Even though the price of airfare has been steadily decreasing over the past year, traveling by air is still a big purchase for most people. This means most of us are willing to do a little extra research to find best deal we can. But there are so many sites, airlines, and memberships to keep track of, it can be difficult to know where to start. Lucky for you, I’ve assembled my top tips for finding the best deals, so you can get the best price on your next airline ticket.
Book in advance, but not too in advance.
Each year, Cheapair.com looks at the data collected for the previous year, examining over 1.5 billion airfares to learn as much as they can about when people buy and fly. Their findings? The ideal window for buying a ticket is approximately 27-114 days (1 – 4 months) in advance of your trip, with the best day on average (at least for domestic flights) being 47 days prior to take off. This is an average, so this doesn’t guarantee that the 47th day of your countdown exactly will be the cheapest flight, but this average should give you a better idea of when to anticipate buying your ticket.
Surprising to some, buying more in advance than that does not actually provide any extra price discount. In fact, at 320 days out when Cheapair started keeping track of purchases, average fares were about $50 higher than their low point. They discovered a trend: prices usually drop gradually until 47 days out ( where it hits bottom) and after that starts to rise again slowly. Once you get inside of 14 days, prices shoot up dramatically. In fact, tickets purchased within 14 days were $111 more, on average, than those purchased further in advance; tickets purchased within seven days were $174 more.
Know when to buy… and when not to buy.
The worst day to buy? According to the Wall Street Journal, average prices for tickets bought on Friday are 13% higher than on Sunday, according to their recent analysis of tickets sold world-wide over the course of 2015.
An Expedia/ARC report found that the best days to buy were weekends and Tuesdays. Tuesday’s have long been thought to be the best days to find deals because, as the logic goes, airlines tend to announce deals on Mondays, depending on sales over the weekend. By Tuesday, other airlines have lowered their prices in order to match and hopefully win back any customers that otherwise swooped in for some savings on Monday. This may or may not be true, but Tuesday have proven to be cheaper, whatever the explanation may be.
Know when to fly.
Want to leave on a Friday and come back on a Sunday? Sounds convenient, but if you’re concerned about your travel budget, that’s probably not the best idea. Because this schedule is so convenient, these are also the busiest days to fly, meaning prices usually spike.
The cheapest days to fly? Tuesdays/Wednesdays. Leaving mid-week has shown to have it’s price advantages. Next time you’re looking to take a week off, aim for Tuesday through the next Tuesday, and you could save yourself a pretty penny.
Sign up for travel alerts.
Data, trends, and findings aside, you really can never tell when a random spike or drop in prices may hit. All the data we have discussed is based on averages, and averages are filled with outliers.
Sign up with a travel tracker like SkyScanner or AirfareWatchdog and be ready to buy when they notify you of a particularly low price.
Keep an eye out for flash sales.
Pick the top 3 airlines you generally fly with and sign up for their email newsletter or text notifications. While getting promotional emails can sometimes seem like a pain, these ones are well worth it. Flash sales can save you up to half off the normal cost of your ticket. While the biggest savings are generally in business and first class, coach deals often save 25% too. Just make sure you’re ready to buy quick; these sales don’t usually last more than a day or two, at most.
The biggest annoyance with flash sales is that some include black out dates. But even so, you might not be able to use it on your upcoming holiday vacation, but it could come in handy for that trip you wanted to take in the spring for a simple weekend getaway.
Check your existing memberships.
Organizations and like AARP and AAA regularly offer airline discounts to members. Check with them directly for specific details on discounts you’re eligible for.
Sign up for a credit card that earns you points.
One savings tip a lot of people forget is the fact that having a credit card that gives you points with every purchase (usually more for dining and travel) can be earning you dollars towards your travel year round. Why not have every dollar you’re already spending go towards your next trip?
Get a quote from an airline consolidator.
Airlines give consolidators special access to discounted fares for domestic first class, international business, and international first class. Although they might claim to be able to save you up to 75%, the discounts are rarely that good. However, you can still get about 50% off a lot of the time.
Try AccessFares, Regal Wings and Wholesale Flights. Typically you will have to fill out a form to get an actual quote back on any individual ticket price.
Now that you know when to look, when to buy, and when to fly, you should be able to get some great savings on your next trip. Have your own cheap travel tip that I didn’t cover? Leave it in the comments section to share!
Mickael Marsali is a Senior Consultant specializing in capital management for biotech investors. Please see his professional website for more details.