4. Be Flexible
Being flexible about your travel dates will always help you find the best fare. Fridays, Sundays, and even Mondays come with higher rates, so if it’s an option for you, flying a day or two earlier or later can make a huge difference.
Many airlines only offer their best discounts for travel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Rather than pay more for a Friday flight that involves rushing through the work day, a hectic trip to the airport, and a late, tired arrival, consider a trip early Saturday morning. You’ll have a more relaxed trip, and perhaps an extra $100 in your pocket.
Conveniently, most airline sites and travel search engines let you search with a range of dates to find the best prices. If you’re a sophisticated searcher, you can use a matrix interface that shows the varying fares based on possible travel dates.
Though major holidays are tough times for finding any great fares, you can spot some bargains if you’re willing to travel ona holiday such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day.
5. Consider Alternate Airports
If you’re flying to a major city, you probably have at least two airports to consider as options. Some small- and medium-sized cities tend to have another nearby airport, and even if it’s an hour or two away, this alternate destination can be much less expensive without being much less convenient. I discovered that half of Toronto prefers to drive two hours to depart from the airport in Buffalo to avoid the taxes and fees at Toronto International Airport.
Utilizing the more out-of-the-way airport isn’t always as tough as it may seem. If you’re driving your own car, then it just depends on your willingness to make the trip. But if you’re relying on a friend or family member to pick you up, they may be closer to the alternate airport than you think.
If you’re taking public transportation, the difference might be negligible. When flying to Chicago, for example, tickets to Midway are usually cheaper than fares to O’Hare, and you often end up at your final destination sooner because it’s a smaller airport, located closer to the city.
Sometimes it’s even worth the savings to take the alternate airport and rent a car. On a trip to Orlando, I found a flight to Tampa that cost almost $250 less than flights to Orlando. I only paid $50 to rent a car from Tampa and drop it off in Orlando, and the one-hour drive was an easy one.
6. Shop for and Book One-Way Flights
In the past, round trips were always cheaper than the cost of two one-way flights. Today, most airlines will sell you a one-way ticket for half the cost of the round trip option. Your options are open, and you can mix and match flights from different airlines.
To find the best flights, shop for each leg of your trip separately. You don’t necessarily even have to arrive and depart from the same airport.
7. Consider Extra Fees
The first few times you plan air travel, it’s easy to get caught up in all the options, suggestions, and varying costs. Many people forget to consider extra airline fees, such as checked baggage fees.
Before you start looking into flights, figure out how much baggage you will need. When you find a fare you like, check the airline’s policies and find out how much extra you’ll have to pay for your bags. You may find that a slightly higher airfare leads to a lower total cost.
If you’re planning a ski trip to Colorado with two bags, for example, United Airlines will charge you for both of your checked bags, while Southwest will not. If you are bringing a bicycle, Delta will charge you $150 each way, while your bike would fly for free on Frontier.
If you do end up needing to pay a baggage fee, it’s still a good idea to plan in advance because many airlines charge a lower fee if you pay in advance and online.