Along with the cost of everything else, airline prices have risen considerably in recent months. With airline ticket prices so high right now, it seems like the day of cheap air fares is gone, making it difficult for some people to travel.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, flight prices rose 18.6 percent between March and April 2022 and then increased another 12.6 percent from April to May of 2022. Prices saw a slight drop going into June.
The good news is that low-cost air fares are still available, if you’re willing to search for them. Instead of buying tickets from the first travel agency ad you see—or directly from an airline website—here are some tips on how to get a cheaper price.
Fares To Remain High Through the Summer
Summertime is generally the peak season for air travel. And this summer, after staying home for so long, it seems people are trying to make up for lost time. This rush to travel has enabled many planes to fly at near full capacity.
People seem willing to pay the higher air ticket prices. And as long as people continue paying the current prices you can probably expect them to remain high. Once summer is over, though, and airlines start having a harder time finding travelers, you will likely find that prices have dropped again—making air travel more affordable.
Good News for Fall Travel This Year
If you want to travel by air this fall, here is some good news. Even before the end of summer, you may find that airline ticket prices are lower than they have been.
Reader’s Digest reports that the lowest prices for fall travel are available in September or October. This lets you take advantage of the off-season. Kids have gone back to school, and the holidays are in the relatively distant future. This means that there is less demand for tickets.
This year, fall travel looks even better. Online travel agency Hopper reports that the difference in price between spring/summer airfares and fall airfares is even steeper than usual, with domestic flights roughly 26% cheaper compared to the cost of summer airfare.
The average price for round-trip domestic flights this fall is $298, down from May’s average of over $400.
Buy Tickets Three Weeks in Advance
Traveling in the fall—or any other time of year? ThePointsGuy says that you will find your tickets to be the lowest if you purchase them three weeks in advance—or more. Traditionally, tickets become about 25 percent higher two weeks in advance, and then increase by another 30 percent within one week of departure.
Travel Mid-week, or During Off Hours
Weekend travel is always crowded—especially on Fridays and Sundays. Business people often choose Mondays to travel. Weekends and holidays such as Labor Day and Thanksgiving will always be peak traveling seasons. Stay away from holiday travel and plan on traveling on Tuesday or Wednesday if you want to find the lowest prices. Saturdays are also a good travel day.
Another way to get a price break is to travel either early in the morning or late at night. Fewer people like to travel at those hours, so tickets will be cheaper.
Check College Calendars
On days when hordes of college students are heading home for fall, spring, or semester break—or heading back to school after break—fares tend to be higher. Airlines do the research to find out when most colleges schedule their breaks. It can pay to do your research too.
When You Purchase Makes a Difference
When you actually book your flights may save you money as well. Although opinions vary, for domestic flights, Tuesday may be your best day to book a ticket. Nerdwallet says economy tickets bought on Tuesdays are usually about 24 percent lower than prices on Sundays, but Hopper reports that you may save up to 30 percent on Mondays. For international flights, booking flights on Thursday may save you money.
Use Fare-Price Calendars
You may find a lower-priced flight by using Google Flights. Google’s website lists about 300 different airlines and will show you airline prices a month at a time.
Ticket prices change frequently. Sites like Google Flights will simplify your search by notifying you of airfare changes.
Take a Different Route
Flying directly to your end destination may not be the cheapest way to fly. If you can take some time to get to your end destination, consider stopping at other cities on the way. This method is not recommended if you have time constraints, but if you can afford at least one or two days in other cities, this could let you fly cheaper than taking direct routes.
If you just want to travel—and you don’t care where—once you log in to Google Flights, its map will show you current prices for various popular destinations. If you are budget conscious, Google Flights can quickly show you the cheapest destination cities in the area of your choice.
Use Search Engines Wisely
Online travel agencies (OTAs) can be a great way to find cheap fares. But if you’ve noticed that the same airlines show up over and over again on sites like Expedia, Hotwire or even smaller booking sites, you’re not mistaken. For a variety of reasons, some airlines simply don’t show up on OTAs. For fares with some budget airlines like Southwest, you may need to go directly to the airline’s website.
Although you are probably familiar with larger OTAs like Expedia and Kayak, don’t neglect smaller OTAs like Skiplagged, Agoda, and Hopper. See Valuepenguin’s list of the best cheap flight search engines.
Use Budget Airlines
Although you will find some good deals on the major airlines, remember that you may find even better travel deals on budget airlines. You may need to put up with some inconveniences, but smaller airlines have big competition—and fewer costs. They can enable you to get low fare flights to your destination.
Two smaller but growing low-cost carriers you might want to consider are Avelo Airlines and Breeze Airways.
Take Advantage of Small Airports
In some cases, you may save money on fares by flying to a smaller airport near your destination city.
When buying tickets, factor in the hidden costs of using major airports, including the cost of your time. Small airports near large metro areas have the advantage of less traffic and are easier to get to. Taxis cost less—and so does parking. Overall, using a small airport could save you as much as 25 percent, according to aviation website AviationPros.
Use an Airline Credit Card
With an airline credit card or a travel card that gives you miles, you can reduce your flight cost. Better credit cards will give you enough points for a free flight—once you put a certain amount in purchases on the card. Two worth considering are the Capital One® Venture X® Rewards Credit Card—which gives cardholders 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 within three months, and the United Club Infinite Card—which rewards cardholders with 100,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 within the first three months.
Look for Last-Minute Flights
Airlines will sometimes offer reduced airfare prices for last-minute flyers. Passenger cancellations, or empty seats, can trigger a low-cost opening, allowing you to grab a seat or two at a very low price.
Skyscanner can help you find last-minute cheap flights. The booking site provides price details, the latest travel requirements to various countries, and some options for hotel and car rentals.
The bottom line: You can find cheap airline tickets this fall, but you may need to shop around.
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