With spring upon us, many of you might be in the midst of planning your summer vacation. Whether you are scheduling an action-packed adventure for the kids or planning to take a romantic getaway with your significant other, one thing can put a crimp in your upcoming plans – the high price of airfare. Fortunately, there are a few ways to receive the best deal on summer airfare. Here are some tips to help you spend your money on something fun instead of your plane ride:
1. Consider a consolidator
Think of consolidators as wholesalers – almost like a Sam's Club or Costco, but for airfare. These wholesalers buy tickets in bulk and then sell to the public. You may want to consider using a consolidator instead of a travel agent — travel agents often scoop up rock bottom priced tickets from wholesalers only to hike the price up again. Some popular consolidators include: 1 800 Fly Europe, AirfarePlanet.com, AirTreks, Globester and TFI Tours.
2. Take Advantage of Innovative Website Features
When looking for airfare, be sure to check different websites (but keep in mind that booking directly with the airline could save between 10-15 dollars). If you want to use a travel search website, consider Hipmunk. Hipmunk is similar to other travel sites, but they claim to take the agony out of flying with their "Agony" feature, which tells how painful your trip might be in terms of pricing, number of stops, and duration of flights. Other websites, such as Yapta, alert you via email (when you sign up) to tell you if an airfare rate falls before you book it. Dohop, which operates like a search engine, is another alternative that finds every existing flight combination between two points and offers every possible flight schedule to get you where you need to go at the lowest price.
3. Plan for shoulder season
Did you know that many trip destinations have a "high season" that comes with increased airfare and visitor rates? In addition to the high season, these popular trip destinations have a low season and a shoulder season. The shoulder season is a short magical window that is often associated with low airfare, low tourist numbers, and low accommodation prices. The shoulder season, however, varies by destination. For example: May for Rome; Early June for Baja California, or Thailand for those international types; and early September for Hawaii. To find the shoulder season for the destination you have in mind, do a Google search similar to "What is the shoulder season in (Alaska, Europe, Key West, Australia and so on)."
4. Try this app
Skyscanner is a great tool for the adventurous types who know they want to travel "somewhere" this summer and are open-minded. The app can scan thousands of airline and online travel sites at once for an amount you select. Let's say you choose a maximum airfare price of $225.00 round trip for the month of July. Skyscanner will tell you all of the possible flight options and destinations that are available for that price during the month. Skyscanner is free, and available for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone.
5. Find the "airfare sweet spot"
Depending on how many weeks you book out from your departure date, you could be paying a lot more, or a lot less, for your airfare. Tickets purchased from eight to 10 weeks in advance, or within two to three weeks of traveling tend to pay the highest amount in airfare. The ideal time to purchase seems to fall somewhere between four to six weeks before your travel date. If you have already missed the four to six week window, keep in mind that some airlines offer sales at the 14, seven and three day marks before a departure date. While it's a risky move to wait until the last minute to book, sometimes you can find an incredible deal.
6. Know your hubs
Each airline has a specific hub or hubs where a large number of their flights depart and arrive. Jet Blue, for example, uses JFK International Airport in New York as their main hub. So, why pay attention to hubs? Mainly because flights in and out of these hubs are the cheapest, as there are more flight selections to choose from. If your destination point isn't located near a hub airport, consider flying into a hub airport first and then on to your final destination. Your flight may be longer or have layovers, but you can save a lot of money.
7. Choose your day carefully
Once you have your time period selected, it is important to focus on certain days of the week to fly. Generally, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday afternoons are the cheapest days/times of the week to fly. Red-eye flights are another way to cut costs. It is also helpful to know what time of day to book your flight. That's right, there is a time during the day when tickets are the cheapest — it turns out many airlines release their sale and cheap fares at 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, so mark your calendars.
8. Get rid of your cache
This may have happened to you in the past – you found an incredibly cheap flight online and then went back later that day only to see the price had skyrocketed. One of the main reasons for this is travel or airline-booking sites record your search data and increase flight fare based on this information. Before searching for the exact airfare you were looking for in the first place, be sure to clear all of your computer's web history.
9. Book online
If you are weighing the option of booking online vs. over the phone, choose online every time. Why? Most airlines will charge you an extra booking fee for booking via the telephone. And, I am not talking about a booking fee of a few dollars. Sometimes this booking fee can be as high as $50 per trip. Since we already know how frustrating it can be to get a live person on the phone in the first place, don't add additional stress by then having a hefty fee tacked on to your ticket.