How to Find the Absolutely Cheapest Airfare

You don't have to drain your wallet to see the world. With the right knowledge, and a little bit of patience, travel deals can be yours. Here are ten tricks to finding the absolutely cheapest airfare.
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You don’t have to refinance your house or condemn yourself to the sardine-can conditions of cramped airline seats when flying cheap. With a little planning and a little insider knowledge, you can score the absolutely cheapest airfare available. Just one caveat: Read the small print on any “sale” price for your ticket to make sure you are really getting what you’re expecting. Here are our top 10 tips on how to find the absolutely cheapest airfare.

Be flexible
When trying to find the best deals for flying cheap, you’ve got to be willing not only to book your travel on the cheapest days of the week, but also for the cheapest times. Your chances of getting a reduced fare increase if you are traveling on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Saturday, and if your stay is long enough to include at least one Saturday. You can also save hundreds of dollars by flying late at night (yes, the dreaded red-eye) or early in the morning (really early, like when it is still dark out).

Travel during off-season
Know when your destination is “hot” and when it’s not. For example, everyone wants to fly to Hawaii during the winter when it’s cold on the mainland, or when the kids are on summer break. But during the spring or fall low seasons, many airline seats are much, much cheaper. Skip holiday travel seasons altogether, such as Thanksgiving, the Christmas to New Year’s period, and the 4th of July, when airfares are sky high.

Alter your route
Non-stops flights, although convenient, are expensive. When flying cheap, you’ll save money if you look for flights with at least one layover. Consider flying to an alternative airport close to your destination if the fares are lower. You might fly into Oakland instead of San Francisco or Newark instead of JFK. If you go this route, take into consideration the additional cost of car, taxi, bus, or train transportation to reach your final destination. Sometimes these costs outweigh any savings gained by flying cheap into these alternate destinations.

Book well in advance or at the very last minute
These days, you can save money by booking between 21 and 60 days in advance, especially if you are traveling on a popular route. Of course, the opposite is also true: In some cases, you can save money by gambling and waiting until the last minute, less than 21 days before departure, when airlines discount tickets to fill an empty plane or route.

Check out package deals
Airline websites and other companies that offer package trips for your destination can sometimes create bundled deals on accommodation, rental car, and airfare, reducing the end price of your entire vacation.

Published: 4 Dec 2012 | Last Updated: 21 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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