.
In fact US Airways (one of the major carriers at McCarran International) dropped Las Vegas as one of its “focus” cities, as they decided to retract into their more lucrative hubs by slashing almost half their flights — ouch!
Not only are ticket prices on the rise for summer travel, your chances of getting an empty middle seat are almost nil (yes, I was a World Cup addict this year) and your coveted nonstop may be a connector now (at least if you want a cheaper flight).
Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets to Las Vegas
Ok, out with the bad news and on to what you really want to know, when to buy airline tickets to Vegas.
More specifically, when to start shopping for your airline tickets and subsequently when to virtually swipe your credit card for the cheapest possible flight, or at least the best deals available.
Let’s take a quick look at the Las Vegas airfare trend before we dive in deeper – using our historical database on the average cheapest roundtrip airline ticket prices from the top 50 U.S. cities:
Yes, prices are trending up, but we have to remember that last year ticket prices were at decade lows, so it isn’t as bad as it might appear at first blush. Airlines, especially for summer travel (you can cook an egg on the sidewalk on a cool Vegas summer day) are releasing fewer cheap seats this summer, which poses a problem for those who got used to great deals when they procrastinated last year.
Don’t procrastinate this year, a key factor in finding a better deal as we head toward the end of summer is starting early — airlines typically start to release their cheapest seats for domestic routes about 3 1/2 months before departure (this is when they start to actively manage the cheaper price points on flights).
But be careful, this also means you can actually shop (and buy) too early — but don’t despair — the purchase window is pretty broad, extending to 14 days before departure.
Know the Best Day to Shop for Vegas Tickets
Please note that shopping and buying are two separate processes, shop early and use technology so it doesn’t have to be so often, and more importantly shop at the right time each week — here’s a good rule of thumb.
- Generally, for the best deals – shop for airfare Tuesdays at 3pm
When an airline launches a sale, it typically starts on a Monday night, and by Tuesday afternoon, other airlines with similar routes will have matched those prices. For example, if Southwest launches a sale that includes its Las Vegas routes, chances are several other carriers will match Tuesday morning.
Know the Cheapest Days to Fly to Las Vegas
Just like shopping early, shopping for the cheapest departure days is vital in scoring the best airline ticket deal:
- The cheapest days to fly to Las Vegas are Tuesday, Wednesday (the cheapest) and Saturday
Yes, most of us would rather fly on Fridays and Sundays; the airlines know this and will charge you more to fly on those days (it’s that old supply and demand situation).
Even if you want to extend your trip to late Sunday evening, that’s ok, just leave on a Tuesday or Wednesday and get half the benefit of the cheaper prices on that day.
Split your Ticket Purchase if Traveling with A Friend (or Two or Three)
Now, say you’re traveling to Vegas with a buddy – so you buy would buy two tickets, right? Not exactly.
- Shop for your Las Vegas airline tickets one passenger at a time
This has to do with a quirk in the way airline reservations systems are set up; if there is only a single seat available at the lowest price, but you’re shopping for two tickets – the system automatically kicks your order up to the next highest tier where there are two “same price” tickets. So buy one at a time, even though it means doing two separate transactions, and you could save big on at least one of those tickets.
Be Flexible on Dates for Las Vegas Airfare
When planning a trip to Las Vegas, keep your dates as flexible as possible for your airfare. Or at least recognize that you will pay more, if you have to be in Vegas during peak party season.
- Avoid dates around the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, and New Year’s
Historically, this is when airlines (and hotels) cash-in on the lure of Sin City (or the Wedding Chapel Capital of the World, on Valentine’s Day).
This is not to say you won’t find any deals during these peak times, which brings us to…
Use Twitter and Facebook for Exclusive Airline and Hotel Deals
Social media is all the rage in corporate America, and airlines are no exception as they have become pretty active on Twitter and Facebook, and you should be too. That’s because sometimes they’ll offer deals exclusively to their social media followers – as will other Vegas entities.
Best Tip: Sign Up for Alerts – For Las Vegas Airline Ticket Price Drops
Bottom Line for Deals to Vegas
Shop smart, be flexible, and stay alert to Vegas deals – and you will save on your next trip .