Scoring a deal on airline tickets is not an exact science. But savvy travelers know how to save, something that’s especially important around the holidays, when ticket prices are high.
Before you take off, consider these thrifty tips for booking flights during the upcoming holiday travel season and beyond:
Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is peak time for air travel. Experts say pent-up, post-pandemic desire to celebrate with family this year means demand will be high and bargains scarce.
Let your golden rule be “you snooze, you lose,” and make September through mid-October the optimal window for finding the best holiday deals. A two- to three-month lead helps diminish the risk of a last-minute price surge as well as the disappointment of sold-out flights.
Travel midweek and Saturday
According to Scott Keyes, founder of travel website Scott’s Cheap Flights, while there’s no cheapest day of the week to book tickets, “Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are typically the cheapest days to fly, with fewer business travelers packing planes.”
The exception would be the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which is one of the busiest travel days of the year.
Fly on the holiday
Flying on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day usually translates into a price dip. If you’re willing to overlook the fact that you may be eating leftover turkey or miss unwrapping the presents, consider booking a seat on the holiday itself.
Track prices with a travel search engine
Ticket prices constantly fluctuate, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend your days monitoring airline websites. Set a price alert on a travel search engine such as Hopper or Skyscanner and they’ll do the work for you, sending you a notification if the price drops on your desired route.
You may have frequent flyer status or prefer the service on a specific airline, but it still pays to compare prices. Don’t forget discount carriers like Spirit, which has recently expanded its service from Pittsburgh with a new flight to Newark.
As a bonus, new routes may offer introductory fares to build passenger counts.
The day or even time of day that you travel can make a significant difference. If you’re flexible, you’ll have a better chance at a discount. Most airline websites offer a calendar view, allowing savvy passengers to see ticket prices on nearby dates.
Flying very early or late in the day may make a real difference in cost, so check flights throughout the day before you click “Purchase.”
Think outside of the box
It’s entirely possible that flying one airline outbound and another airline inbound will yield a cheaper roundtrip fare, so consider flying two different airlines.
Jump on it
If you find a flight that suits your schedule and budget, don’t hesitate. Purchase your ticket when the price is right, as the cost can fluctuate hour by hour. A pandemic silver lining is that many airlines currently allow passengers to cancel their flights and receive credit vouchers to use at a later date.