If you’ll be taking vacation time in the coming year and plan on flying, here are some shopping tips to give your undivided attention to. Those who fly first class and don’t care what airline tickets cost are excused from this lesson. Prices shown are round-trip and were found this week either on Farecompare.com or an airline site.
1. When to buy
If you’re shopping for domestic flights, check prices on Tuesday afternoons. This is an old tip but still valid because most U.S. carriers continue to release sales on Tuesday morning, and competitors quickly drop their fares to match the better deals (and they do this so they don’t wind up on page 10 of your airfare query).
2. When to fly
Weekdays continue to be generally cheaper times to fly than weekends for most flights. In the U.S. specifically, the cheapest days are typically Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. A good itinerary for the upcoming expensive spring break travel period is Tuesday to Saturday; it won’t be cheap exactly, but it will save you money (in most cases) over weekend-to-weekend travel.
3. Where to fly
We continue to see good deals to Boston and Denver and more and more nice prices to Chicago, Seattle and Washington, D.C. As for Europe, there have been incredible deals throughout the fall and those will continue into the winter. Lately we’ve seen prices fall for London while Dublin, Paris and Scandinavia continue to be good values.
4. Non-stop vs. connecting flights
Compare the price of non-stops with connecting flights. Sometimes adding a stop to your route will save you money and it might be enough to endure the extra-long flying day. Some examples:
• Boston to Seattle: $247 non-stop, $234 one-stop
• San Francisco to Raleigh/Durham: $553 non-stop, $362 one-stop
Okay, the savings on Boston-Seattle might not be worth it to you, but I’ll bet you’ll think twice about the direct flight for San Francisco to Raleigh.
5. Compare, compare, compare
Stifle the impulse to go to your favorite airline site to purchase tickets without doing any comparison; it’s a recipe for disaster. Example: Let’s say you want to fly from New York to London and figure your favorite U.S. legacy carrier will get you there for the best price.
• Airline price: $554 round-trip
• Comparison price: $486
Obviously, the legacy carrier did not have the cheapest flight, but wait, there’s more: The comparison site also showed a cheaper flight from the same legacy carrier ($521). See what you’re missing when you fail to compare?