The Cheapest Time of Year to Fly: During "Dead Zones"

Ever fly during the “dead zones”?

If not, you’re missing out on the cheapest time of year to fly. It’s a great way to save some money and get cheap airline tickets. What exactly is a dead zone? I think the term originated with Stephen King’s novel of the same name – about a psychic schoolteacher “who spun the wheel of fortune and won a trip into the dead zone.”

Travel expert Chris McGinnis discusses dead zones and scoring cheaper airline tickets on a recent Ask Rick Podcast. We got a good response to the podcast, so here’s more information on dead zones and how they can result in reduced airline ticket prices.

Dead Zones = Discounts

Dead zones are truly unpopular travel periods recognized in the air travel industry as “dead” because not many people choose to fly during these times. Some examples of dead zones include:

  • The first two weeks of December (between the Thanksgiving and Christmas rush)
  • Most of January (after the New Year’s travel period)
  • Spring and fall (exception: the traditional “spring break” weeks in March/April)

And here’s an example of the money you can save: Just last week I went on my favorite website (yes, that would be FareCompare!) and priced tickets from Los Angeles to New York during the second week of December: $249 roundtrip. Same trip a couple of weeks later: $440 and up. In January, it drops down again to $249. Fly during the dead zones and you can see substantial savings on airline tickets .

Off-Peak Travel Perks

Dead zones aren’t just rigid time periods, though.

Another way to think of them is as “off-peak travel”. As food and travel blogger Jeanine Barone says, “I like a great deal and I don’t like crowds.” I’m with her. She gave Europe as an example: “When I visit Spain in September and October, I don’t have to deal with crazy lines to get into the Prado Museum.”

Yes, that’s another benefit to flying in the dead zone of off-peak travel: uncrowded airports and plenty of hotel rooms. And these perks can pop-up anywhere, depending on the time of year. For instance: Hawaii in the spring and fall, ski resorts in summer, Europe in the winter, Orlando when the kids are in school (well, sometimes).

Know When to Fly with Airfare Alerts

If you’re not sure of a dead zone or off-peak travel period, just use the FareCompare Flexible Search Calendar; you’ll see how prices change day-by-day and even month-by-month. Generally, when prices are low, you’ve hit upon a dead zone. If you sign up for real-time FareCompare airfare alerts, we do the work for you and let you know about the cheapest airline tickets available–and they’re not always in the dead zones. It’s easy and it’s free.

Find out more about the cheapest days to fly and the best times to buy airline tickets.

More from Rick on ABC News:

The Cheapest Time of Year to Fly

Fly First Class at Coach Prices


Updated: November 17, 2015