The best time to travel each year is during January and February, as flight prices plummet after the holiday season when consumers try to cut back on spending. So for those not burnt out from holiday travel and can spare some extra change, the Internet is bursting with great flight deals.
“People are spent and traveled out, and there aren’t as many destinations that are desirable for mid-winter travel since a lot of the bigger cities in the U.S. are experiencing colder weather, such as Boston, Chicago and even Atlanta,” George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchdog, told Mashable. “Airfares are always lowered from about now until Mid-February, when the school vacations start up – with the exception of some higher fares around Martin Luther King weekend.”
1. Look for Airline Tweets
A low fare could pop up at any minute of the day or week, so shop around, follow tweets — because the best deals, even if they’re good for travel over a long period, last only a few hours — and be prepared to go wherever it’s cheap rather than where you can’t afford, Hobica advises.
2. Sign Up for Alerts
First, sign up for AirFareWatchDog’s fare alerts and email newsletter that sends cheap flight deals based on your home airport. Most domestic deals are under or around $200 – and some right now are so low, it’s mind-boggling. A roundtrip trip to Chicago from New York, for example, could cost as little as $54 and you’ll find airfare to Florida for less than $100.
In addition, non-stop, round-trip flights from New York to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines are unusually inexpensive ($565), including taxes, and that fare has been steady for a few months. Other popular deals include a non-stop roundtrip flight to Liberia, Costa Rica under $400, taxes included, on JetBlue’s new service route.’
3. Let Web Sites Do Your Legwork
Another site worth checking out is SkyScanner, which is perfect for flexible travelers. By typing “everywhere” into the destination search and selecting when you want to travel, the site reveals the cheapest options out there – from New York, fares to the Caribbean right now are under $300 and there’s even an option to Ireland in the $400 range.
Kayak also lets you search “everywhere” through its Explore feature, which shows on a map the prices to fly to certain destinations.
4. Know When — Exactly — to Buy
While searching for deals, remember that traveling on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are the cheapest days to fly, while Friday and Sunday are the busiest travel days and the most expensive. The most cost-efficient time to fly is also first thing in the morning and red-eyes, according to FareCompare.com, followed by lunch time and dinner-hour flights.
The best time to purchase an airline ticket, however, is Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET, as discounted flights hit the sites. Most of these specials are pulled by Thursday, FareCompare said.
The deals are good, but not the best ever. Rock-bottom airfare is actually slightly higher this time of year than it’s been in the past, according to Hobica. For example, a standard roundtrip fare from New York to Los Angeles this time of year usually costs about $198, but it’s priced at $238 now. Even so, the route is significantly less expensive than it was just a few weeks ago during the busy holiday-travel season when it inched close to $500.
International airfare is also more pricy thanks to mergers and less seat availability.
“Airlines are getting better at making use of their planes when they can to make the most money – some such as Delta were flying domestic routes usually reserved for 757 aircraft with larger 767 planes reserved for Europe,” Hobica said. “Since European traffic was soft and certain domestic routes were strong, it made sense for them to take this approach but it cuts back on seat availability for the European travel and doesn’t help the price.”
But all is not lost. You can still get great deals now and all year round by putting in a little time (and using a little strategy) to get what you want.
Check out some other tips from AirfareWatchDog on how to find cheap airfare in the gallery below.
How to Find Best Airfares Online
1. Sign Up for Airline Email Feeds, Frequent Flyer Programs
Airlines want to develop a one-on-one relationship with you, so they’ll send you special deals, such as 50% off promo codes, if you sign up.
2. Follow Airlines on Twitter
Airlines often tout deals on Twitter and they go fast, so follow your favorite carriers and keep tabs on what they’re offering.
3. Sign Up for Third-Party Fare Alerts
Whether you prefer Orbitz, Bing Travel or FareCompare.com, sign up for fare alerts so when flights become available in your budget, you can jump on the deal. Travelocity’s FareWatcherPlus feature also lets you track airfare for up to 10 routes at once. Other sites such as Yapta.com allow you track your specific itinerary and let you know if the airline owes you a price-drop refund.
4. Visit an Airline’s Site
Many airlines have “private” sales, reserving their very best fares for their own sites. International airlines such as Aer Lingus, Iberia and Qantas regularly offer lower fares – from $100 to $400 less — on their own web sites compared to what you’ll find on Kayak or Orbitz.
5. Consider Hotel, Air Packages
It’s often cheaper to buy an air-plus-hotel package rather than airfare alone, especially for last minute travel. Travelocity’s “TotalTrip” offerings often pop up with hotel-plus-air for half the price of air alone. Lastminute.com is also a great source for finding last minute packages.
6. Use Priceline for Last-Minute Trips
Short on time to purchase airfare? AirFareWatchDog suggests naming your own price on Priceline.com. Although travelers won’t know the exact flight times or airline they will flying until they pay, it’s possible to save 50%. Hotwire.com can also be useful for last minute trips.
7. Check Fares Several Times a Day
“Airlines are unpredictable creatures, and any airfare expert who claims he knows that airfares will be lower or higher in the coming months or the coming day is suspect,” according to AirFareWatchDog.