No-Snow Zones

Flying to the Sun
  |  Gorp.com
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Just a flight away

Plane tickets are priced so erratically that you might think the airlines use a Ouija board to set their fees. But one thing you can count on: During a cold northern winter, there's competition for those cheap seats to the sun. Three simple strategies can improve your chances of getting one:

  1. Flexibility: The more room to maneuver you give your travel agent, the better. This applies to both airports (if you live in a metropolitan area with more than one, or if there are several airports within a reasonable driving distance of your destination) and travel times. Being willing to switch your flight by as little as one day can sometimes save you money, especially during peak periods.

  2. Book in advance: During holiday times, fewer cheap seats are available, and even those are more expensive than normal. Any bargains get snapped up fast. The most expensive times to travel are, predictably, the times everyone seems to want to travel: the week before Thanksgiving until the Sunday after; the week before Christmas until January 6, and the week surrounding the February Presidents' Day holiday.

  3. Fly direct: It's usually cheaper to change planes than to fly directly. But in the winter, changing in a snow-belt city is just asking for trouble, so try for a southern city like Atlanta or Dallas rather than Chicago or Cincinnati (although with the hub system, a bonafide blizzard will ultimately cause delays in airports everywhere). If you must change planes in a northern airport, a little extra time between flights can improve the chances that both you and your backpack will make the connection.

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