If you're on the fence about getting on a plane in the next five months, take a look at this fall/winter forecast. You might start packing immediately
1. Fall is cheap.
The fall travel season officially kicked off Aug. 25 with prices on average dropping 10 to 30 percent. Autumn's great weather plus fewer crowds at popular attractions make fall the perfect time to fly.
2. Winter is even cheaper.
Winter doesn't have warm weather going for it (not that skiers and snowboarders care) but it does have the best dead zone of the year. This ultra-cheap flying period begins at the end of the first week January after New Year's travelers return and extends into the first couple of weeks in February. Then spring breakers take over and prices zoom.
3. Avoid hot spots.
The airlines know we want warm beaches in the dead of winter and make us pay dearly for most Caribbean destinations, so if you were thinking of a late fall or winter getaway to Nassau or Montego Bay, you're probably better off waiting until spring. However, there's plenty of sunshine in Florida which remains relatively cheap due to the usual jitters over hurricane season (June 1 - Nov. 30).
4. Thanksgiving breaks all the rules.
Generally, domestic ticket shoppers can buy too early - more than three months before departure - because airfare prices drop at the three month mark. There's no such rule for Thanksgiving, mainly because it's so darn popular. Again, the airlines know this so there's never a truly great time to buy, so go ahead and start shopping now. Turkey Day tickets are only going to rise.
Another broken Thanksgiving rule: Generally, Wednesday is usually one of the cheapest days to fly, but not the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. That day (Nov. 26) and the Sunday after (Nov. 30) are typically the most expensive days of the year to fly because they're so popular. For a cheaper day to travel at Thanksgiving, try the holiday itself (Nov. 27).
5. Don't worry about blackout dates.
Outside of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's, you'll find fewer and fewer sale blackout dates. This state of affairs pretty much ends when January does as people starting thinking about Valentine's Day getaways and spring break.
Rick Seaney is an airline travel expert and the co-founder of FareCompare.com, an airfare comparison shopping site