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Airline tickets can be the most expensive part of a vacation if you don’t know what you’re doing.
But airlines have discounted booking secrets, and we asked a travel industry insider to spill the beans.
Here are 11 tips for scoring the cheapest flights:
1. Download Ibotta to save on hotels, rental cars, flights and more.
If you’ve ever needed a reason to (finally) bite the bullet and download the Ibotta app, check out these cash back deals on travel:
- Booking.com: 4% cash back
- CheapOair: $5 cash back
- Choice Hotels: 4% cash back plus $5 bonus
- Extended Stay America: 6% cash back
- Hertz.com: 3% cash back
- HomeAway: $10 cash back
- Hotels.com: 4% cash back
- HotelStorm: 8% cash back
- HotelTonight: 3% cash back
- Hotwire: 4% cash back
- LivingSocial: 4% cash back
- Orbitz: 6% cash back
- Priceline.com: 5% cash back
- VRBO: $10 cash back
2. Use coupon codes from Coupons.com to book your flight.
In the past, we’ve seen coupons for flights booked through CheapOair, a daily $50 credit for every night you stay at a Hilton hotel, up to $40 off OneTravel fees and up to 35% off select hotels through Expedia.
3. Fly during off-peak times like Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.
Wednesday and Saturday are usually the slowest days of the week at most airports. Since these are considered “off-peak” days, you can get cheaper tickets.
4. Fly during off-peak hours too.
Avoid crowded airports, long lines and overpriced tickets by flying early in the morning between 5-7AM, or after 8PM, including those pesky red-eye flights.
5. Follow airlines on social media for flash sales.
If you follow airlines on Twitter and Facebook, you’ll see fare blasts where they offer a limited number of seats for a crazy-good price.
For example, Southwest recently had one-way tickets for as low as $49, and Jet Blue offered one-way tickets for $54.
6. Book early… but not too early.
The sweet spot for booking a flight is 45-90 days before you’d like to travel. Anything before or after that window will be more expensive.
7. Travel in the off-season to save up to 75%.
Plan your vacation in the off-season to save on airfare and hotel accommodations. Try the first two weeks of December, January 7th through the end of the month, during spring (except during spring break times) and in October.
8. Download the Hopper app to book tickets at rock bottom prices.
Hopper watches and analyzes billions (yes, billions) of flight prices every day and predicts how prices will change. This gives you the power to book your trip when tickets will be at their lowest.
Try the “Watch This Trip” feature to be notified when you should buy.
9. Search for flights in a private or incognito browser window.
This should be a no-brainer!
Always search for flights in a private or incognito browsing window (and clear your computer’s cookies) so travel websites can’t use your search history to inflate prices just for you.
10. Buy your flight on Tuesdays at 3pm.
At the beginning of the week, airlines tend to check how many seats they still have to sell and then discount their unsold tickets according to what they have left.
You’ll see cheaper fares Monday through Wednesday, but if you want the best deal possible, buy on Tuesdays at 3PM.
11. Unless you’re buying a vacation package, skip travel sites like Orbitz. Buy your flight direct instead.
Sometimes booking direct will get you a better deal, because many airlines have sales directly on their website.