Airfare can be quite pricey. I have traveled quite a bit over the last few years as my husband and I have family on opposite sides of the country. Here are a few things I have learned about shopping for flights.
Generally, the cheapest day to buy airfare on is Wednesday. Many airline companies change their rates mid-week. Buying tickets to travel on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday tends to be cheaper too. If you can avoid flying on Friday, Sunday or Monday you will most likely find a cheaper rate. Remember that business people tend to fly on those days. Not only are business days more expensive days to fly on, they are more crowded too.
I search for airfare online at a multitude of sites. What I do is search at Travelocity, Expedia.com and Orbitz first (there are many other travel sites too). I find the airline that is offering the lowest rate and then check that particular airlines website as well. For example, if Expedia.com has American Airline with the cheapest rate, I then go directly to American Airlines and search their site. Sometimes it is cheaper to go directly to the airline you want to use than through the travel site. Most airlines will charge a fee to call them on the phone to order tickets. Your best bet is booking online.
If your dates are flexible, you may be able to save a lot of money by leaving a day earlier or later. Most websites have a flexible date option when searching. Try putting in a date range or search up to three days earlier or later than your desired dates. Red eye flights, which are overnight flights, can be discounted too. However, I never sleep well on a plane and I prefer to pay a bit more for a daytime flight!
If you plan on traveling around the holidays or other popular times to fly, book your flights early. Start searching for flights well in advance. When you find a good deal, book it as soon as possible. Airfare rates can change quickly.
Always review your connections before you purchase your tickets. Sometimes the cheapest fare might not be the best deal due to minimal or long layovers. If there is less than forty-five minutes between flights, I don’t book it. I have missed way too many flights on short layovers.
The biggest fee now occurring with air travel is baggage. Most domestic airlines charge extra for checked bags. Take that into account when packing. It can be $15-$25 per checked bag. That adds up quick with families traveling. Instead of packing everything you need, plan on buying a few items at your destination. For example, I usually pack just enough diapers and wipes for the travel day and the first day at our destination.
There are many programs that offer frequent flier miles and points. Right now I use a credit card that gives me frequent flier miles. I have redeemed miles before and it worked out great. There are usually many restrictions on frequent flier miles though. Booking early is a must if you intend to use your miles for airfare. There are a limited number of tickets that airlines allow frequnt flier miles to be redeemed on. Also, many times frequent flier miles have black out dates like major holidays.
As a rule, I plan way ahead of time. I give myself enough time to search for flights that are within our budget. This might not always be feasible. There are sometimes deals on last minute flights. However, it seems like their are fewer last minute flights available as airlines cut back the number of flights that run per day.
This article was originally written for Inexpensively.