Finding a Cheap Flight

Posted June 29, 2010 by Jaclyn Liechti

Written by Ed Perkins

Air-planeovermtns-def When to Fly

  • Time of the year: Try offseason, which varies by destination. It'll be fourth quarter to domestic warm-weather areas; when schools are in session for theme parks; fall, winter, and spring for Europe; and days within extended holidays, avoiding dates immediately before and after major holidays. Remember, destination cost seasonality may differ from airfare seasonality.
  • Day of week: The consensus for domestic travel includes Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.
  • Time of day: The consensus for domestic travel includes early morning, overnight red-eye, late evening, mid-day.
  • Check Hotwire for historical fare patterns on busy routes.

Where to Fly

  • Fares to or from nearby airports may be lower than those to/from a preferred airport.
  • Fares to or from airports with lots of low-fare service are lower on all lines than fares at monopoly airports.
  • Fares on connecting flights are often lower than on nonstops.

When to Buy

  • Look for periodic "sales."
  • Some mavens say Tuesday at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Some say Wednesday at midnight or afternoon. Some say Sunday.
  • Not too early. Promotional fares are usually not posted more than four-to-five months ahead.

How to Shop

  • Be flexible. That's rule No. 1 for getting the best prices.
  • Compare all the options by searching multiple sites.
  • Include the fees for whatever extras you want.
  • Consider air-hotel or air-car packages.
  • Consider a travel agent.
  • Consider "opaque" buying if you're flexible about schedules.

How to Stay in the Know

  • Sign up for email, RSS, Twitter, and other fare alerts.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Tomas Bercic)

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