Editor’s note: We updated this popular post in 2015 with new and easy-to-use information. One thing that hasn’t changed is these tips still help save money every time you shop for airfare.
Update: Summer, Holiday, Peak Travel Tips
Three quick tips to save time and money during the busiest travel days of the year.
- Get to the airport early: If flying during any peak season (particularly June, July or August) get to the airport anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours earlier than normal. Do this! Airport lines will be long and if you aren’t at the gate before the aircraft door closes, you will not be flying.
- Keep an eye on the weather: Summer weather can be much worse than winter. Thunderstorms delay flights more often than snowstorms so be aware and know what to do if your flight is cancelled or delayed.
- Watch the baggage fees: A cheap flight can rapidly turn into an expensive one if you don’t watch bag fees. Note: Carry-on bags are free on most airlines but Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit do charge for carry-ons. Only one U.S. airline still offers 2 checked bags for free: Southwest.
Now let’s find some cheap flights.
Find Cheap Flights: Fly Hungry, Fly Tired
We get it. You’re busy and your time is valuable. When you want airline tickets, you want the best comparison shopping site to find cheap flights fast. Next step:
Fly when no one wants to. We are talking about flying the least popular days and times. The reason they’re unpopular is because it’s inconvenient.
- Fly Hungry: Before breakfast, at the dinner hour, overnight.
- Fly Tired: Travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays when most don’t feel like getting on a plane.
These are the basics. Keep reading for a complete explanation.
What are the Cheapest Days to Fly
These are general guidelines but there are always exceptions which is why you have to compare fares and compares days and flight times.
- Cheapest days: The cheapest days to fly on most U.S. domestic routes are Tuesdays, Wednesday and Saturdays. Learn more about this here.
- Expensive days: Popular days will cost more. The most popular/most expensive days are usually Fridays and Sundays.
- Cheapest times: Again, fly when most people don’t want to. This includes flights at dawn, red-eyes or overnight flights, and often flights around the dinner hour.
Can’t fly the cheapest times or days in both directions? Do it one-way for your trip and you’ll still reap half the savings.
When is the Best Time to Book a Flight
Best day to shop: FareCompare’s data shows that best time to book a flight in the U.S. is Tuesday at 3 p.m. eastern time. This day and time give you access to the best flight deals. It’s when airlines release the most sales and the best time to book plane tickets. Learn more about this here.
Best time-frame to shop: This varies depending on where you fly.
- Domestic fares: The best time to buy airline tickets in the U.S. is between three months and 30 days before departure.
- International fares: The best time to buy international airline tickets is between 5 ½ months and 1 ½ months before departure. During peak seasons such as June, July and August or December holidays, purchase tickets two months in advance.
A big mistake many people make is to delay shopping until the last minute thinking there will be deals. Those days are gone and last-minute fares tend to be much more expensive (this is when the steeper prices business travelers pay kick in). Bottom line: Procrastination doesn’t pay.
How to Save with Flexibility
Sometimes a little inconvenience can save big money. Check out the following tips and decide whether you’re willing to endure a longer travel day or shopping experience.
Connecting flights: Often – not always, but often – you can save by foregoing the ease of a non-stop flight in favor of a less convenient connecting flight. Sometimes adding a stop (or two) can save as much as 50 percent. Learn more about this here.
Bigger airports: Bigger airports (particularly hubs) often have cheaper airfares. Compare prices from your home airport as well as the nearest larger airport and you may find driving an extra hour or two is well worth it.
Shop one passenger at a time: When booking travel for two or more, shop one passenger at a time. That’s because airline reservation systems have a quirk that works like this: Multiple tickets sold in a single transaction must be the same price. If you shop for two tickets at the same time, and there is one ticket for $100 but the other tickets are $200, you’ll pay $200 for both tickets. If you shop one at a time, you’ll get one ticket for $100 and one for $200. Learn more about this here.
Sign up for airfare alerts: Getting to see the best prices in real-time is simple; just sign up at FareCompare (it’s free and it’s fast). Tip: When you are alerted to a good price that interests you, jump on it – it will not last long.
Yes, We Have More Tips to Find Cheap Flights
Please join our community at FareCompare. Not only will you get access to the best airfares of more than 500 airlines around the world, you’ll find tons of great advice that will save you money. Check out our Deals Blog, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. It all comes down to our motto: Don’t pay a penny more than you have to.