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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fly Far with Budget-Friendly Fares

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Planning a vacation can be really fun, but once deciding on a destination next on the list is usually finding affordable airfare. While you may think that all airlines charge the same price, it’s simply not so.  Airfare is based on many factors, including gas prices, popularity of your destination and how many routes actually fly there and how often. There are more aspects involved, but there is a way to tip the scales in your favor, no matter where you want to travel. Here are five ways to get cheaper airfare. 

Fly in the fall and winter. The majority of travelers with children travel in the summer, because that’s when school is out. Unfortunately, summer is when many destinations will be most crowded, hotels have higher rates and store merchandise will be full price. Airlines take advantage of your time off by raising fares and adding more fees, which they disguise with obscure names, like “miscellaneous surcharges”. Even though most attractions are not open as long in the winter and fall, not having to wait in line allows you to see just as much in a shorter amount of time. Then you can spend a bit more time relaxing before you start again the next day. If you don’t have the luxury of traveling off-peak times, search for travel dates on Wednesday, Saturday and Tuesday, as those are the cheapest days to fly, respectively.

Check prices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. The new rates for airfare are put out on Tuesday/Wednesday and then again on Saturday, for those that wait to book things on the weekend. Tuesday and Wednesday will almost always have the cheapest rates, but if you have some time before you have to book, get up bright and early and check prices on Saturday. Every so often you will find a super cheap rate that was put into the system incorrectly that you can snatch up before the error is caught. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s a total bargain for you.

Fly to a smaller airport near your destination city. Hub airports that the majority of travelers go through can actually cost you more for your plane ticket. Because they are so popular and convenient, airlines can charge more to fly into them. Try looking at alternate airports in the vicinity of your destination. You can often save a lot by doing it this way, and as long as you aren’t paying more for transportation than you saved, it’s worth it to check into it. Use an airline search engine like Dohop.com to find the cheapest alternate routes.

Set up airfare alerts. Although I love researching airfare and other parts of my vacation, I have a life and can’t be checking the prices all day every day. Chances are you don’t have that kind of time either. Set up airfare alerts on your favorite airline websites and booking engines. You can also use Yapta.com, which is great for constantly checking fares and sending you alerts when prices drop. Not only that, but once you’ve purchased your ticket(s), add your itinerary to your account with Yapta and they will let you know if the prices drop further and if you’re eligible for a refund.

Sign up for frequent flyer awards. You can now accumulate frequent flyer miles by doing many things that aren’t even flying. You can gain points – or miles –  by dining at restaurants, buying groceries, shopping online and much more. Miles can get you free flights, upgrades and discounts. Check out all your favorite airlines have to offer regarding collecting miles, like the iDine program, signing up for online reward programs that let you trade in your points for miles or even paying a small fee to turn your bank’s debit card into a mileage-making utility. If you’re going to spend that money anyway, you might as well make it work in your favor.

There are plenty more ways to save on airfare, but these are five of the easiest to do. They don’t require much extra effort and are free or almost free and also can save you the most money. Planning your vacations don’t have to be stressful, so over-thinking it will work just against you. Have fun with the research and planning and even more fun when you get there! What's your favorite way to save on airfare?

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