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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fly hungry: The least expensive flights tend to take off at dawn, or around lunchtime, as well as after 6 p.m.
- Consider a connecting flight: Connecting flights can be substantially cheaper than flights that are non-stop, especially for international travel.
- 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.