The old travel industry adage that no two travelers on any given flight had paid the same price for their tickets has been rendered largely obsolete, as greater consumer access to information has had a general leveling impact on ticket prices. Using inflation-adjusted figures, air travel is now cheaper than it has ever been. Nevertheless, many travelers still pay more for their travel needs than the need to. Here are a few tips and tricks that will help you find the greatest possible airfare bargains.
- The day and time of purchase can have a significant impact on ticket prices. Every night at midnight, airlines reload their reservation databases with available seats that had been reserved but were not paid for. For that reason, it is best to conduct your search in the wee hours of the morning. This is one of the reasons that, in the past, travel agents had access to better airfares than the general public. Today, however, you can search for these tickets yourself on any of the major travel sites (Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire, etc.)
- As with all service industries, convenience usually costs more. For example, a weekend getaway may be significantly cheaper if you are willing to fly on Saturday and return on Monday than if you needed to leave on Friday and return on Sunday.
- A little flexibility can save you a lot of money. This is true with regard to travel dates and airports. For instance, at the date of this writing a ticket from Miami to Washington, DC purchased with 60 days advance notice currently costs $183 plus taxes; however, the price drops to $133 if you are willing to depart from nearby Ft. Lauderdale instead.
- Frequent flyer programs can be an excellent way to save money, but redeeming your miles requires a little extra diligence. Most airlines set aside only a small percentage of their available seats for travelers redeeming miles, and they are usually available for reservation 330 days before the departure date. For these reasons, it is always advantageous to book reward program travel far in advance, and to be as flexible as possible about your travel plans. Also, many airlines charge more for telephone reservations for reward program travel, so it’s always best to book these arrangements online if possible.
- It is often advantageous to reserve and purchase tickets at least 21 days before your departure; however, there are exceptions. The emergence of last-minute reservation discounters has made spontaneous far more economical than in the past. In many cases, ticket prices are comparable to advance-notice prices. For instance, at the date of this writing the best price for a round-trip ticket from Miami to New York for travel dates four months in advance is $195, offered by American Airlines. The same ticket for travel on the same days of the week next week is only $236 with no booking fee on LastMinuteTravel.com.