The holidays are quickly approaching, and that means people are planning Christmas vacations and trips to visit family.
In fact, 25 million people were expected to travel via airlines during the Thanksgiving holiday alone last year. And with so many passengers traveling, airline tickets can be expensive. Not to mention getting a good deal becomes much more challenging.
Yet, learning how to get the cheapest airfare can be a huge help financially. Especially since airfare is often the most expensive item on your travel budget.
If you are able to get cheap holiday flights, you can free up more money for gifts or pocket the savings for a rainy day. Luckily, there are ways to cheat the system and get the best deals possible this holiday season.
How to save money on flights
When it comes to getting discounted fares, timing is everything. And when you book your airline ticket can make the difference between getting a great deal and overpaying for a seat.
When to book your flight
If possible, book your flight weeks in advance. According to CheapAir, who evaluated millions of flights last year, you will get the cheapest rates if you book 47 days in advance of a domestic trip.
When you select a particular flight number, check how full the plane is by looking at the seat map.
If the aircraft still has plenty of seats available or it’s an unpopular flight–such as an early morning departure–the prices will likely go down later to attract new customers.
Conversely, if the plane is full, the prices are not likely to drop, so you should seal the deal and book quickly. And if you are getting down to the wire and are within two weeks of your flight’s takeoff, the price is unlikely to drop at all.
This is especially true in November and December near the holidays. Demand is high, so airlines rarely discount the seats. So make sure you book the lowest rate you can find as soon as possible.
The best day to buy a ticket
Many airlines announce sales and drop prices late Monday night, so Tuesday mornings are usually the perfect time to score the best deal.
If you are unable to monitor pricing from your desktop, sign up for an app like FareCompare. It can help you figure out how to get the cheapest airfare on the go.
And, FareCompare will even send you text or email notifications when flights in your intended route go on sale at the moment. So you can act fast and grab a good deal as soon as it pops up.
Buy one-way tickets instead of round-trip
While it is more time-consuming, you can save hundreds of dollars by booking each leg of your trip individually, rather than booking a round-trip with one airline.
That way, if an airline has a great sale for your departure date but a high price on the return trip, you can score a deal with another carrier.
Kayak is helpful for simplifying this process. They also provide Hacker Fares with their results, which identifies the cheapest airfare from different airlines for every leg of your journey.
Fly at specific times to get cheap holiday flights
Besides when you purchase your tickets, the time and day of the flight can make a significant difference in price.
Business travelers typically fly at the beginning and very end of the workweek, so fares tend to be much higher. Consider skipping these high-traffic times during the holiday season and save money instead.
The middle of the week tends to be the best, with most travelers avoiding early morning flights. If you can get up in time for a 6:00 a.m. flight, you can get a big discount.
Other undesirable flights include flyovers and overnight trips, so airlines often reduce those fares, too.
And try to give yourself some wiggle room around the holidays. The average airfare around Thanksgiving last year was $397 in October, while the average Christmas flight cost $476 during that same time.
If possible, leave a few days ahead of the holiday and potentially cut your airfare in half.
Don’t be loyal
While frequent flyer miles and reward credit cards can be helpful, being loyal isn’t how to get the cheapest airfare.
Around the holidays, airlines actively compete for customers’ dollars. So you can save a lot of money by shopping around.
Use price comparison tools like Priceline, Expedia, or Kayak to find the cheapest flights from various airlines. They sometimes have offers for users you would not be eligible for if you booked directly through a specific airline.
Book your flight now
The holidays are just around the corner. And since it’s one of the most expensive times to travel, the airlines are in a fierce battle to attract travelers.
Luckily, their competition can make it possible to get a great rate on your airfare. And right now is the perfect time to get the lowest rates on your trips.
So do your homework, compare rates, and check fares on different airlines to get the best prices this holiday season.
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