Published April 28, 2014 by The Thrifty Couple
As you are contemplating upcoming travel plans, some of you may be considering flights! Well, we want to share tips with you to help you get the best prices for airfare and the lowest airline ticket prices that you can nab!
There have been times in which flying became cheaper than travel by car for the two of us. Obviously, the more that are flying, the cheaper it will be to drive, but this isn’t always the case. Especially when you consider the gas, wear on your vehicle, potential hotel stays, the food and the nickel and dime expenses – the price and convenience may make flying out the most attractive option.
Well, we have learned and have applied a few of tips and tricks and so we want to share with you as we continue with “thrifty” travel plans!
Here’s tips to help you get the best deals:
Sign-up for the airline’s deal alerts.
Especially airlines like Delta, Southwest and JetBlue, they will have these great one-way airfare sales that can make for great deals. Southwest seems to be one of the most common airlines where you can find flights for $49 for one-way a few times a year.
Plan to travel on the best days.
This is one of the oldest and still truest rules about cheap airline travel. Traveling on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday seems to render the lowest prices. Think about it, one of the biggest supporters of airlines are the business travelers. Most business travelers need to arrive at their destinations on a Monday. This makes Sunday, Monday and Friday (Friday as they return home after the work week) travel the highest. Well, it is still true!
Shop at the optimal day and time!
Now this trick is a widely advertised one….. but what is the optimal time? That is a question that doesn’t necessarily have a definitive answer, but here’s the times/days that we and others we have known have nabbed the “best results.”
Airlines update their databases in the mid week and so because of this, Tuesdays and Wednesdays seem to be best. And then to refine even further, the best times on these days are between 12 am – 3 am EST on Tuesday morning or 1-3 pm EST on Tuesday afternoons. We even have a good friend that stayed up until Tuesday morning to make an airline ticket purchase in those wee hours of the morning and got over $100 off the rates posted earlier in the day! That is a great savings for one ticket, but if you need to buy many, that is a HUGE savings! We would tend to lean more towards the 12 am – 3 am times. If you think about it, lots of travel being booked by travel agencies and businesses are during the business times and the prices will tend to be higher due to supply and demand.
Shop at the optimal time from travel date.
This one is a debate and perhaps one that changes and needs to be considered. For years, many of us have heard about the 7, 14, 21 days out being the optimal times. But this doesn’t seem to be the case much anymore. Perhaps with the widely known knowledge of this trick, it became obsolete. Well, the newest experience seems to be either far out or last minute. Most tickets are being purchased a few weeks out and they do seem to be in the higher ticket range. Some have the best experiences 6-7 weeks out or literally the week of (the week of as they fill their final remaining seats). This does make travel planning difficult, but it is at least a tip to consider.
Have flexible travel dates and airports.
The more options you have, the better the deal hunting will be. We try to make almost all of our air travel flexible as this contributes to a vast amount of savings. We have saved hundreds before just by leaving a day earlier or traveling a day later.
We personally haven’t had a ton of different airports to pick from for our departure airports, but this extra option for certain areas gives you even that much more flexibility. We have changed our arrival airports (like Newark instead of New York and Long Beach instead of Los Angeles, etc.) and have saved tons on certain destinations with multiple airport options.
Check often and clear your browser history.
This may sound weird, but do a search a couple of times a day at different times of the day and if you are not satisfied with the results, do it again the next day. Airline ticket prices are unpredictable. Even with the tips and tricks we share here, any one of these rules can be broken because there really are no rules. So checking often and at different times for several days get’s your “bearings” on the flight you are hoping for. We did this recently for a flight. For about a month, I would check a couple of different flight times at a couple of different times of the day and would get ranges almost $100 apart for the exact same flight. But they would always be in the $300 range. Sometimes low $300 sometimes high $300. Well, then all of the sudden, the flight dropped to $229. BUT….. in order to really see the best prices, you will want to clear your browser history!
Well, some travel and booking sites record your web browsing data and with this information, some of them will raise prices because they know you are interested in this flight! So by clearing your browser history, you can possibly find the original lower price or even a lower price!
Use travel sites to compare prices, but you might want to go with the airline directly.
We recommend check at different travel sites like Travelocity, Priceline, Kayak and more and see what prices they come up with! Honestly, there is not much change in prices between many of these sites and the airline directly. So why do this? Well, it gives you a quick glance at your options to decide which airline to go and work with directly. But then working with the airline directly, you have a bit more flexibility, rewards and perks. You will also want to book online to get their online prices. The travel sites can be a great way to go if you are needing multiple parts to your trip (like hotel, car, etc.) but just airfare may be best with the airline. Don’t forget, airlines too have travel packages which can save you a bundle! Southwest and Delta have some of the best packages for hotel and car with airfare that is out there!
Even if you don’t think you will ever earn enough for a free flight, always join the frequent fliers program.
You never know, life may change and you may earn a free flight from frequent flying in your future. But it is more than that – members of the frequent flier program receive special emails and snail mail deals. Plus you can sometimes receive deals from their partners, like a hotel. So even if you don’t fly to a destination, you might get a special hotel deal! It doesn’t hurt to be a member as it is free. Plus, when you actually do infrequently fly as part of the frequent flier program, frequent fliers can sometimes receive perks on the day of your flight, even if it is just boarding the plan a little sooner.
Get an airfare refund if the prices go lower.
Here’s a nice one! If your ticket prices go any lower than what you purchased them at, you can get a refund for the difference! Yapta.com is your source for details on your airline’s refund policy and being alerted to when you can claim a refund if your price drops!
Here’s a couple of “off the wall” tips:
- Buy discounted gift cards to the airlines from places like Cardpool HERE.
- Consider a red eye flight. We did this once, and yes we saved a bundle, but it ruined our first whole day of vacation due to complete and utter exhaustion (you can read the story HERE). However, it is something to consider and may work with your travel plans.
- Book one-way flights. Sometimes booking this way will render some nice discounts, but not always. It is at least worth checking!
- Book multi-stop flights. These are a pain and risky as the more flights you have the greater the risk of delays, but it could save you a good chunk of money!
- Be bumped. This is more for a future flight instead of a current one. If the opportunity presents itself, consider skipping a flight at the gate for an “over-booked” flight and you can end up with a free future flight. You will then be “bumped” to the next flight, which is often several hours later. We have personally done this 3 times in our marriage and it paid off big time with free tickets to use on a future flight and one of those three being bumping us to a flight the next day, so free accommodations that night. My parents have also done this a number of times. But you do have to consider how this alters your travel arrangements and needing to get back home or to your destination as it usually means coming home or arriving several hours to a day later.