How to Save Money on Flights
Quick Tips for Saving Money on Flights
- Purchase tickets between 3 weeks and 45 days in advance
- Travel in the off-season
- Be flexible with travel dates and travel time
- Shop different airlines and types of tickets
- Compare prices for flying into minor airports versus the main airports
- Book directly with airline
- Select odd single seats, as opposed to seats grouped together
- Consider frequent-flyer reward programs
Where to Fly, When to Fly
Saving money on airline tickets mainly comes down to one thing - how flexible you are. Do you need to travel on an exact date, or do you have a window to work with? Is your destination a specific city, or say, anywhere warm and sunny? The more flexible you are, the more you can save. That said, there are ways to save money even if you must travel on a certain date to a specific place.
If you are planning a vacation and have some flexibility on when to travel, rates will be better in the off-season, Try to avoid holidays and summer/spring breaks, and the weeks surrounding those dates. You will find lower rates if you fly mid-week and stay over a Saturday - for example, leaving on a Tuesday and returning Monday.
Where do you want to go? If you are headed to visit someone, obviously there is not much choice in the city you will visit. But, you may be surprised to find a smaller nearby airport in the area that offers a better price.
Tips on Booking Your Flight
Once you decide when and where you want to fly, you need to do a little online research to find the best price. Use one of the websites listed at the right to gather your information
Do your research, but hold off on booking. For that, you will want to contact the airline directly to avoid handling charges. Plug in your travel dates and check major and minor airports in the city of your destination. If you don't mind long layovers or multiple stops, your costs will be less. Airlines charge more for nonstop flights and often more for round-trip tickets. Compare the cost of two one-way tickets to a round-trip ticket price.
Once you feel you have the best price, check one more thing. Look at the cost if you were to adjust your travel dates by a day or two. Sometimes one day can make a big difference. Travelocity and Orbitz both include search options for looking at the days around your window of travel.
Other tips for booking:
- Book early, at least three weeks before the flight
- There are often last minute bargains if you book 1-2 days before the flight
- Random single seats usually are less expensive than seats grouped together if you have travelling companions
- Red-eye, or late night, flights are often cheaper
- Ask about additional taxes and fees you will have to pay
- Travel agents are helpful, but you will save by doing the research and booking yourself
Prices for Flight from Charleston, South Carolina to Nassau, Bahamas
Booking Time for Flight
1 day notice
1 week in advance
3 weeks in advance
2 months in advance
6 months in advance
1 year in advance
Compare Prices for Flights
To give you an example of how much the same flight from one city to another with the same airline can fluctuate, I researched a flight from Charleston, South Carolina to Nassau, Bahamas. I thought it might be nice to visit the Atlantis Resort! All of the dates are off-season except the one marked as summer time.
For this trip, I did not find a bargain for the last minute flight, but I noticed a window of time when the prices were the lowest. You would think a flight booked several months in advance would be the cheapest, but that is usually not the case. The best time to book the flight is between three weeks and 45 days before the flight.
Sign Up for Discounts
If you travel often, you may want to sign up for programs that will save you on flights. Some airlines, such as Delta, offer a frequent-flyer program where you rack up credit miles for the miles you travel. You also may get a credit card that rewards you with free flights or mileage for purchases you make using the card. Some people use their credit cards for almost every expense - groceries, bills, gas - and then pay their credit card bill off every month. The result is accruing lots of free travel miles to use on future flights.
Some airlines have newsletters and will email you their special deals. A service I signed up for is Travelzoo.com. Every Wednesday, I receive an email listing the current flight and vacation deals from a variety of airlines and resorts. I have noticed that a lot of the deals are for certain off-season times, but that is part of finding the best deal.