Parents, grandparents, children, grandkids, second cousins once removed…when the whole family gets together for a big holiday shindig, chances are someone’s gotta travel. And, since it’s a holiday, chances are that prices will be a heck of a lot hire than the rest of the year.
Although we’ve got tips for saving money on trains, buses and cars, today we’re going to focus on planes since that’s often the costliest means of transportation. Here’s the LOZO on getting the cheapest flight:
- Shop Early: The earlier you shop, the better deal you’re likely to find. For non-holiday flights the best time to buy airline tickets is typically 3-4 months before your flight, and a little further out for holiday peak time flights.
- Fly on Less Popular Dates: Planning to fly the day before Thanksgiving, or back home the Sunday afterwards? Well, so is the rest of America (they are among the busiest travel days of the year)! The dates that are most convenient for you are probably the ones everyone else wants too, so you can expect to pay much higher prices for those peak flights. If your schedule allows for some flexibility, try traveling on less popular dates. For example, fly out on the Monday before Thanksgiving or even Thanksgiving Day itself. Plan your return flight for the Tuesday after. Use the same flexibility for every other holiday, using the “check alternative dates” features on most airline search engines.
- Shop Overnight and on Tuesday & Wednesdays: This is one of LOZO’s most popular tips (originally posted here). Lots of folks reserve seats on flights, but don’t end up buying tickets. Most of these reservations “auto-cancel” at midnight in the time zone where the airline is based – such as Eastern Time Zone for Delta (Atlanta) and Central for American (Dallas) and United (Chicago). Searching between midnight and 1:00 a.m. in the appropriate time zone can mean grabbing those bargain airline tickets before they go back into general inventory. Act fast because they may be gone in a matter of hours! Alternatively try between late Tuesday and early Wednesday. This is when airlines tend to match sale promotions initiated by discounters like Southwest.
- Use Online Travel Search Engines: Sites like Kayak and Sidestep will scan multiple sites to find you the best fare. They then show you the results and allow you to compare. LOZO offers an easy Kayak interface for comparing airline ticket prices. But don’t buy just yet! We’ve got more ways to save.
- Contact the Airline Directly: Once you’ve used an online search engine to find the best deals, check the airline’s website directly for a chance to get extra frequent flier miles or other bonuses, fewer restrictions on making changes, and possibly a lower fare. But if those perks aren’t worthwhile, consider booking through an online travel agent like Expedia, Travelocity or Priceline whose refund policies could save you $50 or more (we’ll tell you how)!
- Use a Coupon: Whether you’re shopping for a new pair of shoes, groceries or a flight…always, always, always look for coupons! Start by checking LOZO’s coupon page for coupons on travel and vacations.
A Few More Quick Tips: The tips above will give you the best savings, but keep in mind the following quick tips as well:
- Don’t get caught off-guard by extra fees! Check out FareCompare.com for their Domestic Airline Fee Chart.
- Use “alternative” airports. Flying into or out of a less popular airport can shave dollars off your ticket price.
- Embrace the red-eye. They’re usually cheaper and they’ll keep you from spending one more costly night at the hotel.
- Find the best seat! Once you’ve booked, visit SeatExpert.com to find the best seat based on what you like the most (and we’re not just talking window vs. aisle…they give you all sorts of information about the seats on your particular plane including which have the most leg room and more).
Using these tips and tactics, you should be able to get a good price for your upcoming holiday travel. And if it still feels too costly…well, just think of having your entire family over to your place and all the money, planning, cooking, cleaning and so on that goes into it. All of a sudden seat 26F might start feeling a lot more comfortable.
If you’re traveling by other means or planning a trip for another time of the year, be sure to check out LOZO to get more ways to save money on travel and vacations. In the meantime, happy trails!