Lowest Cost Airline Tickets: Tips for Booking the Cheapest Airfare for Your Next Flight
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Lowest Cost Airline Tickets: Tips for Booking the Cheapest Airfare for Your Next Flight

You can save hundreds of dollars each time you fly just by Getting Your Airline Tickets at the right time

August 19, 2021

It's a painful and sobering fact of flying. On your next flight, nearly everyone will have paid a different price for their seats depending upon when and how they booked. Was your ticket one of the cheapest? Even though it may seem daunting, you can also get low cost airline tickets the next time you fly just by taking advantage of the best times to buy, the best times to fly, and these other tips.

book your airfare at least six week in advance to get cheap tickets

If you want low cost airline tickets, you'd better plan ahead. Travelers who book airline tickets at least six weeks in advance typically pay between 5% and 10% less than those who book closer to the time of their flights. But don't presume that this is the rule, however, as you will see in just a second.

airlines sometimes run last minute specials

We've found that airlines will sometimes run last minute specials on flights that aren't booking very well. We've found tickets as low as $19 (plus baggage fees) for flights from Raleigh to Las Vegas on a red eye flight that was only 10% booked. We also found significant discounts on flights from Raleigh to Cleveland, which were at least $100 more a few weeks earlier but which had been slashed to fill the plane. Don't just presume that you can find a deal like this, however, as it really depends upon demand. If you aren't particular with your exact travel dates, you can keep a bag packed and check last minute flight prices every day until you find a great deal like these.

try to catch your deals in the morning

If you book a flight early in the day, you might get a better deal. Airlines typically post a limited number of seats for lower prices at night. While they will post deals throughout the day, you'll typically find the best deals in the morning

there are certain days and times you should fly

Expect to get a little bit of discount if you fly out early on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Domestically, the cheapest day to fly is Wednesday. This is the day when airlines typically have the most empty seats, which means airlines will discount those seats to fill the plane. The most expensive days to fly are Friday and Sunday. The cheapest flights are usually the first flights of the morning, followed by those during or after lunch or around dinner.

fly on a holiday

If you're looking for an excuse to avoid the family (and save money), fly on a holiday. Everyone wants to get to their destinations before a holiday, leaving many empty seats on the holiday itself. Not only will you save money, you'll run into a lot less congestion. The exception is on Labor Day or Memorial Day.

Check budget airlines individually

Comparison sites are useful, but they don't always work. Some budget airlines, such as Southwest and Ryanair, don't let comparison websites quote their ticket prices. So you'll want to check the prices yourself.

the lowest cost airline ticket might not be the lowest cost

If you're looking at a cheap ticket, it might have hidden fees, especially if using a comparison site. For example, you might see the lowest price airline ticket on one website is Frontier, but that website isn't factoring baggage fees, seat assignment fees, etc. So if you're checking a bag and want a specific seat, the next lowest cost airline ticket might end up being cheaper. You might also be purchasing a basic economy ticket, which doesn't allow a seat assignment and might not come with a checked bag or person item without an extra fee. So make sure you investigate all fees before you book.

build a relationship with your airline

Are you a member of an airline's frequent flier program? Do you have a credit card tied to the airline? If yes, you automatically have an advantage over other passengers. The more an airline knows you are invested, the more discounts you are likely to get. So enter a frequent flier number when you are getting a quote.

don't search for flights without being in private browsing mode or without clearing your cache

Airlines want you to buy your tickets as fast as possible, so they use the cookies in your browser to increase flight prices when you search for a particular route several times. If you want to see the lowest prices, always search for flights in private browsing mode. You can also start with a clean slate by clearing your browser cache before searching again.

Choose a budget or local airline

Budget or low-cost airlines offer tickets that are significantly cheaper than their major counterparts, though you may have to accept less leg room and no "free" food/drink. Don't forget to read the fine print to ensure that you don't violate any rules and get charged a fee for things such as carry-on luggage.

select another airport

You might be able to save a lot of money by using another nearby airport. This works out best when the closest airport to you is a regional airport but there is a hub relatively nearby. Say you fly from Asheville. You might be able to save a few hundred dollars by driving to Raleigh. The same goes for your destination. If you could save a few hundred dollars by flying into a nearby airport and catching a ride the rest of the way, wouldn't you?

Book long-haul flights yourself

If you're traveling to a location involving a flight transfer, it might be cheaper to book the legs of the flight separately. But you also run into a problem if one leg is delayed and you miss your next flight. Since the flights aren't on the same itinerary, you might end up going through a lot of hassle trying to get the rest of your flight rebooked.

try a travel agent

Travel agents get special undercut rates inaccessible to the public, though this does not always mean they can give you the best price. It's a good idea to find the cheapest flight first and then give them that information to find out if they can beat it, especially for long-haul flights.

it might be cheaper to pay in another currency

Before you book a flight, find out if it would be cheaper to pay in another currency. Some airlines will require you to pay in the currency of the country you're leaving, but not always. If you pay in another currency with a credit card, make sure it doesn't charge foreign-transaction fees.

airline error in your favor fares

Sometimes airlines make mistakes when they post fares, resulting in significant discounts. If you find one of these fares, you can save a ton of money by booking it. But be warned that the airline might not honor the fare and might cancel your reservation.

use flight points

Have you been racking up flight points over the years and then forgetting about them? Pull them out and use them to save on your next flight.

Search for tickets one at a time

Even when you fly with a group, airlines frequently sell many fare classes for different prices, offering a few seats in each class. For instance, if only one seat remains in the lowest fare class and you search for four seats, most automated systems will show the highest class fare for all four tickets. There may be limited seats on sale, so try searching one at a time.

buy a package if you need a hotel, rental car, etc

If you need a hotel, rental car, or more, it's often cheaper to buy a package than to buy each separately. Many hotels hide significant discounts within packaged prices, and travelers often find deals for major brands that hesitate to advertise a low price.

Travel during the shoulder season and off-peak times

There are certain times of the year when popular destinations have fewer visitors, so flight and hotel prices drop. Flights to Europe, for example, are about $400 cheaper in the winter than in the peak summer months. Flights to Las Vegas are usually much cheaper during the hot summer than during the spring or fall. Going to Hawaii? It's probably always a peak travel time.