The Best Days to Fly and Save Money

Seeing the world can be pricey, but with a bit of research and heeding our tips below, you can find some of the best deals to be had, making that piña colada on the beach just a tad bit sweeter.
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Airline Costs
 (Hemera/Thinkstock)

We travelers love to soar, but grumble when plane ticket prices do the same. Considering the steady rise of jet fuel, maintenance, staffing, security, and other airline operation costs, it’s easy to see why airfares inch up every month—aside from all those crafty add-on expenses the airlines pass on to the passengers. A recent Bureau of Transportation Statistics report showed U.S. domestic airfare in 2012 is up another five percent compared to 2011, with airlines still earning less revenue than in the 1990s.

So how does a budget traveler find the cheapest days to fly? The trick is that it all comes down to timing. Booking travel on certain days of the week and particular days of the year can make a big impact on a beleaguered travel budget.

Fly on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday
Without pause, any travel expert will tell you that these three days of the week are consistently the cheapest days to fly. Barring fluke fare sales on other days, you’d be wise to figure out a way to make these days of the week work for your travel schedule.

Filling seats mid-week is a key reason airlines discount Tuesday and Wednesday fares since most people would rather take vacation time over a full week and lump in two whole weekends. But the perks of taking a shorter trip are threefold: You can slip in a weekday or two of work each week; you still get a weekend to play and a non-work recovery day; and you can take more slightly shorter trips, which you now can afford since you’re paying less for your ticket.

As for Saturday travel, it’s not the most fun day to be in an airport or on a plane. But if it means getting back home with a full Sunday to recuperate from a fabulous trip, so be it.

Airlines command a complex arsenal of sales techniques, so your flexibility is the overriding success factor in finding the cheapest days to fly. Search for your airfare on a Tuesday or Wednesday, the best days for purchasing a plane ticket, as most short-term fare sales are announced on these days of the week.

Depart Very Early or Very Late
Rare are the travelers eager to rise before dawn. But those early-rising birds really do get the worm—in the form of the sweetest airfare deals. A quick web search reveals a major price difference between a 6 a.m. and a 2 p.m. flight, or a red-eye compared to an afternoon flight.

In addition to cost savings, the other bright side to an off-hours flight is that the airport-security lines will be shorter, planes less full (thus flight attendants will be friendlier), and on-time takeoffs more consistent.

Published: 30 Aug 2012 | Last Updated: 20 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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