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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

10 Ways to Save Money on Airfare

Airfare can be quite expensive, depending on where you're going or when, but there are ways to save, making your vacation easier to fit into you budget. It can be pretty discouraging when you search for airfare and see sky-high prices. It doesn't have to be that way, though. You can find rock-bottom deals if you know how. Here are my top 10 ways to save.

  1. Get airfare alerts - NOW - As soon as you know where you want to go, set up airfare alerts, like from Airfare Watchdog, FareCompare and Expedia. If you want to go to a place where only a few airlines fly in, set up fare alerts with those airlines, too. For example, Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines cover the majority of Hawaii-bound flights and often have the best deals.
  2. Check regional airlines - These smaller airlines might offer lower rates, because they have fewer routes and need to compete with the big guys. This is a perfect way to make short trips for less or make a side trip. Some regional airlines include Peninsula Airlines, Mokulele Airlines, West Coast Airlines and Ozark Airlines. The same thing goes for budget airlines, like easyjet, which we used to fly from London to Paris for less than $200 for two of us.
  3. Be flexible about what season you travel in - Every destination has an on-season and an off-season. Know when it's cheaper to visit there and you'll be able to book the best times for the most affordable flights.
  4. Travel mid-week - Tuesday and Wednesday are the least popular days to fly for people, so generally airlines look to drop their rates, even if just by a little, on these days to encourage people to fly then instead of on the weekend. Of course, Saturday is also a "slow" day and can have equally budget-friendly flights.
  5. Book mid-week - Most people look for airfare on the weekend, when they have extra time to spare. Take advantage of sales that run from Tuesday-Thursday and book mid-week instead. Those booking Friday-Monday will only find the most expensive rates, except for the odd typo rates found in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
  6. Choose "flexible dates" when it's available when looking for tickets - Tuesday and Wednesday aren't always the best days to fly. Be flexible when you sarch and you might find a great rate a few days before or after you wanted to go or come back. Isn't it worth changing up your days if that's the case?
  7. Fly into or out of a different/nearby city - Smaller hubs are less busy and because of that, they often lower their rates to get people to fly through them instead. Two ways I've saved this way is by flying into Oakland (OAK) instead of San Francisco (SFO) or flying into Ontario (ONT) instead of Los Angeles (LAX). Choose "nearby airports" on your search and see if this might work for you.
  8. Book a promotional package deal - Sometimes it's just cheaper to bundle your whole trip. I've often found deals that included air, car and hotel for the same price or less than just airfare. In that case, I was able to save money by only having to book one thing and then just worried about food and what to do at my destination. It doesn't always work that way, but it's worth looking into.
  9. Bid for low rates on Priceline - If you aren't picky about which airline you fly on or what time of day you fly, then choose your dates and what you're willing to pay and set your bid. Airlines will compete to see if they can match your bid and if they agree, your airfare will be booked, your card will be charged and details will be sent to you via email.
  10. Book overseas flights 6-8 weeks in advance - Flying domestically has different rules than flying internationally. Domestic flights have the best deals, generally, 3-6 weeks in advance. The magic number is 42 days, but again, that's not a hard and fast rule. If you're traveling internationally, you'll want to book further out to get the best rates, and that's 6-8 weeks out. I know this can be difficult for people like me who want to book as soon as possible, but that doesn't mean that deals can't be found further out.
So, those are some of my best tips. If you want to save, you have to be flexible. If you have kids and think you can only travel during holidays, call the school and see if it's possible to take them out and bring homework with them. You just want to make sure you let them know with plenty of time to spare, so they can actually put together all the work for them to keep up with. Do you have tips on how you saved on airfare in general or on specific destinations?

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