What to Pay for Summer Airfare

You’ve been hearing for some time now that airfare prices will be high this summer – but what exactly does that mean? And how much is too much?

Thanks to FareCompare’s massive database of current and historical airfare prices, I’ve been able to work out some rules of thumb for summer airline ticket prices based on flight distance.

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Guidelines: What You Should Pay for Summer Airfare

What I call the best deals are increasingly rare, and you cannot count on getting them. The shoot for price is more realistic, and still a deal. Take a look:

Flight less than 500 miles (about 1 hour flight time)

  • Best deals: Under $100 round-trip
  • What to shoot for: Anything under $150 round-trip

Flights of 500 – 1,000 miles (about 2 hours flight time)

  • Best deals: Under $160 round-trip
  • What to shoot for: Anything under $210 round-trip

Flights of 1,000 – 1,500 miles or more (about 3 hours flight time)

  • Best deals: Under $200 round-trip
  • What to shoot for: Anything under $280 round-trip

Flights of 1,500 miles or more (over 3 hours flight time)

  • Best deals: Under $240 round-trip
  • What to shoot for: Anything under $340 round-trip*

*If you see a cross-country flight such as New York-Los Angeles for under $350, scoop it up.

[Keep reading – for excellent money-saving tips below]

Some Cities are Less Expensive than Others

As always, the figures above are a guide. There will be variations especially in the few hotly contested markets that have lured a preponderance of discount carriers and two that instantly come to mind are Boston and Orlando.

See the Six Cheapest Destinations for Summer

If you’re heading someplace that happens to be on the expensive side, check out nearby airports that may have significantly cheaper prices. A little driving could save a lot of bucks.

Save More with Inconvenient Flights

Never underestimate the inconvenience factor when looking for ways to save on airfare. Some examples:

  • Connecting flights are usually cheaper than non-stops
  • Choose flights with late night or early morning take-offs
  • Fly mid-week or on Saturday – avoid flights on Fridays and Sundays
  • Time vacations to coincide with less popular/cheaper times to fly such as May, early June and late August

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Shop for Summer Airfare Now

We don’t expect tardy shoppers will get lucky this year and find last-minute deals. Sure, anything is possible, but demand remains steady so airlines are not motivated to reduce fares. Those who do wait too long will likely have three options left: stay home, find a vacation destination within driving distance, or pay too much for airfare. Don’t be that procrastinator.

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Published: May 15, 2012