Six Tips For Saving Money On Airfare

With fees, fine print and blackout dates, locking in a low price on your plane ticket can seem impossible. Consumer Reports has some tips that can help cut the cost of flying, plus help organize your search for the best deal.

In addition to setting up alerts to track fares and searching for domestic flights three and a half months prior to booking (five and a half for international), you should also buy your ticket early—you’ll pay a premium if you wait to within 14 days of travel. Also, when comparing flights online through sites such as Expedia, Kayak, Priceline and Travelocity, be sure to check the airline’s own site, which can be cheaper because there is no commission.

How to get rock-bottom rates:

  1. Look beyond discount airlines: Keep in mind that discount airlines are not always the cheapest. Airlines cannot afford to be more expensive than their competitors for comparable flights at comparable times.

  2. Buy at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday: Most sale fares kick in on Monday at 8 p.m., and end on Thursday at 8 p.m., and according to Rick Seaney, co-founder of FareCompare.com, the greatest number of cheap seats will be available at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.

  3. Avoid flying on weekends: Be mindful of booking weekend flights because these are popular with both business travelers and vacationers. More specifically, you should avoid flights on Friday afternoon through Monday morning, if you can.

  4. Fly hungry: The least expensive flights tend to take off at dawn, or around lunchtime, as well as after 6 p.m.

  5. Consider a connecting flight: Connecting flights can be substantially cheaper than flights that are non-stop, especially for international travel.

  6. Shop for one seat: Reservation systems are programmed so that if there’s one too few cheap seats for your group, all members get bumped up to the next price level. So if you’re traveling with a group, establish the base price fro one passenger and compare it with the price for all.

Comments

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  1. etz says:

    Nr. 2 “Buy at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday”.
    Does it matter in what timezone it is 3 p.m.? Is it based on the city of the origination of the flight, or all in some default timezone?

  2. gman863 says:

    #7 – Drive if possible: While this may not be practical for a cross-country trip, it’s realistic on trips of 500 miles or less.

    A 90-minute flight can easily turn into 5 or 6 hours adding up the drive to the airport, parking, TSA lines and the cab ride or rental car at the destination — assuming, of course, the flight itself is on time.

    • MJDickPhoto says:

      wife and I drove to Las Vegas from Wichita, was a long drive, but gave us lots to see. although it was about 40 hours on the road total, was less then $300 in gas, still better then 10 hours, $1200 (car and flight) and hands in our (REDACTED) by the TSA.

      if you ever get the time to do it, take a trip on route 66, and just breathe in the past this country is trying to shed. it’s a time that may likely change your life.
      after a long night driving, theres nothing like a desert sunrise and sharing an iced cappuccino with your someone. sitting back in the cool air, like the world forgot you were there.

      • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

        I did a Route 66 vacation several years ago. Flew into ABQ, rented a car and drove east as far as Amarillo, then west as far as Gallup, New Mexico (by way of Santa Fe, the *really* old alignment). Had no specific stopping points or sleeping arrangements anywhere along the way. It was a blast.

      • blueman says:

        You didn’t save nearly as much as you thought you did when you add on the true cost of driving your car more than 2,000 miles. And that’s a huge time investment.

        If you’re treating it as a mini-vacation that’s fine, but it’s not a realistic alternative for most people.

  3. brinkman says:

    Do fifth freedom flights tend to be cheap or was I just lucky? I flew Air New Zealand a few years back back from Los Angeles to London for around $400. An Emirates flight from Sydney to Auckland also ended up being surprisingly cheap.

  4. KTK1990 says:

    One thing to add is that it might be better to fly on weekends.

    I often fly from CLT to PIT on US air because they are the cheapest for me ($288 round trip for 8-10 day trips, nonstop).
    Last time I left on a Thursday and saved a few bucks, this time I cant and its either Friday or Saturday departure day. The same flight times, same route, same 1 person nonstop and arrival flight and it cost $30 more to fly out on Friday.

  5. beer4me says:

    “Fly hungry: The least expensive flights tend to take off at dawn, or around lunchtime, as well as after 6 p.m.”

    hmm.. I don’t totally agree with that one. Business travelers tend to travel first thing in the morning, so dawn and 5-8pm flights pack a premium, particularly on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

    Flying mid day is good advice though.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      There aren’t THAT many business travelers, trust me. Morning flights are often the cheapest, and probably the best flight experience you’ll have. No kids, rarely any delays.

  6. dolemite says:

    I prefer to just not give them any business.

    • goldenargo85 says:

      you must not travel overseas

    • Weekilter says:

      It may have not occurred to you, but some people are traveling more than 500 miles and/or it’s impossible to drive to a destination. If you meant not travel at all that’s silly.

  7. pridkett says:

    A lot of these are comments that get recycled everywhere and don’t really teach you how to truly get the best fares. The number one thing that I’ve learned about how to get the best fare is to understand the fare codes for your airline. I’ll use Delta as an example. For a coach ticket the Delta fare codes go, in order of cost, Y, B, M, H, Q, K, L, U, T. Fare codes also determine upgrade order. On Delta a medallion member on a Y class ticket is upgraded first, even ahead of more frequent fliers on non-Y tickets. After that it goes through the fare codes by status, so a Diamond medallion on a T ticket (125k miles a year, cheapest ticket) is upgraded before a Silver medallion on a B ticket (25k miles a year, second most expensive ticket).

    When booking a ticket it will tell you the fare code (at least if you’re on the site). In most cases you’re going to find the ticket is in Q, K, L, U, or T classes. If it’s T class that means that you’re probably not going to find a cheaper ticket for that flight unless the airline changes their base pricing for the route. If it’s Q it will be much more expensive and you may want to try changing dates of your travel. As each of the less expensive fare buckets gets sold out the tickets are then sold in more expensive buckets. Depending the capacity of the flight at certain intervals more tickets may be open in a bucket at a later date.

    But, in short, if you’re looking at that around the world trip and all the fares are Y class on Delta, you may want to changing your search because you’re going to pay an arm and leg for that fare when you probably don’t need to.

  8. Tyanna says:

    To #5, my time and sanity is sometimes worth the extra $150. Seriously, a direct flight can save you like 5 hours over a connecting flight when flying internationally. Not to mention you won’t have to go through security again. At most international hubs I’ve been to, when connecting, I have to go through security at that airport before I can go to my next flight. It’s annoying.

  9. CelticWhisper says:

    All the savings in the world aren’t going to compensate for the continued existence of TSA.

    As long as TSA is still in American airports, I won’t be, and I’m far from the only one.

  10. One-Eyed Jack says:

    Take the train (where available).

  11. weave says:

    “Consider a connecting flight” — never. I don’t care if I have to pay a few hundred more for a non-stop. If it’s available, I’ll take it every time. My time is valuable. Also, the more segments it takes to get you from point A to B the more chances you have of having a flight canceled or delayed — and if it’s the first segment, you’re probably borked for the next flight.

  12. HogwartsProfessor says:

    About the only way I can save is to book far in advance. I only get two weeks vacation for the entire year, so I try to use as little as possible. No personal time, no sick time. So if I can, I’ll fly out on Thursday night and back on Sunday afternoon. That gets me home by 11:30 pm, a half hour drive from my house to the airport and into bed.

    At Thanksgiving, I flew back on Monday because I didn’t want to get caught in the crush. That was better. Airports are crowded no matter when you fly, it seems.

  13. energynotsaved says:

    Fly the holiday. We fly home from vacation on Christmas day. Saved a bunch. Airport wasn’t horrid. People were pretty nice. Okay, LOTS of kid, but… flight was cheap!

  14. maynurd says:

    Be willing to drive to a nearby airport for a lower fare. Airfares from my local airport can be anywhere form 200 to 500 bucks higher than another airport just two hours away. Gas may be high, but it’s not that high yet….