A great way to stay informed about air travel costs is by reading the business section of major newspapers and watching the news. You never know what might turn up. The air travel sector is one of the fastest developing in the field of transport and tourism, and the market is ripe for new entries. Airlines just starting up, and those offering new routes, offer promotions and discounts to draw clients. When they establish a firm market presence they will raise their prices, naturally, so you should strike while the iron is hot.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are the least-expensive days to schedule flights. Late-night flights, early hour flights and flights with transfers are cheaper as well.
Online websites are very helpful. Yahoo offers an alerting service that will send you an email whenever a low-cost fare to your choice of destination becomes available. Travelocity has a feature called "Dream Maps" (Google for it) that will tell you where you can go from your home city for $xxx dollars.
Most air companies offer travel packages. This means you can book a hotel room or rent a car along with buying a plane ticket. Always ask about such deals.
Be sure to time your flight. Avoid buying tickets a few days before Christmas, New Year’s, March spring break and national holidays. If you want to go somewhere for a holiday, you can often save money by arriving on the day itself (Christmas Day, New Year’s Day) instead of several days in advance. Generally you should make it a point to avoid high traffic periods, not only because the prices are higher but because the crowds are smaller and the lines are shorter.
If you have to be somewhere for the holidays, book at least three weeks in advance. This advice is offered by Brian Ek of Priceline.com. He notes that once you hit the 15-day mark before a flight, costs start escalating. Seven days before the flight they escalate further.
Of course, buying a ticket in low-traffic season has its risks. You may find poor weather once you reach the travel destination of your choice. But if you want to feel the authentic spirit of Europe, you should go precisely at such times, particularly in the Spring and Fall seasons. This will allow you to stroll around European cities unperturbed, without the background formed by the squabbling of millions of sightseers, which is inevitable in the tourist season.
A feasible option is to buy tickets through consolidators. They purchase tickets in bulk and sell them at reduced rates to help carriers fill up seats. Be warned that this entails risks as well. Consolidators do not permit exchanges or refunds, do not take reservations, and may delay your ticket. You should take preventive measures by paying with credit card, using travel agents or purchasing travel cancellation insurance.
Most airlines offer discounts for senior citizens, students and military officials. If you are in one of these groups, be sure to ask for such options.
With a little effort and perseverance, you too can save on airline tickets. Have fun!
Return to SwopNet Travel Home Page